After three deployments — two to Afghanistan and one to Guantanamo Bay — Charles Sanders wants to educate the community about the events that led up to and followed Sept. 11, along with the current war and detention operation at GTMO.
This Saturday, Mr. Sanders, 48, will make a presentation at Peconic Landing in Greenport entitled “History of 9/11: A Soldier’s Experience.” He will discuss his experiences as a captain in the U.S. Army National Guard and the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“One of the main reasons I created the presentation was because during my first deployment [to Afghanistan in 2010] I didn’t understand the history of why we were over there,” said the Southold Town Trustee, who returned home from his last deployment in January 2016. “I spent the whole year reading every paper and book I could find and created a chronology of events to help me understand how we ended up in that country.”
Through his research, Mr. Sanders was able to trace the history of the Soviet Union and Osama Bin Laden’s relationship with the mujahideen, guerrilla fighters in Islamic countries who fight against non-Muslim forces.
To further educate others during the presentation, Mr. Sanders will use videos and repeatedly ask questions of the audience. One topic he plans to cover is the definition of commonly used words such as jihad.
“What’s fascinating is that every time I give this presentation, a majority of people do not understand the definition of half of the terms that are thrown out in the media every day,” he said.
Mr. Sanders has already given his presentation to multiple audiences: soldiers he accompanied on his second deployment to Afghanistan, soldiers based on Staten Island and local NJROTC cadets with Maj. William Grigonis. He also spoke before the opening of the official 9/11 memorial at the World Trade Center last year.
Mr. Sanders said his presentation contains information similar to what is displayed at the Manhattan museum.
“It is very interesting to me because I had created the presentation and then the museum was finished and I went down and I saw it and I was like, ‘Oh, thank goodness. My presentation follows correctly the events that are presented at the museum,’ ” he said.
His speech, however, differs because it incorporates his own experiences. What struck him the most about his deployments, he said, was witnessing the level of poverty that exists in other countries.
“For me, it was an eye opener of how blessed we are to be Americans,” the Greenport resident said. “I have a much, much stronger appreciation for how much we receive in America compared to other countries.”
Mr. Sanders said he strives to give an informative presentation, rather than a political one, in an effort to help educate the public about current affairs. People can then draw their own conclusions about whether entering the war was the right decision.
“I’m a captain in the 42nd infantry division, tactical operation center in Staten Island, and every time the soldiers are brought to attention they need to yell out real loudly, ‘Never forget,’ ” he said. “And that’s the primary purpose.”
“History of 9/11: A Soldier’s Experience” will be presented at 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, at Peconic Landing in Greenport. The free event will also be broadcast live at Southold Free Library.
Courtesy photo: Charles Sanders (second from right) during his first tour in Afghanistan in 2010, when he was a 1st Lieutenant.