OREM — A military umbrella protects the United States, said Sgt. Tim Blatter of the Utah National Guard during a Veterans Day assembly at Lakeridge Junior High recently.
Blatter is also a counselor and coach at Mountain View High School in Orem.
Assigned to the 211 Aviation Unit and more specifically to Apache helicopters, Blatter, 38, recently returned from serving in Afghanistan. He joined the National Guard in 2001 just months before the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, an attack that destroyed the Twin Towers in New York City, damaged the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., and threatened a passenger airline that ultimately crashed in Pennsylvania.
"9/11 changed my life," he said.
Blatter's unit was activated to assist during the 2002 Utah Olympics and was then sent to Afghanistan. There he assisted in attacks on the Taliban, the ruling class that hadn't yet been entirely wiped out when he arrived. He was also involved in humanitarian efforts, including taking ballots to villagers for the country's first free election. It was the first election in Afghanistan's history where women could vote, he said.
"You guys live in the greatest country on Earth," he said, before outlining (with student help) why they should be patriotic.
Those concepts included appreciating the privilege of attending school. He said many children in Afghanistan, especially girls, didn't have that privilege until the country was liberated, he said.
Patriotism includes serving in the military when possible, being respectful of the country and the flag and supporting the country by voting at age 18.
"I'm embarrassed at the number of people who don't vote," he said. People in Afghanistan gave their lives for the privilege, Blatter said.