ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — On September 11, 2001, Marine Joe Chenelly, a combat correspondent, was Down Under with Australian troops and fellow US forces. They just wrapped up a field training exercise, on their first liberty break in weeks.

“And the lights came up and the owner of the bar jumped up on top of the bar and yelled ‘all Americans, get out,'” he says.

Chenelly and his team were being recalled back to their ships immediately. America was under attack.

“A couple of boatswain’s mates grabbed me, and threw me in the brig for about the first hour.” With his camera gear, he was given an extra security screening. The crew, taking no chances and screening everyone for everything. The Marines and Sailors, preparing for combat. 

“And they’re cleaning their weapons, ready to go to war,” he says.

Chenelly was going to leave the service and become an English teacher. That all changed on 9/11. He was in Pakistan on October 7, the first day of the actual forces on the ground — crossing over into Afghanistan. 

“I was on the second helicopter to touch down in what we ended up calling ‘Camp Rhino,'” he says.

First US flag raising in Afghanistan, 2001. Photo by Joe Chenelly

The Afghan people, a great help during ground operations. “They were very happy to see us there,” he says.

Chenelly now heads up AMVETS, a veterans service organization. He says 20 years after the start of the war with Afghanistan, many who served over there are now having trouble with the US exit.

“People are calling us, we’re trying to figure out the best ways to help them,” he says.

Yet he says in 20 years, boots on the ground there— meant no terror attacks happened here.  “I think it’s important for us to understand those sacrifices were worthwhile,” he says.

Of the current government now in control of Afghanistan he says, “I don’t trust the Taliban, that’s the bottom line.” Adding as long as they are in charge of that strategic part of the world, we are again in danger.

Chenelly also deployed to Iraq during his time as a combat correspondent. He later worked for Military Times and USA Today.