Secretary of Defense
Remarks at September 11th Pentagon Observance Ceremony
Today, we return to the site of an attack motivated by barbarism and hate. An attack that rattled the world, that shook this mighty building, and that took 184 lives from us here at the Pentagon as well as thousands more in New York and Pennsylvania.
Mr. President, Chairman Dunford, honored guests, family and friends of those we lost on 9/11:
Today, we come together, as we have every year since 2001. We come together to remember those we lost that day and to stand again with their friends and families, to honor those we’ll never forget. We come together to reflect on all we’ve done together to recover and rebuild, to respond and to retaliate. And we come together to recommit to our hard but certain mission – to protect our country and our people, and to make a better world for our children.
To all those here before us who lost loved ones 15 years ago, our hearts and deepest sorrows are with you. We know that we can never fully know what you feel on this solemn day, as you return to this place. But we do know – we fully know – what your loved one’s sacrifice means to our Department and to our country, and what your resolve means to all of us as we come to work each day to continue the mission your fallen loved ones summon us to. As we do, your example makes us stronger, and for that, we’re grateful.
We need that strength and we have that resolve, as we continue to confront and defeat those who conspired to attack us then – and all who aspire to do so today.
Indeed, when someone strikes at the heart of what we stand for, we respond with the full might of the finest fighting force the world has ever known. Because our memory is long and our reach and resolve are endless, our enemies cannot hide, they cannot escape, they cannot endure. Wherever they are, they will surely, no matter how long it takes, come to feel the righteous fist of American might.
Since September 11th, 2001, millions of America’s best young men and women have volunteered to respond to those attacks and to defend what’s best about America and civilization itself – our freedoms, our values, our care for life, our way of life.
It’s because of those Americans – their service and their sacrifice – that the United States has hammered those who attacked us with every manner and measure of American power – choking terrorist networks, thwarting looming attacks, and bringing Osama bin Laden to eternal justice.
It’s because of those Americans that 15 years later, as the threat of terrorism evolves, our fight continues. Whether they still call themselves al-Qaeda or cloak themselves beneath the black flag of ISIL, nothing changes who terrorists are or what we’ll do to protect our country. For we possess limitless resolve to win, and the wind of goodness at our backs.
And it’s because of those Americans, that even as we confront the forces of darkness, the United States has continued to light the way toward a better future. Whether in world wars or the long battle against terrorists, our men and women in uniform, steadfast ever, have provided the security and upheld the values that have allowed millions upon millions of people – not just in the United States but around the world – to be safe, to raise their children, to dream their dreams, to live lives that are full.
As a result – decades from now, when visitors to this memorial pause to remember the lives lost here on September 11th, 2001, they too will honor the men and women of the 9/11 Generation…and give thanks for all they accomplished.
They will forever be the true reflection of who we are as a nation and a military. A powerful memorial to those we lost 15 years ago. And a charge to us – at a time of great change and challenge in the world – that we must continue to meet.
Few have been more dedicated to doing so than our Commander-in-Chief. President Obama has taken – each year now of his presidency – the time to remember 9/11. Whether here, in New York, or elsewhere, he’s never missed a year. Not one. He’s also never forgotten that day, or those we lost. I can tell you that no one pays more care each and every time he sends men and women forth from this building into harm’s way. And I can tell you he never relaxes in pursuit of those who threaten America.
Ladies and gentleman, for those and many other reasons, it’s my great privilege to introduce the President of the United States, Barack Obama.