In commemoration of the eighth anniversary of the day that changed the lives of countless Americans, Nate Self—former Army Ranger—recapped his experiences during and after war to students at the Sept. 11 chapel service.
The lights dimmed as students watched images of the attacks on America as they sat silently in Walton Chapel. Photographs of the damage to the World Trade Center and Pentagon filled the screen. Many images showed people attempting to escape the burning buildings and the firefighters who were running back in.
Self remembers the day clearly.
He was driving to an Army base when the first plane struck the World Trade Center.
He arrived at work and was preparing for a training exercise when a small TV showed the second plane strike. He and his fellow Army Rangers gathered around the TV, realizing that the war they were trained to fight was at hand.
New Year’s Eve 2001, these Rangers were arriving in Afghanistan to hunt Osama bin Laden and other terrorist leaders.
In early 2002, The U.S. Military located a group of terrorist leaders and sent a group of Navy Seals to the area. One Seal fell from the helicopter as it attempted to
land. The Seal was lost atop Takur Ghar Mountain in an enemy stronghold, and Self and his fellow Rangers were sent to find and rescue him. But when the rangers’ helicopter attempted to land, it was shot down by the enemy just 30 feet from touchdown. Moments earlier, Mark Anderson shouted, “Today I feel like a Ranger!”
Anderson later died at Self’s side—a picture the Ranger will never forget. Anderson’s father Dan served three tours in Vietnam and received three purple hearts.
His mother served her country as the spouse of a soldier, often raising her three sons alone. All three of Anderson’s sons served in the U.S. military.
Three other men were also killed on task, but Self and the others fought through the day and were able to recover the body of the lost Seal and complete the mission.
Self then described to students his time in Iraq. Turning his back on God for a year, he lost faith and felt God was no longer protecting him. Self left the army still haunted by his past. He dealt with post traumatic stress disorder and became suicidal. At this depth, Self realized his only rescue would be turning back to Christ.
Self’s message of hope and healing went to students and visitors alike. Sgt. Joe Keller attended the service
in his green uniform. Keller recently returned from deployment. He said he was facing similar emotions as Self did in Iraq. He was invited by friends to hear Self speak and said it was an honor.
“I own his book,” Keller said.
Self wrote Two Wars about his military and retired life. He emphasized the importance of remembering what happened on 9/11 and never forgetting what God has done for America.
Self received the Purple Heart, Silver Star and the Bronze Star for his services.
Freshman computer science major Christian Hess was encouraged by Self’s message. His father is fi ghting in Iraq.
Hess has almost become used to deployments as his father is on his third tour.
“I’ve never really thought of 9/11 being the reason my dad is over there,”
Hess said. “It really changed my life.”
Self now lives in Salado with his wife Julie and their four children. He is the executive partner for Praevius Group.
He feels obligated to share his story with the world and gather the stories of other military veterans.
“I have lived through some times I shouldn’t have. I’m still alive for a reason,” he said. “We all should take what God has given us and use it in whatever venue we have to point to Jesus, bring hope to the hopeless and show he is the answer.”