In the 15 years since terrorists attacked the United States, the steadfast love and faithfulness of survivors, families and friends of those who died have been an inspiration to President Barack Obama and the entire country, the commander-in-chief said at the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial observance here today.
Following a moment of silence, and against the backdrop of an American flag that draped the side of the Pentagon where terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, 2001, by flying American Airlines Flight 77 into the western side of the building, the president said the question of how America preserves the legacy of the victims lies in the generation of those who have stepped forward to defend the nation since then.
They are the “men and women in uniform, diplomats, intelligence, homeland security and law enforcement professionals -- all who have stepped forward to serve and who have risked and given their lives to help keep us safe,” Obama said.
“Thanks to their extraordinary service, we’ve dealt devastating blows to al-Qaida. We've delivered justice to Osama bin Laden. We’ve strengthened our homeland security. We've prevented attacks. We've saved lives,” the president said. “We resolve to continue doing everything in our power to protect this country that we love. And today, we once again pay tribute to these patriots, both military and civilian, who serve in our name, including those far away from home in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
‘We Do Not Give In To Fear’
It is important for America to stay true to the spirit of Sept. 11 by defending the country and its ideals, he noted, adding, “Fifteen years into this fight, the threat has evolved. With our stronger defenses, terrorists often attempt attacks on a smaller, but still deadly, scale. Hateful ideologies urge people in their own country to commit unspeakable violence. We’ve mourned the loss of innocents from Boston to San Bernardino to Orlando.”
But terrorists know they cannot defeat the United States, he emphasized.
“Groups like al-Qaida, [and the Islamic State of Iraq and The Levant] know they will never be able to defeat a nation as great and as strong as America,” Obama said. “Instead, they've tried to terrorize in the hopes that they can stoke enough fear that we turn on each other and that we change who we are or how we live.”
That’s why it is so important today for America to “reaffirm our character as a nation -- a people drawn from every corner of the world, every color, every religion, every background -- bound by a creed as old as our founding, E Pluribus Unum. -- Out of many, we are one,” the president said.
Attacks Based On Hate
The attack on the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., 15 years ago was motivated by barbarism and hate, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the audience, calling it “An attack that rattled the world, shook this mighty building and took 184 lives from us here … as well as thousands more in New York and Pennsylvania.”
Because of the millions of service members who have volunteered to serve and sacrifice since that fateful day 15 years ago, the United States has hammered those who attacked us “with every manner and measure of American power,” Carter said, “[by] choking terrorist networks, thwarting looming attacks and bringing Osama bin Laden to eternal justice.”
Regardless of what groups terrorists call themselves, “nothing changes who terrorists are or what we’ll do to protect our country … we possess limitless resolve to win, and the wind of goodness [is] at our backs,” he said.
Loyalty to High Ideals
“It’s been said the manner in which a nation or community cares for its fallen reflects the peoples’ respect for their land and their loyalty to high ideals,” said Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“We’re here today in that spirit to honor those who lost their lives on 9/11, to maintain our commitment to never forget, and to demonstrate our loyalty to high ideals,” Dunford said.
“Those who were taken from us prematurely will be able to look down and know that their lives had meaning,” the chairman said. “And they will be able to take pride in how we are carrying on their legacy.”
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)