By Nick Simeone
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2014 – Thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks, the nation’s readiness and resolve are still being tested by those who seek to harm it, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told an audience of Pentagon employees -- some of whom were in the building on that fateful day -- as well as relatives of those killed in attacks that put the nation on a course of war for more than a decade to come.
“We have the capacity, we have the strength, to meet these challenges. America has always had challenges, and we have always met those challenges before,” Hagel told hundreds of people gathered on a sweltering afternoon in the Pentagon’s central courtyard, a day after President Barack Obama committed the nation to what administration officials say could be another multi-year military engagement in the Middle East, this one intended to eliminate the terrorist threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
“I don’t think any of us a year and a half ago would have envisioned the world of challenges we now face,” Hagel added, referring to the state of the world when he was sworn in as defense secretary in February 2013.
Representing the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert told the audience -- gathered just feet from the Pentagon memorial built to remember those killed when a hijacked airliner slammed into the south wall of the building -- that 9/11 shattered the idea of America being a sanctuary from acts of terrorism seen elsewhere in the world.
“It doesn’t matter where we were,” he said. “Somebody out there doesn’t like all of us, and we are all on the front lines. We’re all in this together.”
The defense establishment remained united in the days following 9/11, Greenert noted. He pointed out that the next day at the Pentagon, while Washington and much of the nation were left paralyzed by the attacks and even the stock market closed for days, “everyone came to work, everybody had resolve, and as a team we carried on, and that embodied the resilience that this building represents.”