September 11: Honoring the Call to Duty
September 18, 2006
Good Afternoon/Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. It is an honor to address a gathering of such patriots. Thank you for your support of American Soldiers. I would also like to thank EVENT ORGANIZER, ORGANIZATION, and Operation Tribute to Freedom for the opportunity to speak to you today about how Americans have-and are-answering the Call to Duty after September 11.<br/><br/><strong>Introduction</strong><br/><br/>It is a special honor for me to be here today on such a hallowed anniversary as 9/11, a day when we gather to remember the sacrifice and heroism of countless Americans who answered the Call to Duty in response to such evil. Terrorism is a scourge on the civilized world that will be overcome.<br/><br/>Certainly the War on Terror began long before the horrible attacks of September 11, 2001. Innocent Americans have been attacked by terrorists, taken hostage, killed and wounded both here at home and around the world for more than two decades prior to the heinous assaults in New York and Washington. A quick review of some of the places and headlines say it all-this is a war we did not seek, or start-<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac Such as the taking of American hostages in Iran - November 4, 1979 (They were not freed until January 20, 1981);<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac The bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, October 23, 1983;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac The bombing of the World Trade Center, February 26, 1993;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac The attack on the USS Cole in Yemen, October 12, 2000;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac And then, September 11, 2001.<br/><br/>But we should also remember that America has not been the only target-terrorism is an international threat to peace and freedom. From the Middle East to Europe, Asia and Africa, terrorists have attacked the innocent:<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac Most recently, the bombings and attempted bombings on London buses and The London Underground rail system<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac At an Egyptian resort;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac Madrid commuter trains;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac Bombings at ports in the Philippines, and resorts in Indonesia;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac U.S. Embassy attacks in Africa;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac Even hostage-taking in a Russian school.<br/><br/>Our country called on Soldiers and civilians to answer the Call to Duty in response to this horrible chronicle of terrorism. Around the world, our fellow citizens and Soldiers are helping to bring freedom and democratic principles to countries where chaos has reigned. Among them are Soldiers who understand the nobility of service, who live and sacrifice by the Warrior Ethos and Army Values. They readily answer the Call to Duty.<br/><br/>Americans Answer the Call to Duty<br/><br/>At home, heroic Americans certainly answered the Call on 9/11 to save lives - In New York at the World Trade Center towers, over a field in western Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon:<br/><br/>Heroes like Kathy Mazza, the New York Port Authority captain who died in the collapse of the South Tower, where she had stayed to direct the evacuation effort. She deliberately chose to lead her command in person, even though she could have done so from the safety of a remote command center. She answered the Call.<br/><br/>And Todd Beamer, the passenger on United Airlines Flight 93, who called a phone operator to relay word of the passengers' plan to attack the terrorists in the cockpit who had taken control of the aircraft as it was flying over a rural area of southwestern Pennsylvania. Even though he said it probably would mean his life, he was determined to stop their plan to attack another target. Thanks to Todd Beamer and his fellow passengers, the nation's capital was spared further attack. He and his fellow passengers answered the Call.<br/><br/>And at the Pentagon, among the many heroes that day was Army Sergeant Major Tony Rose who ran back into the burning building five times to rescue survivors-bravery that earned him the Soldier's Medal. "It's part of our life pattern to respond to emergencies," Rose said later. "...You just do what you have to do."<br/><br/>On September 11, 2001 President Bush had these memorable words to say the evening of that horrific day in his Presidential Address to the Nation, "A great people has been moved to defend a great nation. Terrorist attacks can shake the foundations of our biggest buildings, but they cannot touch the foundation of America. These acts shattered steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve...This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day. Yet, we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world."