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Since 9/11: From Service to Skepticism

Air Force pilot looks back on 9/11 anniversary.

Robert Burton was in the skies on Sept. 11, piloting a Delta Air Lines flight from Spain to New York. He spent a week in Canada afterwards with his passengers while fear-stricken American authorities decided how to allow international travelers back into the country.

Over the next nine years, Burton, who also was an officer in the Air Force Reserve, commanded soldiers all over the globe. A decade later, now retired from the military, Burton says the years after the terrorist attacks have made him more skeptical.

“I’m less trusting,” said Burton, who resides in Mount Pleasant, S.C. “I’m more likely to question what people tell me.”

The war in Iraq, he said, badly undermined our country’s standing in the world, claimed unnecessary American lives and hurt our economy.

“The war in Afghanistan was the correct war,” Burton said. “I saw how politicians manipulated intelligence … and it cost the lives of 4,500 American men and women.”

Burton ran for Congress in 2009 as a Democrat. He ultimately lost in the Democratic primary, and Republican Tim Scott won in the general election. But Burton is hopeful one day politics will change, though he says he will not run again.

“Voters need to really study the candidates,” Burton said. “We need really courageous politicians who tell the truth no matter the cost."

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