Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: 9/11 made me want to 'dedicate my life to keeping the American people safe'

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, explained to Fox News Wednesday why the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, spurred her to serve her country.

Gabbard, 38, said Wednesday on "Tucker Carlson Tonight" she was one of many Americans making the 18th anniversary of the attacks.

"Like so many Americans, it was this event that made me decide in my own life that I wanted to dedicate my life to keeping the American people safe -- to finding and defeating those who attacked us on that day and to protecting our freedoms," she said.

Gabbard recalled serving in the Hawaii state legislature and making the decision to join the armed forces.

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"This is something that continues to inspire me today," she added.

Discussing how her foreign policy ideology has been shaped in the years since, Gabbard said Americans must recognize how their leaders too often have failed to take the correct actions abroad.

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“We’ve got to recognize how much our leaders have failed us. Where instead of focusing pointedly on defeating Al Qaeda and its affiliates and offshoots, instead they went and started waging a series of regime change wars in places like Iraq and Libya and the ongoing regime-change war in Syria," she said.

"Now this has cost our country trillions of taxpayer dollars. We have lost thousands of American lives in these wars, my brothers and sisters in uniforms, not to speak of the countless lives lost in these other countries in the Middle East. And where do we find ourselves today?"

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"Al Qaeda is stronger now than they were on 9/11. This is the result that we have."

Gabbard joined the Hawaii Army National Guard in 2003. The following year she stepped down from her position in the state’s House of Representatives to deploy overseas.

She served in combat zones in Iraq between 2004 and 2005. She deployed again in 2009 to Kuwait, where she lead a platoon.

For her service, Gabbard has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal and became the first woman to receive honors from the Kuwait National Guard.

Fox News' Stephen Sorace contributed to this report.