US Army – September 11 Commemorative Speech

The Army recognized more than 70 soldiers and DA civilians as heroes, for rescuing people from the burning Pentagon last September, truly exemplifying Army values.

Around the world, soldiers are fighting the War on Terrorism, creating the conditions for peace and helping to keep it, training for missions that are certain to come, protecting and defending our homeland, and transforming for the future.

As the Army has taken on new missions abroad since last year’s terrorist attacks against the nation, its citizen soldiers have taken on new missions at home.

Sept. 11, 2002

Today, Americans gather at the Pentagon, near the site of the New York World Trade Center, at Bagram and Kandahar in Afghanistan, here, and at hundreds of other places around the country and the globe. United in purpose, we gather to remember the victims of last year’s horrific terrorist attacks against this nation. We also gather to remember those in and out of uniform who continue the fight against those who would harm us for no other reason than the United States stands as a bright shining light of freedom in the world.

When the al Queda terrorists struck at the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, they sought to topple the world’s mightiest symbols of military power and economic prosperity. And while those blows hurt, they did not cripple the far reaching capabilities or the effectiveness of our Armed Services and our financial institutions.

Family members of victims killed during the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the Pentagon created a makeshift memorial to their lost loved ones outside the damaged building. U.S. Army photo by SSG John Valceanu 214th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Remembering The Victims

United, we grieve for the 3,000 innocent people who perished in those surprise attacks against our nation. They came from all walks of life, all races, all ages.

Among the youngest victims were three sixth-graders from the Washington, D.C. area. Bernard Brown, Asia Cottom and Rodeny Dickens took American Airlines Flight 77 from Washington’s Dulles Airport on their way to California on a National Geographic-sponsored education trip to learn about the Channel Islands near Santa Barbara. Their young lives were cut short when their hijacked jetliner flew into the west side of the Pentagon.

Among the oldest victims was retired Master Sergeant Max Beilke. Max was recognized as the last combat soldier to leave Vietnam in 1973. Hanging up his uniform after a 22-year career as a soldier, Max returned to the Army family as a Department of the Army civilian. For the next 20-plus years, he championed Army retirees rights on Capitol Hill and at military installations across the country until a hijacked jet ended his life at the Pentagon. He was 69 years old.

Max was meeting with the Army’s top personnel manager, Lieutenant General Timothy Maude, the deputy chief of staff for personnel, when Flight 77 hit the building. A 30-year Army veteran, General Maude was the senior serviceman killed in the terrorist attacks. In fact, General Maude is one of the highest-ranking U.S. officers ever killed in an attack.

And while most of those who perished in the terrorist attacks were U.S. citizens, we must not forget that the victims at the World Trade Center included citizens of dozens of other nations. Terrorism threatens all civilized nations, not just the United States.


Remembering The Heroes

The Honorable Thomas E. White, Secretary of the Army pins a Soldier�s Medal on Col. Roy A. Wallace during a ceremony Oct. 24 honoring nearly 70 Soldiers and civilians for their heroic actions on Sept. 11 after a hijacked airplane struck the Pentagon. U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Michael Rautio

From the tragedy of the 9-11 attacks, America has found scores of new heroes.

Heroes like retired Lieutenant Colonel Rick Rescorla, a 7th Cavalry veteran of the Vietnam War and chief of corporate security for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Company at the World Trade Center. Reminiscent of his infantry platoon leader days when his soldiers relied upon his calm demeanor under fire in Vietnam, Rick led evacuation efforts from Tower Two that saved all but six of the 2,700 Morgan Stanley employees working in the building one year ago today. Sadly, Rick was last seen re-entering the building in an attempt to find stragglers just minutes before the tower collapsed.

Rick had coordinated the evacuation of the World Trade Center Tower Two, in 1993, when terrorists linked to Osama bin Laden detonated a truck bomb in a parking garage beneath the building. Ironically, he predicted the next time the World Trade Center was attacked, it would be from the air.

The Pentagon attack also produced its share of heroic deeds. The Army recognized more than 70 soldiers and DA civilians as heroes last October for numerous valorous acts in rescuing people from the burning Pentagon last September. Many of those soldiers also received Purple Hearts for wounds sustained in the attack or while attempting rescues.

America has new heroes like the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93. Flying out of Newark, New Jersey, with a scheduled destination of San Francisco, the plane was hijacked like the passenger airliners that flew into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. However, we know from cell phone calls they made that the passengers knew about the terrorist attacks and that they were determined their airliner would not be used as another guided missile – and it wasn’t.

