Special Ops Commander: America Stronger Than Ever

WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2011 — The Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist attacks and the heli­copter shoot-down in Afghanistan last month that killed 38 men are linked by the events of 9/11, the com­man­der of U.S. Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand said.

Navy Adm. William H. McRaven spoke at a 9/11 remem­brance ser­vice Sept. 9 at the command’s head­quar­ters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tam­pa, Fla.

The admi­ral, a Navy SEAL, assumed com­mand of Socom on Aug. 8.

“Aug. 6 was not 9/11,” McRaven said. “The tragedies are nev­er­the­less inex­tri­ca­bly linked by the events of that Sep­tem­ber day, and the courage dis­played by the fam­i­lies left behind is indica­tive of the strength and the resolve and the com­pas­sion of this great nation since Sept. 11.”

The admi­ral served dur­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm and has com­mand­ed at every lev­el in the spe­cial oper­a­tions com­mu­ni­ty, with assign­ments as com­man­der of the Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand and Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand Europe, as well as serv­ing as com­modore of Naval Spe­cial War­fare Group 1 and com­man­der of Navy SEAL Team 3.

In May, while serv­ing as com­man­der of Joint Spe­cial Oper­a­tions Com­mand, McRaven worked with then-CIA Direc­tor and now Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta to find and kill Osama bin Laden.

Over the past weeks, McRaven said, he’s been priv­i­leged to attend “solemn and inspir­ing” memo­r­i­al ser­vices for those killed Aug. 6.

“They were solemn, because we lost so many loved ones, but they were inspir­ing because of the strength of the fam­i­lies and the lessons those fam­i­lies teach us about life after 9/11,” McRaven said. “One griev­ing moth­er told me that she would always remem­ber what she lost, but she was so thank­ful for what she still had.”

Sept. 11 may have giv­en the nation its great­est tragedy, but it also inspired the next great­est gen­er­a­tion, he said.

“The men who board­ed that heli­copter on the evening of 6 August came from every walk of life, every cor­ner of the nation. They rep­re­sent­ed all that is good about this coun­try,” the admi­ral said. “They were all chil­dren of 9/11 who raised their hands and vol­un­teered to serve. And with that ser­vice came a sense of duty, patri­o­tism and nation­al val­ues that define who we are and what we bring to this world.”

On 9/11 the nation lost loved ones, inno­cent men and women going about their dai­ly lives to earn a liv­ing for them­selves and their fam­i­lies, along with first respon­ders, fire­men, police­men, sol­diers, sailors, air­men and Marines, the admi­ral said.

“In 10 years that the can­cer of ter­ror­ism has spread, thou­sands of Amer­i­cans and allied sol­diers have per­ished fight­ing this scourge,” McRaven said. “And let’s not for­get the Iraqis and Afghans who fought and died along­side our men, just hop­ing for a bet­ter life.”

Amer­i­cans lost their inno­cence and sense of secu­ri­ty, he added, “but as that moth­er remind­ed me, what we have remains as impor­tant as what we lost.”

“We have our free­dom,” he said. “That some­times sounds trite, until you spend time with peo­ple who don’t have it.”

Amer­i­cans still have dreams and the abil­i­ty to make those dreams a real­i­ty in a great coun­try that wel­comes diver­si­ty, thrives on indi­vid­u­al­ism and cher­ish­es new ideas and new cul­tures, the admi­ral said.

“We should also remem­ber that there are evil men in the world who want to do us harm, who want to shoot down heli­copters and fly planes into tow­er­ing struc­tures, but we should nev­er for­get that there is great good in the world, … and that good will always pre­vail,” McRaven said.

“I have seen the acts of bar­bar­ians as they tried to destroy what they can­not under­stand and what threat­ens their twist­ed sense of right­eous­ness,” he added. “But I have seen far greater acts of kind­ness from aver­age Amer­i­cans who risk every­thing to help peo­ple in need.”

The lessons learned from 9/11, Aug. 6 and the 10 years in between, the admi­ral said, “is that as a peo­ple and as a nation we are stronger than ever before. Our great­ness was nev­er mea­sured by our tow­er­ing sky­scrap­ers, our mil­i­tary might or our eco­nom­ic pow­er.”

Amer­i­can great­ness is mea­sured in the strength of its peo­ple, the firm­ness of its con­vic­tions and the belief that no one can destroy the Amer­i­can dream, no mat­ter how many times they try, he said.

“As we take time to remem­ber and hon­or those who per­ished on that fate­ful day almost 10 years ago,” McRaven said, “let us also take time to remem­ber what we have and to recom­mit our­selves to the val­ues that made this coun­try great.”

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