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Message from the Secretary of Defense to America's Veterans

National Guard Bureau

As the men and women who have fought America's wars, Sept. 16, 2001 – more than all others -- understand what the September 11th attack on freedom and democracy means for the days ahead.

More than simple acts of terrorism by radical or unbalanced individuals, this was an attack on our way of life, our country, our home.

In a recent message to U.S. armed forces here and abroad, I spoke of the memorable moments that have marked all great crises throughout our history, images that live forever in our hearts and in our minds.

Not surprisingly, we've seen many such moments during this crisis as well -- moments of remarkable courage and selflessness; moments of fierce patriotism and pride:

Policemen and firefighters working night and day, with no thought for themselves; men, women and children giving blood until the banks are overflowing; businesses and corporations donating coffee, food and water to sustain those who would not stop working; chaplains counseling distraught families; friends and total strangers reaching out in loving gestures of human support.

And everywhere -- the American flag, on buses and taxicabs, in windows and over doorways, as armbands, on jackets and hats, and most especially, waving in glorious defiance above the smoking and twisted wreckage our enemies have wrought. One such flag, unfurled by firefighters, proudly hangs huge and proud near the gash in the Pentagon wall.

But I also warned that more -- much more -- will be asked of Americans in the weeks and months ahead.

We face well-organized and sophisticated enemies, made all the more powerful by the terror they are so willing to unleash. Now that terror has been brought to our door, we owe it to ourselves and -- as the president has said -- to all future generations, to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it at its core.

Today, all Americans are united in anguish and anger. But we must also be united in purpose and in will.

While the immediate task of vanquishing freedom's enemies will fall to our military men and women, all of us -- particularly those like you who understand the price of freedom -- will be called upon to strengthen our national resolve.

And so, as we ask God's tender mercies on all those who have fallen, we ask also for His guidance and protection for all of us who remain to finish the task now before us.

I thank the same God for America's veterans -- those of you who made us free and kept us free. I thank God for all you have done, and for all I know you will do again, to support peace and final victory.

God bless you, and God bless America.

Donald H. Rumsfeld

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