<br/><br/>And on this day of remembrance (on or near Sept. 11), we should again reflect on all of the victims who acted so heroically to save others despite the danger they faced and those who lived their last minutes in absolute fear and horror. On this day and everyday, we will never forget them, the nearly 3,000 people that were killed in New York at the World Trade Center, in Washington, D.C., at the Pentagon and at a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on American Flight 93.<br/><br/>Soldiers Answer the Call in Afghanistan<br/><br/>After the horror and heroism of September 11, Americans have been more determined than ever to win the war against terrorism in places like Afghanistan, where the 9/11 attackers were nurtured in a culture of hatred and violence. Thanks to their sacrifices, the Taliban has been removed from power and freedom is taking root in Afghanistan. Even today, Americans and Afghans are fighting side by side to flush out remaining pockets of pro-Taliban insurgents in the remote mountains, caves, and valleys of this ancient land. These insurgents, members and supporters of the deposed Taliban who had hosted and supported Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network in Afghanistan, are still trying to stop coalition efforts to rebuild the country and bring democracy to the people.<br/><br/>Afghan National Army soldiers, many of them trained by American and coalition Soldiers, have taken on the main role of fighting terrorist activity in key provinces. But American Soldiers continue to answer the Call to Duty alongside their Afghan comrades-their stories are far too numerous to discuss them all. That said, I think it is important to mention a handful of examples of the daily sacrifices and heroic actions taken by so many of our Soldiers who are there, doing their duty, for their country and answering the Call with service and honor.<br/><br/>Soldiers like Staff Sergeant Matthew Blaskowski (Blass-kow-ski) who was wounded in an intense firefight with Taliban insurgents in the remote Arghandab valley of southeastern Afghanistan a few months ago, and was recently presented with the Purple Heart. He was part of a seven-man scouting party along with Afghan fighters who were outnumbered and withstood fierce enemy fire for two and half hours before reinforcements helped them to clear the insurgents from the valley.<br/><br/>At the end of the fighting, 20 insurgents were killed, and nine were captured. This battle, part of "Operation Determined Resolve," dealt a significant blow to the insurgents by denying them a sanctuary. Staff Sergeant Blaskowski, and his fellow Soldiers, answered the Call to Duty to help the Afghan people bring democracy and peace to their war-torn land.<br/><br/>Or Staff Sergeant Scott Erhman and Staff Sergeant David Dixon of the 136th Regional Training Center, who recently received the Army Commendation Medal for Valor for saving the life of an Afghan soldier. The two Soldiers are assigned to the Kabul Military Training Center. They responded to an explosion near the training area, and quickly devised a plan to rescue the Afghan Soldier who had strayed into a minefield and stepped on a land mine. Their fast action saved the man's life, and made possible prompt treatment of his injuries.<br/><br/>Soldiers also are helping to provide training and other important infrastructure services to rebuild the war-torn nation. As part of the Coalition mission in Afghanistan, the Afghan National Army has developed a comprehensive military training program in the operation of a national army in peacetime as well as war. The first 78 officers, who will act as the eyes and ears of the Afghan Army, received more than 220 hours of instruction at the National Military Command Center.<br/><br/>American Soldiers also are answering the Call to Duty by helping the people of Afghanistan to rebuild their lives by making possible modern medical training for 61 midwives and about 200 other healthcare professionals among Afghans. Soldiers like Captain Mike Weber, a physician's assistant assigned to the Jalalabad (ja-la-la-bad) Provincial Reconstruction Team, worked with Afghan educational authorities, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other aid organizations to provide the facilities, supplies, and instructors for the training. Afghanistan has one of the world's highest rates of maternal and infant mortality-one in 10 Afghan women die during childbirth, and a quarter of the nation's children do not survive to their 5th birthdays. In rural areas, midwives are often the only healthcare provider available for pregnant women.