NEW YORK, –
The men and women of the U.S. military are committed to never forget what happened on Sept. 11, 2001, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here Sept 8.
"We are inspired in large part ... because of 9/11," Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford told attendees at Roots of Resilience Gala hosted by Tuesday's Children, a nonprofit organization founded to help families affected by the 9/11 attacks.
Dunford commended Tuesday’s Children for its commitment over the past 15 years. The organization has expanded its work to include communities affected by terrorism worldwide. Those helped, the chairman said, include families of fallen service members.
"It's been an extraordinary experience to listen to the stories, to meet some of you, and we will forever remember this night associated with the 15th anniversary of 9/11," Dunford said.
Organizations like Tuesday's Children give service members confidence when they go into battle, Dunford said, because they know their family will be taken care of in the event something happens.
"Each and every time we go, we go with a piece of the organizations like Tuesday's Children," he said, adding service members know if they do their job, someone else will make sure their back -- their "six o'clock" as they say in the military -- is covered.
Honoring Service Members
Dunford received the "Hero Award" on behalf of the men and women of the armed forces. He said it was an honor to accept it.
"I do have the privilege of leading," he said. "In my assessment, the greatest young men and women our nation has to offer [are] those that are in uniform."
The general shared the stories of two service members who he said represent the many: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson, and Marine Corps 1st Lt. Matthew Lynch.
Anderson, a Navy Seabee, or builder, did a tour in the Navy and reenlisted in the reserve after 9/11 because he felt compelled to serve again. In 2004, he was sent to Iraq's Anbar province.
"In fact, he was one of the Seabees that was supporting my unit at the time," Dunford said. "Mike and four of his counterparts were killed May 2, 2004 -- that was one day after the 8th anniversary of his marriage and his little girl was in 1st grade."
Tuesday's Children reached out to Mike's wife, Karen, about its retreat for widows. "She went to it and it was one of the most profound experiences of her life," the chairman said.
"Tuesday's Children helped Mike Anderson," Dunford said, noting Anderson was from Florida, hundreds of miles away from New York. "It gives you a sense of how far the reach has been of Tuesday's Children."
Lynch, a New Yorker, was a standout athlete and graduate of Duke University. He followed in the footsteps of his father and his older brother and joined the Marine Corps, Dunford said. He went to Officer Candidates School in 2001.
Lynch, who had deployed with Dunford to Iraq in 2003, volunteered for a third tour of duty in Iraq, the chairman explained.
"On Oct. 31, 2004, Matt lost his life while leading his Marines from the front on the streets of Ramadi, Iraq," he said.
'Semper Fidelis': 15 Years of Service
The chairman said he, Anderson, Lynch and many others who have served over these past 15 years have always focused on the job, and never had to worry if someone was going to look out for them if something happened.
"I will tell you that it's organizations like Tuesday's Children that have allowed the young men and women of our armed forces for the last 15 years to make me extraordinarily proud," he said.
Tuesday's Children is about resilience, it's about enabling people to overcome extraordinary tragedy, Dunford said.
"There's a motto in the Marine Corps, 'Semper Fidelis.' It stands for 'Always Faithful,'" Dunford said. "That's Tuesday's Children -- always faithful."
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)