Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley honored the victims and the US service members who died in the Afghanistan War at the first of two ceremonies planned at the Pentagon Saturday to memorialize the attacks of 9/11.
“All of the values and principles embedded in our Constitution and made real in our daily lives were paid for with the blood of the fallen on this place at 9:37 on Sept. 11, 2001,” Milley said at the Arlington, Virginia, ceremony. “Those ideals were and still are hated by our enemies: the fascists, the Nazis, the communists, al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, authoritarians, dictators and tyrants of all kinds. They hate those ideals. They hate those values.”
The third hijacked plane on 9/11, American Airlines Flight 77, slammed into the Pentagon at 9:37 a.m., causing part of the building to collapse. The attack killed 125 people in the building and 59 passengers and crew on the flight.
The nation’s top military officer said Saturday that while terrorists tried to divide the nation that Sept. 11, their efforts were in vain. He invoked the US service members who have fought “tirelessly” against terrorism since the attacks, including the 13 who died during the Kabul airport attack on Aug. 26.
“Their talent and their efforts and their courage, their personal valor has carried this fight day and night,” Milley said. “We did not fear what was in front of us, because we love what was behind us. 800,000 of us in uniform served in Afghanistan in the last 20 years. Tens of thousands more served elsewhere, in the collective fight against terrorism. And thousands more stand watch today, all around the world. 2,461 of us gave the last full measure of devotion, including 13 just two weeks ago.”
Follow our 9/11 20th Anniversary coverage here:
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also spoke, stating, “We remember not just who our fallen teammates were, but the mission that they shared,” The Associated Press reported.
Austin noted that “almost a quarter of the citizens who we defend today were born after 9/11.”
“As the years march on, we must ensure that all our fellow Americans know and understand what happened here on 9/11 … and in Manhattan … and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania,” said Austin, a former Army general.
“It is our responsibility to remember. And it is our duty to defend our democracy.”
As he stood outside the Pentagon, the defense secretary said, “We still work here. We still remember here. We still uphold our values here. With clear heads and fearless hearts.”