Fighting for Freedom: Tim Kennedy and Brian Stann Reflect on Osama Bin Laden’s Death

Tim Kennedy still remembers exactly where he was on Sept. 11, 2001.

Less than two weeks after his first professional MMA fight, Kennedy was working in California, in the midst of grad school, and had been at work since about 6 a.m. As he was sitting on his computer working that morning, he heard the news about a plane flying into the World Trade Center.

At a loss to understand what was happening, Kennedy switched on the television and turned to CNN to see exactly what was going on. That’s when his life changed forever.

“I watched live on CNN as the second plane flew into the building,” Kennedy said. “By that afternoon I was knocking on the recruiter’s door asking if I could get on a plane to fly to Afghanistan.”

Kennedy joined the Army after seeing the horrific events of Sept. 11 unfold. He would spend the next several years overseas, working his way into the Army Special Forces as they searched for the man most singularly responsible for the acts on that fateful day.

Fast forward nearly 10 years later, and Kennedy, now living in Texas, was at home when he received a call about getting ready for training camp, as Strikeforce was ready to put him back to work in the cage this summer. As nighttime approached, Kennedy started getting text messages on his phone that alerted him to something happening.

Kennedy hopped on his computer trying to see what was going on. When the news flashed across his screen, instead of the sick feeling he had in September 2001, it was a feeling of relief that washed over him.

“I started getting texts from my buddies at Fort Bragg saying like ‘hey dude some pretty awesome stuff’s going on, start paying attention in about an hour.’ So I was up looking, and I’m still a part of a Special Forces unit here in Texas and they had gotten activated for the possible retaliation of what would happen. So I was up on the computer waiting for something to happen, and it started populating ‘Osama Bin Laden is dead,'” Kennedy recounted.

Kennedy himself had spent much of his time in the Army Special Forces dedicated to searching for Osama Bin Laden. So when he heard the news about his demise, he admits it was a wave of emotion he wasn’t expecting.

“It was a lot of really weird emotions. One of course a feeling of finality, of closure, for something that has been going on for such a long time. By no means is the war over, but in the sense of I’ve been in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq, and some of those trips were specifically looking for that guy. The book has not been written, but it’s a chapter that’s seemingly been closed,” said Kennedy.

“I was excited and thrilled, but at the same time I was kind of disappointed, I felt really left out. I’m always torn when I’m not with my brothers overseas of why I’m not there, if I’m doing the right thing by fighting. It’s the same thing when I’m deployed. I’m always like ‘man, I wish I was fighting.’ So it’s always this back and forth battle.”

That internal turmoil is something that Kennedy deals with every day because he loves being a part of the American military, and wants to serve alongside other soldiers overseas. He’s said many times that he wants to give his fighting career a big push over the next few years, and then go back into military service.

But on a day like May 1, when President Barack Obama announced to the world that Osama Bin Laden had been killed during an American operation, Kennedy was ready forgo his fight career and head back into the field.

“It makes me want to, like right now, I just want to get on a plane and go back over there,” expressed Kennedy. “I know that the spring forward Taliban movement and Al-Qaeda is happening, so every time it starts getting warm all the foreign fighters start coming back into Afghanistan and get really excited about fighting for their cause, and now they have even more fuel to their flame is that their leader has just been killed.”

Kennedy has opted to stay at home and fulfill the commitments he promised his wife and himself for his fight career, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be wishing he could be back alongside his fellow Rangers as they continue to mission in the Middle East.

It’s that continuing mission that former Marine Captain Brian Stann wants to make sure people don’t lose site of even though the death of Osama Bin Laden is seen as a victory in America. Stann hopes that this is the first step towards freedom in the Middle East, and a youth uprising to step out from the shadows and out from under the boot heels of oppressors in their nations.

“The things that are taking place in Egypt and Yemen and Libya and also in Syria are very important, and it’s a sign that you cannot stop the flow of information,” Stann told MMAWeekly Radio recently. “Despite the lack of freedoms in those countries they still have smartphones and they still have social media, and the use of information and the fast rapid movement of information is helping them unite to take a united front and say ‘hey this is wrong and we want to live differently.”

Stann heard the news in much the same way that his close friend and teammate Tim Kennedy did that Sunday night. Working away in New Mexico as he gets ready for his July 2 fight against Jorge Santiago, Stann heard the news and a smile crept over his face, but there was still a sadness inside his heart.

“It takes a lot to get me excited. It’s not like the death of Osama Bin Laden can bring any of my Marines back, or any of my friends or any of those family members from New York City that day or the Pentagon, but it’s definitely a positive thing for us,” Stann said.

“There’s still troops that are deployed overseas, there’s still a battle to be won, and we still need to remain vigilant against terrorists in this country. It’s not like we can let our guard down just because Osama Bin Laden’s dead.”

There was a certain level of controversy raised after Sunday night’s announcement that so many Americans were celebrating the death of Bin Laden. Some argued we shouldn’t celebrate anyone’s death.

Stann looks at it from a different angle. He believes the exploitation of the mission to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden is important to the bigger cause of shutting down global terrorism.

“The enemy does a very good job of publicizing any little success, even if they twist the facts like they normally do, but they publicize the heck out of it via Al-Jazeera and their networks and really ignite the morale of their people and really make it look like they’re winning the war on terror. So something like this is a major blow to their information operation. This is their hero of everything,” Stann stated.

“We have to remember and it’s very unfortunate, but there are people out there that their main goal is to kill Americans. It’s just a fact. They’ve just been brainwashed that it’s the right thing, and they have no problems whatsoever killing innocent people. They have no problem killing children. I’ve seen it first hand, and it’s very unfortunate.”

Stann does believe this news has a positive influence on the troops still stationed overseas. With some military personnel spending several months or even years on deployment away from their families and friends back home, news like this can once again let them know what they are fighting for, and encourage them that the work does pay off.

“Something like this can definitely boost your morale for the coming weeks and really move you forward, and keep your spirits high, while you’re really in a very demanding time of your life,” Stann said. “I definitely see this as a morale boost. I see it as a morale boost for America and I think it’s great for us in an area that has been weak in comparison to our enemy, which is information operations.”

After hearing the news that Sunday night and watching President Obama relay the statement about Bin Laden’s death, Tim Kennedy felt like a weight had been lifted off his chest. Something he hadn’t felt since Sept. 10, 2001.

“That was the first night that I’ve slept so soundly in such a long time.”

Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for
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