By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 11, 2007 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told grieving family members at the Pentagon's west wall today that the military would continue to pursue and defeat America's enemies, especially terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda, which instigated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Marking the sixth anniversary of the terror attacks, Gates and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed about 150 family members of the 184 people who died at the Pentagon when hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building's west wall.
Afterward, the two leaders placed a tribute wreath near the blackened limestone slab inscribed with the date of the attacks.
"Today the entire nation joins with you," Gates told the family members. "You have never been and never will be alone in your sorrow."
The secretary acknowledged that the passage of time could "never fully dull the pain" felt by the grieving family members.
Nearly 3,000 people died during the terrorist attacks at the Pentagon, the Twin Towers in New York City, and aboard another hijacked airliner that crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
The fallen "are members of our nation's family," Gates said. "They'll always be honored as such."
The terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks will never have peace again, "for we will hunt them down relentlessly and without reservation," Gates vowed.
Echoing Gates' resolve to confront and beat terrorism, Pace declared that the 2.4-million-member U.S. military is committed to defeating America's enemies wherever they may be.
There's no question that the United States is engaged in a global war against terrorism, Pace said. "The enemy has declared war on us," he said.
America's armed forces are carrying on the battle against terrorism "out of respect for those who've died here and those who've died since in serving this great nation," Pace said.
The survivors cannot touch departed loved ones lost in the attacks or during the ensuing war on terrorism, Pace acknowledged. But, he vowed that military members "will serve this nation in their honor."
Mazie Lawson was one of the estimated 150 victims' family members who attended the ceremony.
Wiping back tears, Lawson told reporters she was having a "bad day," as she visibly grieved for her daughter, Cecelia E. Richard, an Army civilian employee who perished when the terrorist-hijacked airliner crashed into the Pentagon.
"Some people will say they want closure," Lawson remarked. "I never want closure, because to me the word closure means to forget, and I don't want to forget my baby girl."