LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Elizabeth Freeman was just a child when she wrote in her notebook saying she wanted to join the Air Force and serve our country.
"I have always just been really proud to be an American," Elizabeth said.
She enlisted a few months before the biggest terror attack on American soil.
"I got up in the morning on 9/11 and I went to go to the chow hall. I didn't have a phone or computer or TV. I was living in the dorms. I walked across the street, go to the chow hall and it was closed," Elizabeth said. "It said force protection delta on it. which means like something serious happen."
But she didn't know what that was exactly until she found another soldier.
"He had a computer and he's like, 'Oh, my God, look at this,'" Elizabeth said. "I saw what was happening. It was basically right after, you know, the both of the towers had fallen."
That day changed her life forever.
"Oh, I didn't believe it. I thought he was playing a joke on me. Like, there's no way something like that can happen. You know, this is America," Elizabeth said. "I came to the realization. It's pretty upsetting."
The memories still impact her today.
"Just the innocent people dying. And then the first responders, especially the first responders, going in, trying to save people," Elizabeth said.
She and her comrades were posted up on the roof of the command building with their weapons and night vision for hours in case of another attack.
Another turning point in her life was when she deployed to Iraq.
"I had a daughter and she had just turned one right before I left. So when I came back, it was over nine months that I was gone and hadn't seen her," Elizabeth said.
"She didn't recognize me," she said. "That was pretty devastating to come home, be excited to come home--she was the reason I wanted to come home--and then she didn't know me."
This experience, mixed in with what she saw overseas, had a huge impact on her mentally and she had trouble coping. She turned to alcohol to deal with anxiety and PTSD.
Until she realized she needed to make a change.
"I just realized it was to this point where, you know, I have this daughter and that I need to fix this so I could be there for her," Elizabeth said. "So I did rehab."
The path to recovery has been a long one but Elizabeth says it was her calling to serve.
"Even though it was very traumatic and I now have PTSD from it, I don't regret it," Elizabeth said. "I proudly served and I would never change anything."
As the 20-year mark of 9/11 approaches, she hopes veterans and those impacted by that day know their service and sacrifice will never be forgotten.
If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, help is out there. Visit:
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