Todd Beamer, a passenger on Flight 93, called his wife to let her know about the hijacking and to tell her that he and his fellow passenger were not going to allow their plane to hurt anyone on the ground. He left his cell phone on after saying goodbye. He was heard saying, “Let’s roll” just prior to the passengers attacking the terrorists aboard their plane.

Flight 93 crashed about 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard.

And America has found heroes in the 343 New York City policemen and firefighters who sacrificed all when the World Trade Center towers collapsed around them as they struggled to get everyone out.



Bob Chapman of the Corps of Engineers Fort Worth District works at “Ground Zero.” Personnel of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were at Ground Zero just two hours after the hijacked airliners struck the World Trade Center. Photo by F.T. Eyre, Corps of Engineers Headquarters

We can mark our recovery efforts from the day after the attacks when thousands of Pentagon workers – everyday heroes – returned to their jobs in a still burning building. Those workers – active duty military, reservists, Department of Defense civilians and contractors – sent a signal around the world that Americans will not be intimidated by those who would do us harm.

We can mark our recovery progress by the work that has been done at the World Trade Center. Initial estimates indicated that it would take at least a year to remove the two million tons of concrete rubble and steel debris left by the two fallen towers. However, thanks to round-the-clock work by thousands of workers from dozens of local, state and federal agencies, the World Trade Center recovery effort officially ended July 15.

A number of construction plans for what will eventually replace the World Trade Center are currently under consideration. All of the plans include a 9-11 memorial.

And, we can mark our recovery progress by the accomplishments of Lieutenant Colonel Brian Birdwell. Brian’s office was in the area where the Pentagon plane hit. The ensuing flames killed both of Brian’s office mates and burned more than 60 percent of his body before he staggered toward the center of the building where he was rescued. He remained in intensive care for 26 days and spent more than three months in the hospital before being released on convalescent leave. Six months and a day after being grievously wounded, Brian reported back for work at the Pentagon, scarred but unbeaten.

The day Brian returned to work, he told a group of reporters that he just had to come back. “You always do best the thing you love — I love the Army,” he said. Now working Army installation Force Protection issues between physical therapy sessions and more surgeries, Brian said, he feels he is making a valid contribution in the War on Terrorism by helping to protect the Army against any future terrorist attacks.


Operation Enduring Freedom

KANDAHAR AIR BASE (Afghanistan)- Army Pvt. Robert Sheppard, a heavy weapons specialist with Delta Co., 2nd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, scans the outlying mountains while on patrol outside the air base. U.S. Army photo by Spc. David MarcWhile this nation recovered from last year’s horrific attacks, we started to settle the bill with al Queda and other terrorists who would continue to do us harm

Addressing Congress and the American people a little more than a week after the attacks, President George W. Bush told us that “We are a country awakened to danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”

And justice has been done. America’s military might, working hand-in-hand with the armed forces of other civilized nations, has eliminated al Queda’s safe haven in Afghanistan and the Taliban government that supported them.

Soldiers continue to deliver justice every single day as they hunt down remaining al Queda and Taliban fugitives throughout Afghanistan even as they help the liberated Afghan people embrace freedom and democracy.

Soldiers are also deployed in other parts of the world in support of the War on Terrorism. In the nations of Georgia, Sudan and the Philippines, the Army is actively training foreign military forces in counter terrorism.

While helping to keep the peace in Bosnia this past year, U.S. soldiers in the Stabilization Force rooted out an al Queda cell, arrested several of its members and forced the rest to flee the country.


Operation Noble Eagle

As the Army has taken on new missions abroad since last year’s terrorist attacks against the nation, it has also taken on new missions at home.

At airports across the nation, thousands of National Guard soldiers stepped in to help implement new security measures.

Thousands more, from both the active and reserve components, have augmented the security force at the Pentagon and other federal sites in our nation’s Capital, and beefed up force protection at their home station installations.

Still hundreds more were called upon to assist the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in patrolling our national borders – in the south with Mexico and in the north with Canada.

Around the world, soldiers are fighting the War on Terrorism, creating the conditions for peace and helping to keep it, training for missions that are certain to come, protecting and defending our homeland, and transforming for the future.

We will never forget September 11th, 2001, as America’s darkest day. But out of the darkness of that horrible day has risen a national resolve to make this world a safer place.

United in purpose, we continue to grieve for the victims of 9-11, and feel for families and friends who lost loved ones. We will long remember the heroes who emerged from the tragedies of those attacks, and we will fight the good fight against a global network of terrorism for as long as it takes to end its threat to America and all civilized nations.

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