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  • Manny Crisostomo / mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

    Teresa and Mark Soto hold photographs of their sons Benjamin, left, and Joshua, who are both in the military and have served in war zones. Joshua said the 9/11 attacks motivated him to join the Marines. Benjamin says he hopes that on the anniversary of the attacks, Americans will recall the sacrifices of service members.

  • Manny Crisostomo / mcrisostomo@sacbee.com

    THE MARINE: Joshua Soto, 25, Granite Bay

Reflections of 9/11: The warriors

Published: Sunday, Sep. 11, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 6X

Joshua Soto, 25, and Benjamin Soto, 23, Granite Bay

"What happened on 9/11 absolutely drove me to join the Marines," said Joshua Soto, a Granite Bay native currently stationed in San Diego.

He remembers waking up that morning to his mom Teresa's cries, "The World Trade Center got hit!"

"The idea that someone could come here and hurt us on our own soil infuriated me," Joshua said. "I really wanted to punish the people who did this to my country."

Joshua joined the military after graduating from Granite Bay High School in 2005. His brother, Benjamin, signed up for the Army at about the same time, when he was just 17.

"I knew I was going to go to war, and I was fine with that," Joshua said. "I wanted to be in the infantry, at the tip of the spear. I didn't want to sit on the sidelines."

Both brothers were deployed to war zones. Both had many brushes with death, and witnessed the death and maiming of comrades.

That only strengthened their resolve, Joshua said.

His most recent deployment – his third – put him in Afghanistan on the front lines of combat, where bullets flew at him and his mates at every turn. Bombs disguised as trash or buried in the sand were a constant threat.

"Six of my close personal friends were killed out there," he said. "There were close calls every single day."

But he also saw progress in the effort to make Afghanistan safer for civilians. "Kids going back to school, people walking around and going to the market," because of the work of foreign troops, he said.

On this anniversary of 9/11, "I feel very proud of my country and what we have accomplished," said Joshua, who with his wife, Alisha, is raising three children, Kylee, 5, Zander, 2, and Haven, 1, and is preparing to move to North Carolina to work as a combat instructor.

"I am thanking God that my kids and my wife and my friends will never have to see some of the things that I have seen. That is the reason we went to war."

Benjamin Soto wants to remind Americans about the sacrifices that he and other warriors have made in the name of making the world safer.

"Everyone was unified after 9/11, and then they forgot about what was happening," said Benjamin, an Army recruiter who spent 15 dangerous months on the battlefield in Iraq.

"While I was losing my buddies out there, I was looking at the news from back home and I saw stories about celebrities. It made me mad."

"Most people who have never been to war think of it as a video game," Benjamin said. "They can't understand the actual loss of lives involved unless they have been there."

The younger Soto, who lives in San Diego with his wife, Matilde, said he hopes that Americans will take the time to think about the soldiers who remain at war, those who have died and ones like himself and his brother who survived.

"Myself and all my guys in the Army, we gave everything we had to do something we believed in," he said. "I just hope that Americans will remember that for more than a day."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Cynthia Hubert



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