Missoula veteran remembers peace on 9/11, forgets hate - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Missoula veteran remembers peace on 9/11, forgets hate

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MISSOULA - Never forget -- for 16 sixteen years, those two words have been a rallying cry, reminding Americans that despite our differences on the political spectrum, we are united.

But for some, that remembrance can focus on the wrong things – fear, pain and hatred.  One Missoula veteran spoke candidly about his path to forgetting hate and remembering what makes us American.

Missoula’s Rose Garden was transformed into a sea of American flags - one for each of the nearly 3,000 who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, a date Americans will never forget.

Never forget.  That’s the code under which the United States has operated following the attacks on September 11, 2001, but what exactly do we remember?  Do we remember the fear we felt as a nation?  Our collective yearning for justice?  Do we remember the lives of those lost that day? 

Joshua Colson was an eighth grade student when the towers fell.  He explained that for years following the attack, all he remembered feeling was hate and anger.  He said it took him years to remember anything else.

"I remember greeting my friend at school, and literally this is how I greeted him: somebody has to die.  Somebody needs to die for this,” said Joshua.  “And my life became about joining the military from that point on, so that I could make that justice happen."

He enlisted with the US Army in 2010, serving faithfully until 2015.  As a veteran whose adult life was shaped by 9/11, Joshua is often asked what this day means to him.

"And I was really thinking about that today when I got up, like what does this mean to me?  Because I couldn't feel anything,” laughed the veteran.  “And I was like why is that, because I should be so angry right now, and I wasn't.  I was like, that's the point, is I don't feel the anger anymore.  And that's what it's to me all about, it's all about the healing.  Healing is the path for peace."

For Joshua, that healing comes from his family and his desire to extend that peace to his children.

"Do I really want a conflict to define my children?  And do I really want to raise them in an angry home?” asked Joshua to himself rhetorically.  “A generation is not going to be defined by its tragedy; it's going to be defined by its triumph.  I've seen the hatred in my own life subside.  And that's what you start finding, you start finding that peace, and then once you find that peace you start giving it to other people.”

Joshua now helps other veterans find their peace with RIVER,  the Rural Institute for Veteran Education and Research.

"It provides an awesome place for us as veterans to meet each other, to talk to each other, to share our experiences, but then equip each other to go back out into the world and give that peace we found, give that triumph to that tragedy,” said Joshua.  “And that's really what it's all about."

River is planning to expand their facilities in the future to help even more veterans find their peace.

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