WASHINGTON â€” In a message issued Monday night, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta paid tribute to the military victims of the July 20 shooting spree in Aurora, Colo., and urged Defense Department personnel to honor the victimsâ€™ memory through hard work and sacrifice.
Here is the text of the message:
To all Department of Defense personnel:
Flags at Department of Defense installations across the world are being flown at half-staff to honor the victims of last weekâ€™s tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. All of us in the Department of Defense community are deeply saddened by this senseless act of violence, which has hit our military family especially hard.
Four of the victims served in the military â€” including Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress, Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class John Larimer, Jonathan Blunk, a former Sailor, and Rebecca Wingo, a former Airman. Other DoD personnel and Family members were also injured in this cruel attack.
I know that many are struggling to understand why these innocent lives were taken from us, and how such a tragedy could occur in this country. Even as we try to make sense of this evil act, we are also moved to learn more about the actions of men and women like [Staff Sergeant] Childress, who threw himself in front of his friend in the movie theater to shield her from the gunman. His selflessness saved her life, at the cost of his own.
These acts of heroism and sacrifice are the essence of what military service is about â€” putting your life on the line to defend those who are part of the American family.
Let us all honor the victims of this tragedy by committing ourselves to the hard work and sacrifice of protecting this country. Bravery, courage, and dedication are the hallmarks of our men and women in uniform â€” our heroes.
May God bless each and every one of you, and the United States of America.