Gates, Mullen Reflect on Troop Sacrifices Since 9/11

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2010 — As the nation today hon­ors the near­ly 3,000 inno­cent Amer­i­cans killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks, Amer­i­cans also should remem­ber the sac­ri­fice of mil­i­tary mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said today.

“Nine years ago today, on a day much like this, the calm of a clear, Sep­tem­ber morn­ing was shat­tered by the worst acts of ter­ror­ism in our nation’s his­to­ry,” Gates said. “Today we hon­or and cel­e­brate those who fell, sur­round­ed by those who love them and who still feel the pain of that loss.” 

Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, the nation’s top-rank­ing mil­i­tary offi­cer, joined Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in a remem­brance cer­e­mo­ny at the Pentagon’s 9/11 Memo­r­i­al today. 

The memo­r­i­al opened on the sev­enth anniver­sary of the 9/11 attacks. It was built adja­cent to the Pen­ta­gon, near the site where al-Qai­da ter­ror­ists crashed Amer­i­can Air­lines Flight 77 into the nation’s mil­i­tary headquarters. 

Fam­i­lies of peo­ple who died in the attack also gath­ered at the cer­e­mo­ny. The ter­ror­ist hijack­ing left 184 peo­ple dead: 125 Pen­ta­gon work­ers and 59 on the air­craft. All five hijack­ers also were killed in the crash. 

Over the past nine years, more than 5,500 ser­vice­mem­bers have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan with hopes of pre­vent­ing future ter­ror­ist attacks on Amer­i­can soil. U.S. and inter­na­tion­al troops deployed to Afghanistan in Octo­ber 2001 to inter­dict ter­ror­ist plan­ning and train­ing there. Amer­i­can troops entered Iraq in March 2003. 

“Our troops and their fam­i­lies have paid a steep price these last nine years, but have also shown resilience and strength in the best tra­di­tions of the coun­try, a coun­try that cher­ish­es their ser­vice and the mem­o­ry of those who have fall­en,” Gates said. 

An entire gen­er­a­tion of ser­vice­mem­bers has respond­ed to that mis­sion and con­tin­ues to do so today, Gates said, as near­ly 100,000 troops are deployed to Afghanistan. 

“Today we also reflect on what those attacks meant for an entire gen­er­a­tion of young Amer­i­cans who answered the call to serve,” the sec­re­tary said. “Since then, thou­sands have made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice, and their absence, too, is felt today and every day.” 

The sac­ri­fices of those killed on 9/11 and since nev­er will be for­got­ten, Mullen said. He not­ed that a hand-stitched quilt was ded­i­cat­ed to the Pen­ta­gon yes­ter­day in hon­or of the fall­en here. The quilt includes pic­tures of all 184 vic­tims who died at the Pen­ta­gon that day. 

Mullen called atten­tion to a quote he saw writ­ten on the quilt: “In our hearts, we weep for you. In our minds we hon­or you.” 

“Today, those words still com­fort us, because today we still weep for those we lost here and in New York and Som­er­set Coun­ty [Penn­syl­va­nia],” the admi­ral said. “We hon­or them with our pres­ence, and cer­tain­ly with this memorial.” 

Most­ly, Mullen said, Amer­i­ca hon­ors the vic­tims of 9/11, past and present, by their actions in light of such a tragedy. 

“Unspeak­able car­nage was vis­it­ed upon us here, but it did not con­quer us,” he said. “Unimag­in­able loss was felt by us here, but it does not dimin­ish us. 

“Let us weep for what lies behind us,” he con­tin­ued. “Let us hon­or what lies in front of us. But let us remem­ber always what lies inside of us.” 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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