Ohio State student veterans and active service members said they felt joy and a sense of relief upon hearing that Osama bin Laden had been killed when the news broke on Sunday.
President Barack Obama announced Sunday night that U.S. special operations forces killed bin Laden during an operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
“At first, I was in disbelief, my throat dropped, it was unbelievable,” said Colin Busse, a former sergeant in the Army and a first-year in pre-special education. “It almost brought tears to my eyes, it was that happy.”
Busse spent time deployed in Afghanistan and currently resides in university housing provided for combat veterans.
He said he ignored the first text message he received telling him to turn on the news and went back to sleep. When he received a second message saying bin Laden was dead, he quickly got up and joined his fellow veterans to watch the news.
“I had two buddies killed when I was in Afghanistan, so it was just crazy,” Busse said. “I was just so happy and relieved that they got him.”
Brian Stewart, a former infantryman in the Army and a third-year at Moritz College of Law this quarter, told of a similar reaction to the news.
“It was kind of a wave of emotion, really,” Stewart said. “It feels like relief, it feels like a weight has been lifted off our shoulders that I think we’ve all just sort of gotten used to carrying around.”
Stewart was a senior in high school when the 9/11 attacks occurred. He came to OSU, but enlisted for active duty in the Army during Spring Quarter of his first year.
After spending 2005 deployed in Iraq, Stewart returned to OSU with the veteran education benefits of the GI Bill. After graduating from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2007, he used the rest of his benefits to attend law school.
“Without 9/11, without Osama bin Laden, my life could’ve been very, very different, I might not have gone into military,” Stewart said. “It feels like there’s closure.”
After the news of bin Laden’s death broke on Sunday, thousands of people gathered to celebrate outside the White House and at Ground Zero and thousands of OSU students gathered at Mirror Lake.
Wally Dolinski, a National Guard member and a third-year in special education, took part in the festivities at Mirror Lake after receiving a text from a friend.
“I’ll tell you, the coolest chill I’ve ever gotten down my spine was when we were all in a big circle and I had my flag right in the middle,” Dolinski said. “It was the flag that flew over my house on 9/11 and I was waving it, and they started singing the national anthem and ‘God Bless America.'”
Dolinski said a good friend of his was killed serving in Afghanistan, and that Sunday’s celebration was the best feeling in the world on one of the greatest nights of his life.
“It was like, for the first time, we weren’t Democrats or Republicans, we were Americans again, since 2001,” Dolinski said. “It was just a great feeling.”
While many people were eager to take part in celebrating bin Laden’s death, some felt the public displays of joy might not have been the best reaction.
Bobby Lane, former sergeant in the Marine Corps and a second-year in finance, said while the news made him happy, he also tried to remain humble.
“A part of me felt like people were a little overjoyed and had kind of forgotten that the enemy that we’re fighting, that’s the kind of action they’re looking for,” said Lane, who served three tours in Iraq. “They’re looking for that spark.”
There were also some differing reactions within the OSU military community in regards to bin Laden being discovered at a large compound in a city roughly 30 miles outside of Islamabad, Pakistan.
“We kind of assumed he was living rough in caves, and constantly on the run. And it turns out he’s in this kind of lavish compound, living fairly well,” Stewart said.
Ryan Flynn, a specialist in the Army Reserves and a fourth-year in risk management and insurance, said he suspected bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan.
“Where they found him doesn’t surprise me either, in a pretty lavish neighborhood full of ex-Pakistani military retirees,” said Flynn, who was deployed in Afghanistan in 2009. “They knew exactly what was going on.”
One student-veteran said he thinks bin Laden’s living arrangements led to the discovery of the terrorist leader.
“I think he became vulnerable when he put himself more out in the open,” said Tommie Kitchen, a fourth-year in marketing and a Marine Corps veteran deployed in Iraq in 2003. “I think he got too complacent.”
Despite differing opinions on the celebrations and details surrounding the killing of bin Laden, members of OSU’s military community agreed that it was both a joyous occasion and a historic accomplishment.
In his address on Sunday, Obama said upon taking office, he made the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority in the war against al-Qaida, and that it was the tireless efforts of the U.S. military over the last 10 years that made it possible.
A crowd began to gather outside of the White House shortly after Obama finished his speech.
“At one point, when I saw the crowd outside the White House cheering, it almost brought tears to my eyes, it was really emotional,” Busse said.
“It was a good moment, I’ll never forget it … I’ll never forget.”
Joe Lombardi contributed to this story.