By Army Staff Sgt. Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 13, 2008 - As people all across the country this week walked for miles, raised American flags or simply stood in silence to honor the victims of 9/11, President Bush reflected on the strength of Americans and the events of nearly seven years ago that shook the nation. "On that day, we witnessed unspeakable destruction perpetrated by evil men," the president said today during his weekly radio address to the nation. "But we also witnessed selfless acts of valor and compassion performed by courageous citizens."
In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that claimed the lives of nearly 3,000 people, the president called for Americans to volunteer. He challenged his fellow citizens to devote at least 4,000 hours, or two years throughout their lifetime, to volunteer in their communities.
Today Bush renewed that call.
"Serving others is more than just a generous act – it is essential to the health of our society," Bush said. "And as any volunteer can tell you, when you bring hope to the lives of others, the life you enrich most is usually your own."
Before the smoke cleared at the Pentagon or before the extent of the World Trade Center damages were fully known, first responders and rescue workers were on scene risking their lives.
Seven years later, "the spirit of heroism lives on," Bush said of the U.S. military.
Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, volunteer men and women in military uniforms deployed to Afghanistan, and eventually military offensives were launched in Iraq. Today, more than 4,500 military members have lost their lives combating terrorism.
"These brave men and women have volunteered to defend our nation during a time of war," he said. "Every day, they are confronting our enemies abroad so we do not have to face them here at home."
Bush noted during his address the successes and challenges U.S. troops face today in the Middle East. After forcing al-Qaeda out of control in Afghanistan, and ousting Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq, both countries have made changes towards democracy.
In Iraq, violence is at the lowest levels in nearly five years. In Afghanistan, more than 25 million Afghans were liberated after the Americans arrived, the president said. Taliban forces and al-Qaeda have failed to retrieve their previous posture in Afghanistan, and Iraqi security forces are becoming more capable "leading the fight."
Because of the efforts of an all-volunteer military and the resilience of the American people, Bush called the United States much safer today than it was seven years ago.
"In the seven years since the attacks of September the 11th, the men and women of our Armed Forces and their wonderful families have been a source of pride for the nation, he said.