Special Ops Commander: America Stronger Than Ever
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 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 Hillsborough Sherrif's Department 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.”