Local Marine, veteran leader reflects on 9/11, Afghanistan war 20 years later

Remembering 9/11

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — In 2001, Nick Stefanovic was working as a salesman for Coca-Cola, making decent money and partying with friends in Henrietta. After the terror attacks of September 11, he was motivated to do something to serve. Some of his roommates joined the military, and he soon after decided to go all-in and joined the Marine Corps. 

“When I came home to my parent’s house with the brochure I had from the recruiter’s office, they were stunned,” he says adding, “I just said ‘yeah, I have no long-term plans right now, I could go for an adventure, I have no long-term plans right now.'”

Stefanovic became an infantryman and he first deployed to Afghanistan in 2003. “That deployment was nation-building and gathering intelligence,” he says.

On his next tour there, Stefanovic came face to face with enemy forces along the border with Pakistan. “We encountered each other quite a bit on that deployment,” he says.

One of his fondest memories was helping to usher in free elections for the people of Afghanistan in 2004. “We allowed that election to happen. We allowed people in some other place in the world to be able to vote,” he says.

Stefanovic in Afghanistan ca. 2004

Now, 20 years after the war in Afghanistan began, Stefanovic says his emotions on the US pullout are mixed. So much good he says was done. “We’re seeing that deteriorate very quickly now,” he says.

He adds it’s a struggle for veterans who served over there, asking if it was worth it. He now heads up veteran services with Monroe County. In the past few weeks, he’s been taking a lot of phone calls.

“What I’m trying to put out to veterans is we have to be able to disconnect from this,” he says, encouraging veterans who served in that theater to unplug from the media coverage.

In this current chaos, he feels another 9/11-style attack is not out of the question. “We are once again creating an environment that will welcome in the forces that attacked us before,” he says. “Believing that the Taliban can be an ally or a legitimate government is absolutely being naive.”

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