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Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks' Remarks at the Pentagon 9/11 Employee Observance in the Pentagon Courtyard

Well, good morning to all of our guests who are joining us today from beyond the Pentagon and to all of you here from our workforce. It's my honor to be here and to observe this occasion with you once again. Let me also pass my thanks to my Vice Admiral Grady -- sorry, to Admiral Grady, Vice Chairman Grady, and to Mr. Ahmed and to the chaplain for such thoughtful remarks.

All around the world today, people will be recalling where they were and what they were doing when the news broke those terrorists executed attacks in New York, Pennsylvania, and right here at the Pentagon. People will recall whether they were at work or home or school. They'll remember whether they saw live images on television or heard about the tragedies on the radio or from others. And they'll reflect on their initial emotions and reactions, their grief and feelings of despair.

As someone who remembers vividly the course of my own steps right here at the Pentagon that day, I can tell you sharing these reflections remains hard, yet as the years since September 11th have increased, so too does the importance of telling our stories. Because, even as many of us have personal memories of what happened that day, an increasing share of Americans don't. They were too young, or they hadn't even been born yet. Even so, 9/11 has impacted their lives, and they should know how and why. And so telling our stories helps increase understanding across generations. 

I, for one, will be forever struck, as have the other speakers, by the resiliency that our friends and colleagues demonstrated in the minutes, hours and days that followed the attack on this Pentagon- of those who acted with empathy and attributes so common among this workforce and part of what makes this community so special: A deep-rooted instinct to help and be of service to others. All of that shone through that day. So, too, did this team's unbelievable resolve and strength. It's no wonder the doors of the Pentagon reopened the very next day. 

We also built an enduring reminder of the events here. The National 9/11 Pentagon Memorial, located on the southwest corner of this building, opened 15 years ago. It's a place to pay our respects to the 184 people who perished aboard Flight 77 and in the Pentagon. And through its beautiful and powerful design, it also tells the stories of what happened here and of those individuals we still hold fast in our hearts and minds. I encourage everyone to pay a visit.

More than two decades later, I am still struck by this sense of service exhibited every day by the people of this nation, the Pentagon and of the Department of Defense. In the year that followed 9/11, more than 254,000 Americans with no prior military experience enlisted in the military. Many of those said that they had never even considered military service, that they were motivated by what had happened on 9/11 and its aftermath. They had come to understand that military service represented something larger than themselves, and that's something that they wanted to be a part of.

What an apt reminder this year, the 50th anniversary of our all-volunteer force, of the patriotism and selflessness of those who have raised their hand to serve. Many of you who are with us here today did that, and you continue to do so every day. And you remain an inspiration to us all.

The events of 9/11 transformed our nation and how we view our national security. It also transformed each of us individually, in ways that we don't always talk about publicly. That's why we hold this special observance each year: to hold space for this community. So whether you choose to reflect openly or privately, this observance presents an opportunity for us to do it collectively, to be there for each other once again and to say to the survivors and those who lost a loved one, a friend or a colleague, "You are not alone. We have not forgotten about you or those we lost, and we never will."

Thank you.