Texas A&M linebacker remembers Pentagon attack

By The Battalion Staff

Many remember watching the television as smoke poured out of the Twin Towers on 9/11. Others remember the heroic actions of the passengers on Flight 93, who struggled with hijackers before crashing in a Shanskville, Penn., field.

The memories for former Texas A&M linebacker Mark Dodge are more vivid, more personal than for most. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Dodge was inside the Pentagon.

After graduating from high school, Dodge joined the Army. In 2001, he was a member of The Old Guard, an Army honor guard responsible for ceremonial duties including honor arrivals for foreign dignitaries in the nation’s capital and wreath ceremonies at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.

Dodge was going through steps required to obtain a top-secret clearance at the Pentagon when the plane hit. He said the building quaked and people ran for cover. Dodge wanted to help in whatever way he could and was assigned to the recovery team, where he searched for survivors in the rubble.

“The bodies, the smell, all of it, it comes back to you at times,” Dodge told USA Today in a June 2006 interview. “It was an honor to serve, but it was hard. You see things you never forget.”

Sunday marked the ten-year anniversary of Dodge’s front-row view of terrorism. He said he only has the vivid nightmares that haunted him for years when he sees images that bring back dark memories.

“Anything like that will help you understand how precious life is on a day-to-day basis,” Dodge said. “I haven’t had one [nightmare] in a long time. It only comes up when I’m watching a documentary on the History Channel or something.”

As was the case for many who experienced the Sept. 11 attacks, recovery took time for Dodge. He said relationships with family and friends were the cornerstone of moving forward with life. Instead of hiding his emotions, Dodge opened up and looked to his family for help dealing with the recurring images and emotions.

“Everything gets better with time and as long as you have a close relationship with your family and friends, I think it’ll help,” Dodge said.

Then there was football.

After his time with the honor guard, Dodge wanted to eliminate any potential regrets and contemplated playing collegiate football. His interest stemmed from his father, Howard Dodge, who played for the University of Nevada Reno and for two years with the Seattle Seahawks.

Dodge played in high school, but was too small to catch collegiate scouts’ attention. Four years in the Army changed that.

Upon returning home to Nevada, Dodge spoke with a few programs and walked onto the Feather River College squad, a junior college in Quincy, Calif.

As a freshman in 2004, he recorded 86 tackles and 5 sacks and received 19 scholarship offers from the likes of Florida State, Missouri and Texas A&M.

Military history played a role in bringing Dodge to A&M. When he joined the football team, camaraderie with teammates brought Dodge several steps closer to reaching closure.

“I decided on A&M fairly quickly, mostly because I knew a lot about it,” Dodge said. “Its traditions and ethics were something I was a part of and that’s the way I was raised and grew up. It was meant to be.”

Dodge didn’t leave 9/11 behind when he arrived in Aggieland. He said it wasn’t a topic that he brought up, but if coaches or players asked, Dodge would tell his story.

In his two years wearing maroon and white, Dodge accrued 168 tackles and two interceptions, but said the friendships from those playing days mean more to him than numbers.

“I had a lot of close friends while I was in the football program and still maintain those friendships and that definitely helps when you go through any kind of situation,” Dodge said.

Life moved on when Dodge graduated from A&M in 2007 and immediately took a job offer with Trinity Industries, Inc. as a plant manager. He took over at the company’s plant in Denton two years ago and will soon take a larger role at the corporate office in Dallas.

He married his college sweetheart and best friend, Courtney, in 2008. The couple previously planned to attend a ceremony at the Pentagon this year on Sept. 11, but decided instead to spend time with friends and family at home, hosting a dinner party.

Dodge said spending time with loved ones on the 10th anniversary of the attacks is a comforting thought as he takes another step toward closure.

Read more here: http://www.thebatt.com/a-m-linebacker-remembers-pentagon-attack-1.2585104
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