By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2011 - Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta asked others to renew their commitment to keeping the nation safe as the Pentagon held a ceremony to honor the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks here today.
Panetta described the Pentagon as a family that quickly came together during the attack on the building.
"For the Pentagon family, the events of that morning will never be forgotten," he said. "Today, we come together as a family, as a community, to take some time out of our working day just to reaffirm that commitment to remember our fallen friends, our fallen colleagues.
"In gathering here, we pay tribute to those we lost," the secretary continued. "We recall the acts of heroism and courage that saved lives that day. And we honor the brave men and women of our military who have paid the ultimate price to protect our country and our freedom during this decade of war."
Panetta said the enemy's intentions backfired in the wake of their attacks on the United States.
"They wanted to weaken us, but instead, they strengthened America," Panetta said. "They unified us in the face of that attack. In the decade since, we have answered the enemy by showing our American character, by fighting back, by acting justly, decisively, relentlessly against threats to our citizens, to our nation and to our freedom."
Sept. 11, 2001, will forever be a defining moment for all Americans, he added. "It's a day when we were attacked by a vicious hatred aimed squarely at the values that we stand for as a nation," he said.
But while the sites of the attacks on the nation have been repaired, emotional
scars remain, Panetta said.
"Though the gaping hole in this building has long been repaired, there remains a gaping hole in our hearts," he said. "We still feel deeply the loss of 184 people who perished here that morning. Casualties in the Pentagon attack included 59 men, women and children aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and 125 workers at the Pentagon.
Those fallen men and women "represent the full spectrum of our community -- civil servants, contractors, military personnel," Panetta said.
"They were innocent men and women who shared a common dedication to serving our nation and who lost their lives because of that dedication," he added. "We will always grieve over those taken from us so violently."
Panetta also praised the selfless service of those who risked their lives to save others following the attack on the Pentagon.
"There will never be a full accounting of the acts of personal courage and heroism that took place, but out of that great tragedy came inspiration -- men and women who dragged colleagues to safety from a horrible fire that consumed that part of this building," he said.
The defense secretary also encouraged remembrance of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice serving the nation.
"Remember their sacrifice as we continue to fight to make sure that this country is protected, ... kept safe, ... and most importantly, to fulfill the American dream -- giving our children a safer and better life for the future," Panetta said.
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