WASHINGTON — The Pentagon Memorial stands as a stark reminder to the Defense Department workforce that the headquarters represents the front lines that fight the battle against terrorism, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said in the Pentagon courtyard today.
In a community observance of the events 15 years ago when terrorists leveled attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, and flew an airplane into the Pentagon, two more into New York City’s Twin Towers, and another that was forced by passengers to crash into a Pennsylvania field, the deputy secretary said the building’s workforce has a particular connection to the 184 victims who perished that day — 126 DoD employees and all 54 people aboard American Airlines Flight 77.
Our Memories Must Never Fade
“We must never allow — never allow — those who were lost to ever fade from our memories … as well as those who have sacrificed in the long wars ever since,” Work said. “And we must continue to allow them to motivate us in our continuing struggle against those who would seek to destroy that which we hold dear.”
Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said while the west side of the Pentagon struck by the airplane billowed in smoke, a reminder of what the United States stands for was clear amid the debris.
“You might remember a flag draped over these walls both in unity and in defiance,” the vice chairman said, calling the flag “a symbol of our resilience. Those images are forever etched in our minds.”
Selva called the events of 9/11 a “remarkable legacy of strength and fortitude, a legacy that safeguards American values, a legacy that makes certain we will never forget.”
DoD’s ‘Powerful Resolve’
While attendees at the courtyard observance stood together today to mourn the loss of the DoD workforce and those aboard American Airlines Flight 77, the ceremony carried a broader meaning, the vice chairman said.
“We are also here to remember that moment united our nation with a powerful resolve not only to rebuild [the Pentagon wing], but to combat those who threatened our very way of life,” Selva emphasized.
Fifteen years later, DoD operates in a complex environment, Selva said.
“[In] the complex challenges we face every day, in every corner of this world, I’m confident that we will continue to meet those challenges with ironclad resolve to represent what is the very best of our nation,” he said.
The Enemy ‘Will Fail’
Work said those who seek to stifle or harm the American way of life and its citizens certainly will fail.
“They will fail because all of us as Americans will never forget what we stand for,” the deputy secretary said. “We will remain steadfast in our determination to stamp out this evil and secure a better future for our children. And we will work together collectively to create a world free from terror and oppression.”
Work said he and Defense Secretary Ash Carter are grateful for each DoD military and civilian employees.
“We thank you for your sacrifice, professionalism and dedication to the country,” Work said. “We know that you will continue to make all Americans rightfully proud of their great American military.”
President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford will address the families and friends of the 9/11 victims at the Pentagon Memorial, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016.
(Follow Terri Moon Cronk on Twitter: @MoonCronkDoD)