Afghanistan war veteran remembers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Afghanistan war veteran remembers

September 10, 2002

Valdosta - Yonel Dorelis's life was forever changed on September 11th.

"I got up that morning, turned on the television, and saw the first plane hit the tower," said Dorelis. "I knew then it was really bad."

In his 18 years of military service, Dorelis had never seen such a brutal attack. He knew what the terrorists actions meant for his unit...preparation for war. "My unit worked continuously, training and getting ready for missions until we were deployed," said Dorelis.

His duty in Afghanistan was a crucial one, piloting war choppers to rescue wounded troops. Dorelis remembers, "I was involved in two rescues and was able to help save five lives."

And extreme living conditions in Afghanistan did not make the rescues any easier. Dorelis states, "There are soldiers living in the mud and sleeping in ditches, while they'd all rather be home with their families."

The September 11th attacks had a double impact on Dorelis's life. Before making his home in Valdosta at Moody Air Force Base, he spent over half his life growing up in New York City.

"With me being from New York and having this happen to the place I'd grown up with, it hit really close to home," said Dorelis.

His brother worked in the World Trade Center. Luckily, he made it out safely, but others Dorelis knew weren't so lucky. "The fire house I grew up next to lost over half their workers," said Dorelis. "You never think the place you walk by every day will be hit like that."

And although he'll never forget the devastation felt by his hometown, he says the events make him prouder than ever to be a New Yorker and an American.

posted at 5:30 by ashley.harper@walb.com