By Terri Moon Cronk DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, September 11, 2015 — The Pentagon community is bound by a solemn mission to defend and carry forward the values of the nation and sometimes make sacrifices, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told the workforce in a 9/11 remembrance ceremony today.
The secretary was joined by Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a Pentagon outdoor courtyard, to honor the 184 people who died after terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into the west side of the Pentagon 14 years ago.
Carter told the workforce the Defense Department ceremony was more than an opportunity to honor those who perished.
“Today, we remember far more than how these men and women were taken from us,” he said. “Most of all, we remember and honor what they gave to us through their example of service and leadership, friendship, dedication to this nation and to its defense.”
While a sense of “always honor and remember,” is what inspired many among the workforce to serve alongside thousands of other Americans, Carter said, the DoD community is “fast becoming the leaders of this department and of our military, of the finest fighting force the world has ever known.”
‘Our Own Greatest Generation’
Those who served during World War II often are referred to as the greatest generation, Carter said. “And we should always remember what they did for us and for the world. But never for a moment should we forget our own greatest generation, the men and women who, in our own time, served, sacrificed, and voluntarily answered our country’s call in Kandahar and Korengal, in Fallujah and Tal Abad, and in so many forbidding corners of the world. They served with honor, courage, and excellence. Each of our lives – and the life of this nation – is richer because of their example.”
Attack on Pentagon Still a Vivid Memory
While 14 years have passed since the fated airliner plunged into the walls of the Pentagon, the image of smoke pouring from the complex still is a vivid memory, Selva said, adding that the building “stands for all of us as a symbol of strength and community.”
In an instant, 184 lives were lost – 125 from the Pentagon the vice chair noted. “They were our colleagues, friends … our family,” Selva said.
And it was also on this day 74 years ago when ground was broken to build the Pentagon, and within 16 months, employees were at work, the vice chairman said.
“That team built this symbol,” Selva said of the Pentagon’s beginning. “You continue to build on that spirit every single day.”
Terrorists Will Be Brought to Justice
It is difficult to know what the victims’ families have endured, the secretary said. “But after 14 years, we do know this: Those who attempt to inspire fear or terror will find no satisfaction and no success in threatening the United States. Instead, we come back. We come back from tragedy – stronger and more united than before.”
And terrorists who seek to harm the United States will find no safe haven, and no matter how long it takes, they will not escape the long arm and hard fist of justice, Carter said. “We will find you. And whether your name is Abu Sayyaf, or Junaid Hussain, or Osama bin Laden, the result will be the same,” he added.
“There is no memorial grand enough, no tribute great enough to honor those who sacrificed so much for so many,” Carter said of those who lost their lives at the Pentagon to terrorism and those who gave their lives to defend the nation since the Sept. 11, 2001 tragedy.
Carter said he keeps a piece from the building’s rubble on his desk, handed down from his predecessors, with an inscription that reads, “That we may live in freedom, we will never forget.”
Those words are not simply written in stone, he said.
“They are inscribed in our hearts and carved into our will. They describe a solemn obligation which binds us together,” the secretary said. “Within this community, we will never forget. We will always remember and we will continue to honor the memory of those we have lost with the work we accomplish together.”