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The pull of duty: Two soldiers, decades apart in experience, recount how 9/11 changed their service

SFC Jason Snow.png
Posted at 5:00 AM, Sep 10, 2021

CINCINNATI — Serving his country was always part of Jason Snow’s journey, but doing that with the Ohio National Guard was never on the radar.

After graduating high school in 1993, he joined the U.S. Navy to get money to further his education. He served for four years, hanging up his service uniforms in 1997.

But the pull of duty would come back to him four years later, on Sept. 11, 2001.

Snow was working a forklift at the time in a factory.

“Someone came up and told me that a plane crashed into the Twin Towers," Snow said. "I said, 'Well, an air traffic controller must have really messed up on that one.' Then the second one. Then, I started to think, like what's going on? And then another co-worker said the Pentagon just got hit. And I said, 'Well, that's impossible. You can't get to the Pentagon.'

"I knew at that moment that we are under attack, and I need to do something personally.”

Four months later, Snow joined the Guard.

“I was mentally prepared, yes," Snow said. "Already having the military background and knowing what it takes to be successful and to lead. I had those already.”

And Snow’s nearly 20-year journey sent him all over the world.

“There's been a series of deployments, from Germany to Iraq, to Washington, D.C.,” he said.

Fellow Ohio National Guard member Dylan Stenski, on the other hand, has no memory of that day. He had just turned 21 months old.

Cpl Stenski as a child.jpg
Cpl. Stenski as a child

“I have absolutely no recollection of anything that happened," he said. "I don't remember anything."

While Stenski would learn the historical significance of 9/11 in school, he also learned that his father wanted to step up and enlist. It would prove to be a tall task with a toddler and another baby on the way.

Now Stenski is tasked with signal system support for the Ohio National Guard, in the same unit as Sgt. 1st Class Snow.

“It's an opportunity; it's a privilege,” Stenski said. “I grew up not having to worry about an attack on American soil because there were other people out there protecting me. So now there's me in that position. “

Sfc. Snow is the 1-174th Air Defense Artillery Regiment’s battalion master gunner and readiness NCO.

Cpl Stenski in uniform.jpg
Cpl. Dylan Stenski in uniform.

“That gives me the opportunity to get the soldiers ready for these higher op-tempo deployments that we have, you know, around the country and overseas, as well,” Snow said.

The Guard changed after 9/11. It is no longer just sent out on humanitarian missions domestically. Many soldiers spent months, if not years, overseas in Iraq or Afghanistan.

As Sfc. Snow reflects on 9/11, the day that pulled him back to duty, and Cpl. Stenski looks back to a day he doesn’t remember but feels its effects daily on his enlistment, each say it is both history and reality.