Speech
Speech

Remarks by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. and Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper at September 11th Pentagon Observance Ceremony

Sept. 11, 2019
Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Joseph F. Dunford Jr.; Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper

GENERAL JOSEPH DUNFORD JR: Mr. President, Mrs. Trump, Secretary and Mrs. Esper, distinguished guests and, most importantly, to the survivors and family members of the fallen who are with us, good morning.

It's an honor to join you at this sacred place where 184 men, women and children were taken from us before their time. They and those lost at the World Trade Center and in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, were the innocent victims of an unprovoked attack. And while they were taken from us prematurely, their memory lives on. We're here today to renew our commitment to never forget.

The terrorist attacks were intended to challenge our way of life, and they sought to break our spirit. But their purpose was never realized. That day made us stronger, more determined and more resolved to protect our nation and that for which it stands.

As President George Bush said from the Oval Office in the hours after the attacks, "Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shatter steel; they cannot dent the steel of American resolve."

And that resolve carries on. As we stand here today, our nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen are performing their duty across the globe, doing what must be done.

And so, as we pause this morning to remember and honor those lost on 11 September, 2001, I hope the American people also find comfort in knowing that a new generation of men and women have stepped forward to serve and protect our way of life.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, I'm honored to introduce someone who has embraced public service for decades, our 27th secretary of defense, the Honorable Mark Esper.

      (APPLAUSE)

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE MARK T. ESPER: Thank you, General Dunford.

Mr. President, First Lady, members of Congress, fellow Cabinet members, men and women of the Department of Defense, and most especially friends and family members of the patriots of September 11th, 2001, welcome to the Pentagon and thank you for joining us as we gather here to honor those lost on that tragic day and to recognize the heroes who rose to the occasion in the face of evil.

This morning's ceremony affirms our commitment to never forget that fateful day 18 years ago.

On 9/11, terrorists from a distant land attacked the spirit of our nation. On a grassy field in Pennsylvania, in the twin towers of New York City and here at the Pentagon, they stole the lives of thousands of innocent people. Fearful of American values, ideas and freedoms, our nation's enemies sought to dim the beacon of hope that America has long shown throughout the world. And while the terrorist attacks brought great pain, the American people responded with even greater bravery and determination.

Most of us recall exactly where we were when we first learned that our nation was under attack. Some were at work. Others were at home. A number of you were present in this very building when Flight 77 crashed through its concrete walls. In every case, we remember the initial shock and disbelief we felt, and we remember our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who brought justice to those responsible. But on this 18th anniversary of 9/11, service members who were not even born on that day now stand among our ranks.

As each year passes and the details of that tragic day fade, we must ensure the memories of the departed do not. This memorial where we gather for today's ceremony stands as an enduring testament to remember them, to honor them, to recall their sacrifice. But also, it inspires future generations to serve in defense of our great nation.

Throughout our history, America's faced challenges from many adversaries, and while 9/11 may have transformed our great nation, it also reaffirmed America's commitment to defend our people and our way of life. A commitment that remains unchanged since the founding of the republic 243 years ago. I am proud to stand here today with all of you and to remember all of those who gave their lives so that all of us may continue to live in freedom.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my great privilege to welcome a leader who has kept America safe and secure, a commander in chief who has rebuilt our military, and a president who puts the defense of our great nation and our people above all else. Please join me in welcoming the president of the United States, President Donald Trump.