Steve Fulop had just been promoted from an analyst to associate at Goldman Sachs when the 9/11 attacks occurred. A downtown Jersey City resident who commuted every day into Lower Manhattan, he knew he couldn’t simply go back to life as usual after Sept. 11th, 2001.
“I looked at the senior people I was working with and felt that there had to be more than just working in finance,” said Fulop. “I always felt service was important. … And after being three blocks away from the towers when they fell, I thought it was the right thing to do. So I enlisted in the Marine Corps.”
Fulop, now 33, was sent to Iraq. He’s now a Councilman in Jersey City, and running for mayor there.
His story is a compelling one, but he is hardly alone.
In the days and months after 9/11, as a stunned and grieving nation struggled to heal itself, patriotism surged. Thousands of American men and women were motivated to join the U.S. armed forces.
According to military recruitment numbers, more than 1.6 million people enlisted in the either the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or National Guard after the 9/11 attacks. The most famous perhaps is Pat Tillman, the NFL star who turned down a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army. He was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan.
Immediately after 9/11, Congress gave the Army the authority to expand its ranks of active-duty soldiers. Army recruiters also stepped up efforts to bring in new troops, such as increased pay. The maximum age of new recruits was also raised from 34 to 42.
Some have died. Others have been maimed.
But Fulop doesn’t regret his decision at all.
“This was the greatest learning and growing experience I have had,” he told Metro. “Today, I am thankful every day that I am home and safe, and I think nearly every day about soldiers and their families that are still in danger. I don’t think I thought about it the same before I served.”