The United State’s top defense officials urged Americans to remain vigilant in defending American ideals and honored the current and fallen service members who died while protecting the U.S. against terrorism threats during the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
“It is our job to defend the great experiment that is America. To protect this exceptional Republic, body and soul. And to defend the American people in our democracy, even when it's hard, especially when it's hard,” Secretary of Defense Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by AM General — The Quad confab Top State Dept. official overseeing 'Havana syndrome' response leaving post Pentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees MORE said on Saturday. “Ladies and gentlemen, we must be tireless guardians of our ideals, as well as our security, because we cannot have one without the other.”
Twenty years ago on Sept. 11, 2001, four attacks were carried out by 19 people associated with the extremist organization al-Qaeda. Terrorists hijacked two planes and flew them into New York City’s World Trade Centers twin towers. Another plane crashed into the Pentagon while a fourth crashed in Shanksville, Pa.
Approximately 3,000 people died in total. The attacks would lead to the creation of the Department of Homeland Security and a 20-year war in Afghanistan, which ended just last month.
Speaking at the Pentagon, Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley recognized the men and women who have assisted the U.S. in fighting terrorism around the world, including the 13 U.S. service members who died last month during a deadly suicide bombing in Kabul.
“Now, almost a quarter of the citizens who we defend today were born after 9/11. And that includes thousands of our outstanding young service members. And many of the 13 brave men and women who just days ago gave their lives to save others in Afghanistan were babies back in 2001,” Austin said on Saturday.
“And as Secretary of Defense, and a veteran of the Afghan war, let me underscore again how much we owe to all those who fought, and to all those who fell while serving our country in Afghanistan," he added.
Milley mentioned that the last two decades have been emotional and trying, and mentioned that some members may have conflicted feelings about their service. However, he told service members that their time in the military, law enforcement agencies and fire departments mattered.
“We are all now, this very day, very conflicted with feelings of pain and anger, sorrow and sadness, combined with pride and resilience. But one thing I am certain of: For every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine, for every CIA officer, for every FBI agent, for every cop and fireman - you did your duty. Your service mattered. Your sacrifice was not in vain,” Milley said.