Servicemembers and civilians gathered Sept. 11 to reflect on the events of September 11, 2001, during a remembrance ceremony at Al Faw Palace.

Several military members who experienced the tragedy first hand were present to pay tribute to their country's strength during crisis, to include Col. John Lenk, C1 ASAD director, Multi-National Corps - Iraq, who shared his recollection.

"This tour of duty is very personal to me because I am one of the many survivors of the terrorist attack on the Pentagon that dreadful day," Lenk said. "Much of the world and the United States has forgotten why U.S. and Coalition forces are fighting in Iraq, but I will not forget."

The ceremony was especially meaningful to the deployed troops fighting for the very freedom the Sept. 11 attacks sought to jeopardize.

"It motivates them to keep fighting for our nation, because I know they don't want to see this happen again in our home," said Staff Sgt. Lesly Torres, non-commissioned officer in charge, Chaplain office, MNC-I, who took the lead in organizing the ceremony. "It hurts, but at the same time it gives them the strength to keep on fighting because so many people lost their lives."

Lt. Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, commanding general, MNCI and guest speaker at the ceremony, offered heartfelt words on the attacks of Sept. 11 and the resiliency of the U.S. in the face of adversity.

"Not only did our country unite as one, but the entire free world united against terrorism," Austin said. "I see that the American spirit is as alive today as it was seven years ago, and I remain grateful for the sacrifices of our coalition brothers and sisters."

Though the reminiscence was difficult for many, it reminded troops exactly what they're fighting for: freedom. "It gave me the reason why I'm here," Torres said. "It just gave me the strength to keep on going. I hope everybody who came out knows that it was an honor for me to put this ceremony together for them."