Christopher Villanueva was only 21 years old and only a few years away from St. Patrick-St. Vincent High School.
As an Air Force ROTC cadet attending California State University Sacramento, Villanueva was emerging from a physical training session when the news broke.
“I watched the hijacked planes crash into the World Trade Centers,” Villanueva said.
“It was a mixture of feelings. Anger and a lot of grief for all the lives lost along with a little fear and apprehension, ”Villanueva said. “I knew it would be a state of war at that point and we sought to avenge those who lost their lives on that fateful day. There was a lot to understand that day.
There was “huge concern” immediately after the attack “that the Golden Gate Bridge could be a possible target of terrorist cells,” Villanueva said. “I remember the baseball and football games were also a huge red flag to watch out for.”
Already two years in the ROTC, Villanueva has registered as “a call to service; to serve my country and there have been some good ‘kicks’ like scholarships and a stipend, ”he said. “I liked what the military had to offer in terms of leadership opportunities and opportunities to travel. “
Villanueva “signed up in peacetime” as a 19-year-old freshman.
“My parents wanted me to be a doctor or a lawyer; a professional who works with a licensed title, ”Villanueva said. “They didn’t expect me to be in the military.
His mother and father “were very supportive,” he continued. “I had uncles in the military so it wasn’t a huge shock to them. They liked the military to help with college, that’s for sure. “
Serving the active military for four years, Villanueva’s first posting was to Vandenberg Air Force Base in Lompoc and then to Randolph AFB in Texas. It has also been deployed in Germany and Turkey.
Villanueva moved on to the National Guard, helping with “a lot of disaster relief” which included Hurricane Katrina and “other crisis actions”.
As a logistics expert, “I wasn’t much on the front line,” Villanueva said. “I got essential items in the right place at the right time, like people, equipment and cargo planes. Much of what I do happens behind the scenes. There is a lot of meticulous planning involved.
He is now a reservist with the 349 Air Mobility Wing, recently returning from a nine-month deployment to Japan.
Employed full time at the Napa Public Hospital, the Fairfield resident said he is maintaining his “weekend warrior” duty with the Guard.
Villanueva said that on every anniversary of September 11, there are “a lot of thoughts about the people who have been there and not returned” from the wars since.
It’s not just the deaths, added Villanueva, but the many people who come back with PTSD “that affect them, their family and friends. It has an impact on the morale of the people I have worked with.
Every 911, “I take the time during our exercise days to set aside blocks of time to discuss it with our troops and try to get a feel for what is going through their heads,” Villanueva said. “Everyone gets by in different ways. I try to be a sounding board for people.
Normally, Villanueva would attend a ceremony in honor of the 911 victims. However, “with exposure to COVID in my own family, I am wary of being in public,” he said. “So I’m going to keep a low profile. “