Arlington Ceremony Honors Pentagon Victims
By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service
ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va., Sept. 11, 2003 The morning sun glistened on the Vermont granite memorial group marker in Section 64 that bears the 184 names of those killed when Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon two years ago. Beside it sat more than 400 gray steel folding chairs that row-by-row filled with family members of those who died that fateful morning.
"We gather here today to honor the heroes who sleep in these hills and commemorate the second annual observance of Patriot Day," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said here today. "But while the occasion is not yet new, the concept is as old as our republic's founding ideals and the belief we cherish in our heart that freedom will triumph over tyranny. That is why patriots are so very important."
Patriot Day honors and remembers those who died at the Pentagon as well as those who perished in New York City and the field in Pennsylvania, said Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers.
The general quoted American author William Faulkner, saying, "I believe that man will not merely endure; he will prevail. He is immortal because he has a soul, a spirit capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance."
"The patriots who lost their lives in the Pentagon on 11 September embody that spirit," said Myers. "They are all heroes, not just because they gave their lives, but because they lived their lives as free Americans, and many in service to their country."
Rumsfeld said a patriot is one "who loves his land, prizes its principles and cherishes its creed. A patriot so reveres the ideals of his home country that he is willing to lay down his life to ensure that those ideals endure."
Both talked of the global war on terrorism.
"Terrorists are trying to defeat what we Americans stand for peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for human life," said Myers. " So we've undertaken an enormous effort to prevent them from spreading their creed of bloodshed, of hatred, of intolerance."
The general said the war on terrorism would be "a long, hard struggle" requiring patience, commitment and will. "Make no doubt about it," he added, "we are winning. And we are winning because we have a superb team of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsmen and civilians who are 100 percent dedicated to winning this war. They've already made tremendous sacrifices. They're all patriots too, truly American heroes."
Pointing out the proximity of the Washington Monument and Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, Rumsfeld spoke of the heroes of Afghanistan and Iraq. "Each of those who have fallen gave their lives for something larger than themselves. They are important. They are important because without such patriots, freedom cannot exist."
The secretary borrowed the words of Daniel Webster, who told the Senate in 1834, "God grants liberty only to those who love it and are always ready to guard and defend it."
Fortunately, this nation, said Rumsfeld, continues to have a long line of patriotic defenders. "And so today, let us remember all those who died in New York, in Pennsylvania, here at the Pentagon, in the mountains of Afghanistan, in the deserts of Iraq. And let us recommit ourselves to their causes and to our mission: the triumph of freedom over tyranny. And let this day always be a reminder to our nation and to the world why we fight in freedom's cause and why we must fight and win this global war on terror."