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332nd AEW holds 9/11 ceremony

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Cameron Otte
  • 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

Always Remember.

On the 20th anniversary of September 11th attacks, the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing held a ceremony to honor the lives lost that day and the sacrifices made since.

Never Forget.

You can read the full text of the speech prepared and given at the ceremony by Lt. Col. Lee Turcotte, 332 Expeditionary Civil Engineer Squadron commander.

“The 9/11 Memorial in Manhattan is extraordinary, and I encourage you to see it if you ever have the chance. As I stand here among firefighters, I can only think of an exhibit in that museum that plays the radio traffic between firefighters as they ascended the towers, with a visualization of their locations as they climbed and directed people down to safety. You hear the purpose in their voices, and you see it in their movements. There’s no greater heroism or selflessness than that shown by firefighters on 9/11, and there’s no purer sacrifice than the 343 who gave their lives that day.

With time though, the meaning of even the most powerful memorials changes as those sites recede from living memory. Some of us live with searing memories of 9/11 and the sacrifices since then, but even for us those memories evolve over time. Some of you were born around the time of the attacks and you’ve grown up in their wake. Memory is insufficient because it’s momentary and fleeting. We overcome the inadequacy of memory, we bridge generations, and we uphold our values, through remembrance. Remembrance is about finding renewed purpose.

There is no more powerful reflection on remembrance than Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, which he wrote in 1863 at the height of the American Civil War. He recognized that the dead at Gettysburg had consecrated that battlefield “far above our poor power to add or detract”, as he said it then. His message was a mandate to the living about faith in our cause. In part, he said:

“It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion, and that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”

What President Lincoln teaches us is that remembrance isn’t about a place, it’s about a purpose.

His words give me comfort on an especially hard anniversary of 9/11. There’s no way to separate 9/11 from the war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan was a safe haven for the planners of the attacks. We hunted down those responsible, and in doing so we protected our homeland and the free world from similar attacks. The war continued, and the outcome is bitter and hard to reconcile.

But there was purpose to it, and the outcome doesn’t diminish the sacrifices of the Americans and our Allies who fought and died there. We fought enemies who attacked us, but we also fought for freedom. We fought then and we fight now for the idea that all are created equal, and that all possess certain unalienable rights. Those of you who only know post-9/11 America have Afghan counterparts who only know post-9/11 Afghanistan. There is meaning and hope in this, and there is no greater example of that hope than an Afghan girl named Reach, born three weeks ago on a C-17 at Ramstein Air Base. Her parents knew freedom, if not always peace. Her parents sought that freedom, and we delivered it, and she and her generation will shape the future in ways we can’t foresee. I believe this as a statement of faith and as a matter of resolve.

I can only understand 9/11 and the years since in President Lincoln’s terms, through faith that the sacrifices have not been in vain. The way we honor the victims of 9/11, their families, the first responders at Ground Zero who have succumbed to cancer, and the tireless efforts of the hundreds of thousands of Americans and Allies who have served and sacrificed to prevent attacks and to promote our values - the way we honor all of them - is to rededicate ourselves to their principles and ours, especially when the outcome is uncertain. This is how we remember across generations and eras. This is how we honor our flag, our oath, and all those who have gone before us.”