Growing up in the global war
Lincolnville — In 2001, Lincolnville resident Norman Gilmore was a freshman at Belfast Area High School.
"I was sitting in geography class and it came over the announcements that some planes had hit the World Trade Centers," he said. "At that time I didn't know what the World Trade Centers were."
"I got to my English class just after lunch. We just sat there and watched the news. That's when I realized what was really going on. And I still didn't understand completely that it was a terrorist attack."
He said at that age, 14 or 15 years old, he had never paid much attention to international news.
"Even though I didn't know what was going on, it still made me angry to see what was happening," said Gilmore.
Now a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, Gilmore has served 18 months in Iraq and just returned from a nine-month deployment in Afghanistan.
"I signed the paperwork on July 28, 2005, a little over a month after my 18th birthday," he said.
A desire to learn leads to a career of commitment
He said the events of Sept. 11, 2001, did not influence his decision to join the Army Reserves, a choice he made in order to gain access to GI Bill educational benefits, so that he could go to college. Once in the military, Gilmore said, he learned more about the causes and events that led up to the World Trade Center attack.
After basic training, Gilmore was given advanced individual training to prepare him for his job as a supply sergeant.
"I ended up stepping foot in Iraq in March 2006," he said. During that first deployment, two soldiers with Maine connections — Sgt. Dale James Kelly Jr., 48, of Richmond, and Staff Sgt. David Michael Veverka, 25, a University of Maine student from Jamestown, Pa. — were killed in Ad Diwaniyah, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near their M1083 cargo truck during combat operations. Both were members of Gilmore's unit.
"It was tough, because I was young," he said. "I was new to the whole thing. It made me see what this is all about — to eliminate terrorism, to try to free the world of these terrorist acts."
Gilmore said conditions in Iraq improved in his time there, and that he felt he was making a difference.
"I wasn't going on the missions, but I felt I was helping accomplish it," he said.
While he was on leave during his last deployment, Gilmore married Courtney, a woman he has known since elementary school. He is stepfather to stepdaughters, Elizabeth, 2, and Skye, 5. The Gilmores are expecting a son in October.
A day that must be remembered, a war that continues
I think it's a very significant day," he said of the annual observance of Sept. 11. "It's important for everyone."
"In one way or another, even if you didn't have someone who got killed in that event, it still affected you. People have to live with the memory, with the Twin Towers not being there. But we still go on with life."
"I'm sure I'm going to get deployed again," he said. Gilmore recently reenlisted for another six years in the reserves, and expects to be deployed two or three more times during that period.
"When, I'm not sure," he said. "But when I get the call, I'm going to do it."
Until then, he works as an assembler at Fisher Engineering in Rockland.
Courtney Gilmore said having her husband away at war was difficult, but "I stood right by him." Her father was also in the National Guard, and she said she's prepared for another deployment.
Gilmore said he was prepared to go wherever he is sent in the global war that began with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001.
"Just because we got bin Laden doesn't mean the whole terrorist reign is over," he said. But Gilmore is optimistic. "As long as we keep getting the key leaders, eventually, what we're hoping for will happen."
Gilmore hasn't really taken advantage of the education benefits that prompted his enlistment six years ago. After his first deployment in Iraq, he tried college, but said, "I couldn't focus on school with all that running through my head."
Gilmore said he sometimes keeps a journal to help him sort out his memories of combat. He said once he's written down his feelings, he throws the journals away. He also talks to "anyone I can," and visits a behavioral health therapist.
"I try to find stuff that will keep me calm," he said. Gilmore said video games and time with his family help him relax.
He said the important thing was for people to never forget what has happened.
"We took care of [Osama] bin Laden," he said. "I remember that night really well. We got our revenge."
He said he was at home and stayed up all night when he heard the news of bin Laden's capture and death at the hands of a team of U.S. special operations forces.
"We were watching 'American Idol' and it was interrupted for an announcement," he said. Gilmore said he wondered what the news could be, and wondered if it would be an announcement of a troop withdrawal.
"I said, 'There's no way we got bin Laden.'"
He said he thought the mission was handled properly.
"If it was me, I probably would have done the same thing," said Gilmore. "I probably would have killed him."
"I was shaking, crying, so pumped that we finally got him," he said.
The Herald Gazette Reporter Shlomit Auciello can be reached at 207-236-8511 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.