By Lisa A. Ferdinando, ARNEWSSeptember 12, 2013
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- (Army News Service, Sept. 12, 2013) -- Army leadership joined thousands of Americans on the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks, to thank the troops and all who have served the nation.
Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John F. Campbell and Under Secretary of the Army Dr. Joseph W. Westphal thanked the men and women of the armed forces in their remarks at the Gary Sinise Foundation's "Invincible Spirit Festival," hosted by the USO of Metropolitan Washington.
Army Secretary John McHugh also paid tribute to the troops serving in harm's way. In a statement, he said the anniversary of the attacks is a "solemn day of reflection and remembrance of those we lost in the attacks on our nation 12 years ago."
"We should remember every day, that in nearly 150 countries across the globe, there are young men and women wearing the uniform of our nation," he said. "Our Soldiers exemplify the American spirit and our national resolve, and as we remember those we lost, I thank them for their continued service."
At Fort Belvoir, an estimated 7,000 people came out for the festival.
"Anywhere I go, the first thing I say is 'never forget the sacrifice of our men and women,'" Campbell told the wounded warriors, military personnel, families and others in attendance at the free, outdoor event.
He reminded everyone of the 50,000-plus military personnel and civilians who are currently in harm's way.
"Never forget that sacrifice," he said.
Westphal thanked Elaine Rogers, the president and CEO of USO Metropolitan Washington, and the many volunteers who made the night honoring the military possible. He said the service and sacrifice of military members and their families have made the country great.
"This is the epitome of what America is about. It's about service," he said.
"It's about contributing to our nation. Everybody out there, your families, civilians, children, have all made huge sacrifices so that our Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors can all do their jobs. We really appreciate all of that," Westphal told the crowd.
The festival, which featured music by Sinise's Lt. Dan Band and barbeque food by celebrity chef Robert Irvine, was a family-friendly event that celebrated the service and sacrifice of wounded warriors, members of the armed forces and their families, said Rogers, who has been with the USO for nearly four decades.
"This is a great USO night," she said. "The really important thing is that we're here to really thank all of our military personnel and their families for their service to our country."
The garrison commander of Fort Belvoir, Col. Gregory D. Gadson, paid tribute to service members killed or wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"Many brave Americans did not return, many others returned drastically changed, both physically and mentally. This day, Patriot Day, is for them," he said.
"It's a special day to remember their sacrifices; that's why to me, this day is so very special," said Gadson.
Wounded warrior Brent "Hoss" Hendrix, an amputee, said attending the event was a way for him to relax and get away from the hospital scene.
It is a good thing, he said, "just to be able to get out to these events, get a little relaxation, see families get together, have a good time, network and talk to everybody (and) share stories with other troops."
Hendrix, who was a specialist, is recovering from wounds suffered in an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq.
He said he hopes to return to college and be a motivational speaker to help wounded troops and others who are going through tough times and could even be thinking of suicide, as he said he had after he was injured.
"Always tell them 'never give up, always keep pushing, keep going,'" he said.