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Pentagon Community September 11th Observance

Good afternoon.  Thank you for the reminder, it seems like just yesterday that I had the privilege of being sworn in by the Mayor of the Pentagon, Mike Rhodes.

The world has a way of directing our attention and developing our priorities, and I don’t think any of us a year and a half ago would have envisioned the world of challenges we now face as a nation and as a community of nations—challenges that face all of our world.  I am privileged to be part of your team and I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of your team.

Earlier this morning, the President, Chairman Dempsey and I, and other DoD leaders, gathered with the families of 9/11 victims at the Pentagon Memorial.  Many of you were there.

This afternoon, we come together as a Pentagon community—mindful that 9/11 has a special resonance to all who work in this building. 

Whether or not we knew any of the Pentagon workers who lost their lives on 9/11, we feel that loss—their family’s loss—deeply today.  

Just like those of you gathered here, they came to work every day in service to our nation, playing vital roles to help keep our country safe.  We will never forget their ultimate sacrifice.  The sacrifices of their families.  Their memories will inspire us as we continue to do our jobs every day.

To the families of the victims who have joined us today, know that your loved ones remain in our hearts and leave behind a remarkable legacy of service and dedication to this country.  To the injured survivors who join us today, we draw strength from your resilience, your courage, and your recovery.

And to the first responders who are here with us today; thank you for your swift and decisive actions that day, putting yourselves in harm’s way, disregarding your own safety.  You saved lives and this entire community is grateful to you.

That day also holds unique significance here in the Department of Defense because it began more than a decade of wars overseas, first in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, as well as many other operations across the globe.  

Our men and women here in the Pentagon supported those efforts day in and day out.  And we still support many of those operations and our men and women all over the world.  Those who survived the attacks awoke the next day with a new mission: to ensure that similar attacks on our country never happen again. 

Thirteen years have passed since that tragic day, and the world is a very different place than it was on that clear September morning thirteen years ago.

But America and its allies are still being tested.  There are still those who wish to do us harm.  We have the capacity – we have the strength – to meet these challenges.  America has always had challenges, and we have always met those challenges before.  And for all the challenges we face, America and our allies still have within our grasp the potential to do more good for more people than history has ever known. 

How we fulfill that promise depends on our readiness and our resolve—the same readiness and resolve demonstrated by those who faced the fire on 9/11, and in the wars that followed.

We have the most dedicated workforce in the world here at the Defense Department.  We must continue our hard work to protect the lives of all Americans, our country, and honor the memory of those we lost 13 years ago.  We must stay ready and we must stay resolute. 

Thank you for your continuing dedication and service.  Thanks to your families for their sacrifice. God bless you all and your families.

Thank you very much.