FAIRFIELD -- September 11, 2001, inspired many everyday Americans to join the different branches of the military.
Speaking at Travis Air Force Base Wednesday, Lt. Col. John Dalomba was one of the thousands of Americans who joined the armed forces shortly after 9/11.
Living in Riverside at the time of the attacks, he was back in Rhode Island for his grandmother’s funeral.
"And I was supposed to fly back on the 12th but all air traffic was grounded for three days or so," Dalomba told FOX40. "I knew I needed to get back because my wife was seven months pregnant with our second child, and we had a 19-month-old at home as well."
So, he did what so many were forced to do that September, he took a Greyhound bus back. One of the first stops on his journey was in New York City.
"It was very sad in the city. New York's usually kind of fun and it wasn't fun at all that day. Cold front had come through, it was very dreary weather," he recalled.
It was Sept. 14 and the fires at ground zero were still burning.
"Not flames but a big plume of smoke coming up and it just burned in my memory forever, and I just got so upset, you know," Dalomba told FOX40. "Stunned into silence at first and then, eventually, just got angry. And I decided somebody's got to do something and why not me?"
Later on, he said a few Navy servicemen got on his bus -- an inspirational moment for him.
"And I thought, 'OK, I think this is what I need to do,'" he said.
As soon as he got back to California, he went to a recruiting office. At 32 years old he joined the Air Force.
Dalomba served in Iraq in 2005 as an occupational therapist.
"Just a wonderful experience that really brought it all home for me and made me realize, 'Oh my gosh, I definitely made the right decision,'" he said.
Now, 18 years later, he’s still serving.
"So I joined, really, because of 9/11. Had that not happened I don't think I would be serving in uniform right now," Dalomba told FOX40.
He hopes all these years later the events of 9/11 will inspire a new generation to serve.
"It's important that we remember this," he said. "It's important that we remember all these historical events in which evil has been allowed to flourish because perhaps we didn't stay vigilant, I don't know."