(Editor’s note: Col. Jon Braga’s speech has been re-printed here after he spoke to an audience gathered at a ground breaking ceremony for a 9/11 Memorial being built at Fort Irwin.)
Thank you distinguished guests, visitors, Soldiers and families for taking the lime to celebrate Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance. President Bush signed the law on Dec. 18, 2001 to designate each September 11 as Patriots Day in order to honor the 2,753 innocent civilians, 343 firefighters, 60 law enforcement personnel and 55 military personnel, who perished on that fateful day in 2001. On September 10, 2012 Patriot Day was expanded to include National Day of Service and Remembrance. The best way to honor this significant day in our country’s history is to do just that – “Remember.” I ask you that you actively think not only during this ceremony, but the rest of this day and each September 11 hereafter as to why we honor this day. I ask you to think about the American Spirit and what it means to be an American. And I ask you to remember those who defend those ideals and values that make up this American Spirit.
The original Patriot Day comes from my home state of Massachusetts, which celebrates the brave action of the first Minutemen and Patriots, who grabbed their muskets and rushed to the green of Lexington and the old North Bridge of Concord to face down, at that time, the world’s most powerful military and fired the “shot heard around the world” at the start of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. This is the first true spilling of American blood on our soil, as we gained our posture as a country and cemented some of the values that make up our American Spirit.
The next loss of life on United States soil at the hands of an adversary came on the “Day of Infamy” Dec. 7, 1941 after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; 353 aircraft launched this assault and killed 2,042 Americans. This unprecedented attack roused the American Spirit which saw us through victory in World War II.
And finally we come to Sept. 11, 2001 when 19 terrorists high jacked four planes and changed our world as we know it.
Think about the day your life, all of our lives changed. Think about where you were, how you felt. Think about the exact moment you came to realize that events of 9/11 were not some freak accident, but an attack against the U.S. Not only was this an attack physically, but it was an attack against our way of life, our values, our American Spirit.
Think about the 2,753 victims and the extended families that lost their loved ones that day and no day goes by where they are not missed.
Think about the brave first responders; 60 Law enforcements officials, 343 New York City Fire Department personnel, who risked their lives to save people they did not know. THINK about the American Spirit of those first responders; the same spirit that those terrorists tried to extinguish, but could not.
Think about the estimated 100-200 people who chose a different option rather than being engulfed in flames and chose to escape those flames by jumping from a 100-story building.
Think about the brave Americans on United 93, who chose not to cower down to terrorists. Think about the American Spirit they displayed as they said “Let’s Roll” and rushed the terrorists to save others lives while knowingly risking their own.
Think about the brave Americans who pushed back into the Pentagon to save their fellow brothers and sisters from a burning building. Think about the American Spirit they displayed not knowing how bad the fire was, whether the floor was going to collapse or another plane was headed their way.
Think about the some 63,000 service members deployed today RIGHT now in harm’s way. Think about just how much they would give to be here today with their loved ones, in the sun, safe, secure and proud.
Think about how lucky we are to be living in a country as great as ours.
Think about the different ways you see the true American Spirit that rises in times of perseverance. Just like this community has risen to the challenges of the national disasters that have occurred in the last month.
Think about how our children will continue to honor this day when we are gone.
Please raise your hand if you joined the military after 9/11.
Think about their American Spirit as they joined in a time of war to defend our nation and way of life. This is the same spirit that had millions of servicemembers fight our adversaries in WWII after being attacked. This is the same spirit that caused shopkeepers, blacksmiths and farmers to grab their muskets to face down the world’s strongest army in 1775.
That is the same American Spirit that will see us through these challenging times, whether it is a worker without a job in a tough economy, a fireman or policeman on the front lines of the home front risking their lives every day or a Soldier or servicemember facing down our enemies overseas, who seek to do us harm and destroy our way of life.
Think about the brave men and women in uniform who have risked their lives to protect those at home. Think about the American Spirit prevailing yet again as 100,000’s of our youth have joined the military during a time of war.
Think about the loyal wife or spouse as she has endured numerous deployments, left singlehandedly to raise a family. Think about the spirit displayed and resolution by the children of our servicemember’s children who have missed their mother or father over multiple birthdays, holiday’s school recitals and games.
Think about the role the NTC has played in our nation’s defense. Think about the Army and American values of the NTC Community as you have supported some 650,000 Soldiers, Airmen and Marines as they prepared for combat. Think about the difference this community has made.
Think about those, who paid the ultimate sacrifice – some 4,489 in Iraq and 2,267 in Afghanistan; 21 of those Soldiers were troopers from the 11th ACR.
Think about the American Spirit displayed by our wounded comrades; over 31 ,000 in Iraq and 19,000 in Afghanistan as they continue to battle some visible and some not so visible wounds from the past 12 years of war.
Think about our Gold Star Families left to carry on. Think of the determination and courage they have shown as they carry on honoring the memory of their loved ones.
President John F. Kennedy said at his inauguration in 1961:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
The American Spirit will prevail – it always has and always will.
May God bless you and may God bless America.