It’s safe to say no American fought in World War II without a personal memory of the Japanese sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Recruits at Parris Island and the West Coast boot camp in San Diego attend a mandatory history class where they’re taught about the Sept. 11 attacks and their connection to the Afghanistan war.

“It was just like Pearl Harbor,” Staff Sgt. Charles Gamblin, a history instructor, told some 200 recruits from Bravo Company earlier this month.

Staff Sgt. Gamblin paced the lecture hall, recounting how hijackers armed with box-cutters took over passenger jets and rammed them into the World Trade Center towers. He described passengers over Pennsylvania rising up to try to retake the plane with the exhortation, “Let’s roll.”

Staff Sgt. Gamblin himself was in sixth grade that day in Marceline, Mo. He painted the recruits a vivid picture of the nation’s horror.