SHREVEPORT, La. -- Jim Graves of Shreveport was on glide path to retirement from the U. S. Air Force Reserves. As a colonel, he was on his last yearly two week tour. He was serving as Acting Director of Plans for U.S. Combat Forces at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.
And then, America's peace was shockingly blown apart, just about 19 years ago, on 9/11.
"I was sitting in the command conference room at Air Combat Command Headquarters," the retired Major General recalled.
That ordinary meeting became extraordinary when a live television feed popped up with a shocking scene.
"A smoking hole in one of the two familiar World Trade Center towers in New York City," Gen. Graves remembers seeing.
The military brass tried to make sense of what it all. Then it shockingly became obvious.
"The second airplane hit," Jim says. "And immediately everyone in the room realized that the nation was under attack. That this was deliberate. And every head in the room turned to me. General Cook spoke for the group, 'Jim, what's the plan?'
"Well, you can imagine, we didn't have a plan for that. But we came up with a plan very quickly," he continued.
The nation grounded all civilian aircraft, launched our air defense alert aircraft, and scrambled to find anymore hijacked airliners before it was too late.
But it was. The Pentagon was hit, while doomed passengers on another plane stopped the terrorists from reaching their target -- thought to be the U.S. Capitol. The plane crashed near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
"It was my generation's Pearl Harbor. And I'm reminded of my late father," Jim says.
The elder Graves was quick to enlist after Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. He's part of a deep family military history. Jim wears his father's lapel pin from his Army Air Corp uniform from World War II. And Jim's father swore Jim in as a 2nd Lieutenant following officer training school in 1972.
Nearly three decades later, with the nation gearing up for the War on Terror, Jim was asked to put aside his law practice in Shreveport, and stay on active duty.
"Those two weeks ended eight years later," Jim notes.
While helping in military planning for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Jim was promoted all the way to 2-star general.
"That adventure was one of the most personally, professionally and financially disruptive things that I ever experienced. But I must say it was the honor of a lifetime to serve the noble enterprise of the defense of human freedom, and the cloth of the nation," Jim says.
He rose to Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs for Reserves in Washington. He also had combat pilot experience during the Balkans War of the 1990's, flying 25 close air support missions in a venerable A-10 Thunderbolt jet.
"There was minimal fire coming back at our aircraft. If you're familiar with the A-10, they didn't want to make us mad," Jim says of his fierce warplane.
Much of his reserve career was connected to Barksdale Air Force Base. He got his law degree from LSU. And he settled and is now retired with his family in Shreveport, which was also the home of his grandparents.