9/11/01 Remembrance Retreat Ceremony

  • Published
  • By Col Jon T. Thomas
  • 97 AMW, Commander

It is great to see such a fine turnout on a beautiful day, not just from the Airmen of the Mighty 97th, but from our families and our friends from the local community. Thank you so much for joining us today.

We gather here to mark the significance of September 11, 2001, the 9th anniversary of which we will mark tomorrow. As you all know very well, the significance of 9/11/01 to us as Americans, and in fact, to the entire world, can be matched by only a few other dates in recent history, each of which you also will immediately recognize:
December 7, 1941--the date Pearl Harbor was attacked
November 22, 1963--the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated
November 9, 1989--the day the Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War began to end

9/11/01 is of such significance for several reasons. First and foremost is the human toll inflicted by those who chose to attack us that day--2,992. In the World Trade Center, in the Pentagon, and on the four aircraft that were hijacked that day, innocent Americans, as well as citizens of other countries, were cold-bloodedly murdered by fanatics driven by an ideology of hate. For each of those 2,992 who died, left behind were grieving family members, friends, and a nation shocked by what occurred.

Second, the events that occurred on 9/11/01 were unquestionably a shock to our economy, and even our very way of life. Travelers were stranded as air travel was curtailed, stock markets were closed, military installations and other public places went into a heightened state of alert. Our nation had been attacked...and in the months and years that followed, our actions to deter and prevent similar such attacks inevitably impacted how we travel, how we gather in large groups, and even how we perceive the world at large.

And there is a third significance, and certainly one that was never intended by those who hijacked the airplanes on that fateful day. Within the American people, the events of 9/11/01 aroused such a fearless resolve, such a desire for justice and retribution, that it continues to this very day.

What the instigators of the attack on 9/11 didn't understand at the time is what Americans truly are. We may argue, publicly and often, about policies, and procedures, about politics and economics, but when our basic freedoms are in question, Americans band together like no other.

We will not be cowed, we will not give in, and we will seek out and find those accountable for such a heinous act...which we did, with deliberation, but with force and determination. We know the names of our enemies who cowardly killed innocent civilians...men, women, children... mothers and fathers...sons and daughters...friends and loved ones. I will not dignify those individuals or their organization by naming them directly, but what I will tell you, and as you know, the vast majority of those responsible for what occurred on 9/11/01 are either (1) dead, (2) in confinement after having been captured and detained by American forces of those of our allies, or (3) are in hiding deep in a cave frantically hoping that they are not next for categories (1) or (2).

Many of you standing here have been part of that American response to the attack on 9/11/01. We were determined, we were resolute, and we have made our enemies regret their actions. Yet we also know that the ideology which we must fight unfortunately remains out there today, diminished, but still alive, and is committed to threaten to the ideals which we hold so dear as Americans...freedom, justice, truth...that we must remain on guard, both at home, and also abroad where we can help other countries to resist the same enemy which also seeks to do them harm. Our mission here at the Mighty 97th remains indelibly linked to the success of that effort.

For nine years now, this has been our challenge, and I suspect, this will last longer and perhaps turn into the challenge of a complete generation. I do not fear that...yes, our challenge is not easy...so be it. But this is our time, and our place to make a difference in the service of our country, and as the generations that have come before us, we will.

Think back on the three other events I mentioned earlier: Pearl Harbor, the Kennedy assassination, and the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the root of each is a tragedy...for Pearl Harbor and President Kennedy, it is obvious, for the Berlin Wall, we must remember what that wall represented...the imprisonment of not just a city, but actually half of an entire content behind an iron curtain supported by a false ideology and brute force. Yet in each situation, Americans rose to the challenge...

...the World War into which America was drawn in December 1941 was eventually won, and an unprecedented era of prosperity came to America and much of the world in the decades that followed.

..the turmoil after the President's assassination in 1963 eventually led to great strides in American society, and indeed, American government, as the causes of racial justice and equality for which the President stood were adopted by Americans as a whole and enacted into law.

...the fall of the Berlin Wall was the first clear symbol of the coming collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the discrediting of communism as an ideology. Getting to that point was the work of generations...patient, resolute, determined work...yet that Wall eventually came down.

So, today, we pause to remember what happened on 9/11/01, to grieve for those we have lost, to acknowledge how in many ways our lives have changed because of that day, but also to reaffirm our commitment to those principles which we find self-evident...life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...given to us by our forefathers and enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. We will never forget 9/11/01, and we will do all we can to ensure it never happens again. So let us know reaffirm our resolve, and return to the task at hand.

It makes me incredibly proud to see the formation of Mighty 97th Airmen standing before me. Thank you for your service and fortitude, and may God bless the United States of America.