Army veteran, Senate candidate Jake Bequette says after 9/11, he 'felt the call to wear the uniform'

New 9/11 exhibit shares story behind World Trade Center rebuild

U.S. Army veteran, former NFL player and Arkansas Senate primary candidate Jake Bequette said the global war on terror was “omnipresent” throughout his “formative” years, telling Fox News he “felt the call to wear the uniform” as a result of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and the years following. 

Bequette, 32, a Republican who in July announced his campaign to unseat Sen. John Boozman, reflected on that day 20 years ago. 

“I was in my seventh-grade English class. We had a substitute teacher, and she walked into the class and told us the World Trade Center had been bombed,” he explained. “None of us had any idea what the World Trade Center was, but we knew it was in New York City.” 

Bequette recalled being dismissed from school early and returned home, surprised to see his father there. Bequette said his father worked in a skyscraper in Little Rock, Ark., and that his building was evacuated. 

“We wanted the news coverage as a family, and we all knew we were witnessing history in real time,” he said. “We knew our country would never be the same.” 

But Bequette said he also remembered how “unified” the country was. 

Former pro football player and Iraq War veteran Jake Bequette  announces his 2022 Republican primary challenge against Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, on July 12, 2021, in a campaign video. 

“There was such an outpouring of support from all walks of American life,” he said. “We saw the worst of humanity, but we also saw the best of America.” 

Bequette told Fox News the aftermath of 9/11 was a very “formative time” for him. 

“I have always believed in public service and in serving this country,” he said. “The war on terror had been omnipresent throughout my childhood and formative years.” 

“I felt the call to wear the uniform and serve in the Army, and the context of the time, and places that I served, it was all a result of those things that happened beginning on 9/11,” he said, adding that “it all truly stemmed from that day.” 

Bequette told Fox News he enlisted in the U.S. Army in August 2017. Bequette said he completed Army Ranger school in October 2018 and became part of the 101st Airborne Division deployed to Iraq. 

“I actually came back from Iraq on Sept. 11, 2019,” Bequette said, noting his return to the U.S. came just months before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out. 

“Seeing what has been happening in our country in the last 18 months, the real battle right now is here — it is domestic, it is political, and we need political leaders,” he said. “I felt a calling to do it, and I know I will make a big impact if I am successful in the race.” 

As for the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Bequette said it has been “infuriating as a veteran, as it has been for so many Americans, and service men —both active duty and veterans.” 

“It is a slap in the face, to be quite frank,” he said. “To see the Taliban regime members using American equipment, wearing American gear, flying American helicopters, using American communications equipment — it is an absolute disgrace.” 

Bequette said it’s “dangerous” when the United States does not “project strength on an international stage.” 

“It makes the world a less safe place,” he said. “When our enemies worldwide see weakness from the commander in chief like they see now, it emboldens them.” 

Bequette was an All-SEC defensive end and an Academic All-American as a star football player for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks. He went on to play in the NFL, including for the Super Bowl XLIX champion New England Patriots.

Asked about how sports could unite the country, Bequette recalled one of his “favorite memories in all of sports.” 

“Watching President [George W.] Bush throw out that first pitch in the World Series in New York. Anyone who watches that video today, it gives you chills, but it is also a poignant reminder of just how different the environment is in sports today, with so much radical, leftist ideology in that institution,” he said. 

“It is just shocked to juxtapose that with the patriotic scenes so soon after 9/11,” he said. 

Jake Bequette of the Arkansas Razorbacks warming up before a game against the New Mexico Lobos at War Memorial Stadium on Sept. 10, 2011, in Little Rock, Ark.
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images, File)

Bequette told Fox News one of the “proudest moments” of his sports career came on Sept. 10, 2011, the day before America marked 10 years since the attacks. He was playing college football and told Fox News he witnessed a flyover, as well as a crowd “striped out in red, white and blue.”

“It was an amazing moment,” he said, anticipating that there will be “amazing tributes” in college football stadiums nationwide on Saturday. 

“There are millions of patriotic Americans who love this country,” he said. “Let’s get back to a place in sports, and in culture where it once again unifies us, and we don’t let the left divide us.” 

Bequette told Fox News he will spend 9/11 this year in Fayetteville, Ark., watching the Razorbacks play. 

“I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else than the great state of Arkansas,” he said. 

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