<br/><br/>Soldiers Answer the Call in Iraq<br/><br/>The same determination and loyalty Soldiers demonstrate in Afghanistan, continues in Iraq as Soldiers offer their talents and skills to the Iraqi people. There are hundreds of stories of Soldiers and civilians using their particular expertise to improve the lives of the Iraqi people. One such story is of Maj. Matt Breeding, an Army Reserve major and military police officer from Oldtown, Maryland, who is working on the frontlines to strengthen security in Iraq, often putting in 18-hour days drafting curriculum that teaches squads of new Iraqi police the philosophies and principles of democratic policing and human rights. Once a teacher at the Maryland State Police Academy, Maj. Matt Breeding is now serving in Baghdad on the Iraqi Ministry of Interior's Civilian Police Assistance Training Team, an interagency and international group of law enforcement officials with the main purpose of teaching the new Iraqi police force how to restore and maintain law and order.<br/><br/>Equally important to maintaining security is the building of goodwill in Iraq. And for that, I would like to acknowledge and thank the American people, thousands of civilians, in coordination with Soldiers, who are answering the Call to Duty in their own unique way. One such example is a group of students at the University of Florida and the faculty from the All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla., who organized a text book drive and also donated their text books to collect medical books for Iraqi nurses. In coordination with Army surgeons in Iraq, more than 500 donated textbooks were distributed to nurses from the Nineveh Province in Iraq. The textbooks were divided between area hospitals where they had previously been using shared photocopied pages out of textbooks for their research.<br/><br/>In addition to helping the medical and law enforcement communities, there have been many charities large and small, organized by civilians across the United States who donated tons of school supplies for Iraqi children. For those of you who have donated your time, money or expertise to help the people of both Afghanistan and Iraq, I thank you for your continued support in this important effort to rebuild not only two nations, but the hopes and dreams of so many who now have supplies to help them get a proper education, medical care that will increase the longevity and their quality of life, and the provision of clean water, trash removal and electricity.<br/><br/>The commitment of these Soldiers and countless others who are rebuilding Iraq exemplify the values of the U.S. Army. With thousands of Soldiers willing to make such extraordinary sacrifices in the name of freedom, one particular story of sacrifice, bravery and honor is that of Sergeant 1st Class Paul Ray Smith, the first Soldier to receive a Medal of Honor in the Global War on Terrorism. He gave his life for his country and for his fellow Soldiers. On April 4, 2003, Sergeant 1st Class Smith and other members of the 11th Engineer Battalion, attached to the 3rd Infantry Division, were building a compound to hold enemy prisoners when they were attacked by more than 100 insurgents near the Baghdad Airport. In a fierce fight, several vehicles were taken out of action and some Soldiers were down. Smith refused to leave, and climbed aboard a damaged armored vehicle. Under intense fire, he managed to get a .50-caliber machine gun working and provided critical covering fire so the wounded Soldiers could be evacuated. First Sergeant Timothy Campbell said that Sergeant Smith's actions set the conditions to get control and restore the initiative. Sergeant First Class Smith's courage and sacrifice that day saved more than 100 American Soldiers. In April 2005, Smith not only became the first Soldier to receive the Medal of Honor since September 11, 2001, but the first since Somalia in 1993. His family was presented with the Medal at a White House Ceremony on the anniversary of his heroic death.<br/><br/>Recognizing Sacrifice and Heroism<br/><br/>Recognition for the countless sacrifices and acts of heroism of our Soldiers who are answering the Call every day in the war or terrorism is vitally important. We learn again and again from our men and women in uniform how much it means to them to get a simple thank-you from their fellow Americans for the work they do in places like Afghanistan.<br/><br/>[IF OTF-SPONSORED EVENT]<br/><br/>Programs like Operation Tribute to Freedom (OTF) were created to facilitate these thank you's by providing ideas and opportunities for awards, recognition and welcome homes to say how much we value Soldiers answering the Call to Duty.<br/><br/>OTF is an Army Outreach Division initiative designed to connect Soldiers to the American people. It is our belief that the American people will better understand the sacrifices of our troops, one Soldier's story at a time.<br/><br/>Operation Tribute to Freedom helps to connect our Soldiers to the American people by doing several important things-<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac OTF helps to amplify Soldier's stories. Every Soldier has a story to tell, and this program works to magnify compelling Soldier stories through national and local media outreach;<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac OTF helps welcome our Soldiers home. We've learned a lot from past wars, and Operation Tribute to Freedom is determined to make sure every Soldier feels welcomed when he or she returns home.<br/><br/>AfAcAc'A!A,Ac OTF helps extend Soldiers homecomings. The program secures speaking and recognition opportunities for returning Soldiers at community and national events nationwide as a way for Soldiers to share their stories.<br/><br/>Families, Friends Answer the Call<br/><br/>Honoring those who answer the Call to Duty is the best way to pay tribute to their many sacrifices for us-and all those around the world who love freedom and democracy. It is an important part of why you are gathered here today-to mark this hallowed anniversary of sacrifice and heroism that is September 11th, 2001. Four years ago today, thousands of our fellow Americans answered the Call, and many gave their lives.<br/><br/>If you are a friend or family member of a Soldier, take pride in and support their commitment to service.<br/><br/>[SPEAKER STORY HERE]<br/><br/>There are so many stories of how families are honoring their Soldier.<br/><br/>Certainly one of the most memorable is that of Janessa Largent, the 11-year-old Oklahoma girl who created a bracelet to honor her uncle who was deployed to Iraq. The bracelet has 6 yellow beads representing a loved one in harm's way, and a red, white and blue heart bead in the middle representing love and patriotism. Her idea was to provide one for every Soldier and family member.<br/><br/>Her goal has lit a fire. So far, with the help of friends and family, young Janessa has been able to send over 100,000 bracelets to troops and family members. She has traveled as far as Fort Hood and Hawaii to teach her craft; met the President; and been interviewed by Jay Leno. She even has a spot reserved for her bracelets in the planned National Military Museum.<br/><br/>From sending CARE packages to leading Family Readiness Groups, countless family members answer the Call to Duty every day by supporting their Soldiers. Often these acts of honor and sacrifice are done quietly and behind the scenes-simple gestures of appreciation.<br/><br/>All Americans Can Answer the Call<br/><br/>We can all answer the Call to Duty by celebrating our freedom and becoming more involved in welcoming home our returning Soldiers. Nothing is more valued by the men and women who have given up so much to serve their country and place themselves in harm's way to protect us from terrorism and bring democracy and freedom to people in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.<br/><br/>Do your part to make homecomings extend beyond the plane-side arrivals and welcome home celebrations: I encourage you to invite a Soldier to speak at one of your next community organization events as a way to better understand and appreciate their experiences. But most important, always remember to say "thank you" to a Soldier for his or her service.<br/><br/>That simple "thank you" is such a rich reward to a Soldier, whose life is dedicated to answering the Call to Duty, part of the Warrior Ethos that they live every day.<br/><br/>Conclusion<br/><br/>Remember that the American Soldier is trained and dedicated to the ideals of the Warrior Ethos and the Army Values. These men and women understand the Nobility of Service, and practice it every day. It is central to all we do and all that we are. Soldiers who answer the Call are engaged in the noblest work of life-they sacrifice their comforts, leave their homes and families, and go into harm's way-all to protect our Nation and enable others to live free.<br/><br/>All Americans will better understand the nobility of their service when they hear for themselves the stories of how these Soldiers have answered the Call to Duty-just as thousands of Americans did on September 11, 2001. We remember their stories of that terrible day, and now we need to answer the Call by telling our Soldiers' stories from America's response-the war against terrorism.<br/><br/>By coming here today, ladies and gentlemen, you are showing your support, and I urge you to continue this support. I urge you to answer the Call to Duty by helping us to share our Soldiers' stories. Thank you for your support, your prayers and good wishes.<br/><br/>If there are veterans here today, please stand so we may recognize you. Thank you for coming today and most especially, thank you for your service to this great country. [LEAD APPLAUSE]<br/><br/>Today, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and more than 120 countries around the world, American Soldiers are standing guard, helping to preserve the peace, providing the best defense of freedom against tyranny and injustice. I would like to thank all of these heroes for their service and willingness to answer the Call to Duty. I think about you every day-but most especially on a day of remembrance such as September 11. You are in our prayers and in our thoughts.<br/><br/>Keep up the great work. And may God Bless America.