– Gail Wynand, “The Fountainhead”
I wrote the following speech for the 9/11 Memorial Ceremony that was conducted at Malmstrom Air Force Base three years ago.
The events of September 11, 2001 are forever burned in our collective memory. The initial curiosity of a wayward plane striking a skyscraper…the growing horror as another plane struck the second tower…and then shock, disbelief, and heartbreak as the Pentagon was attacked and reports of more planes being hijacked continued to pour in. At the end of that day, more than 3,000 people were dead, thousands were injured, and two of our national landmarks and symbols of America’s strength lay either wholly or partially in ruin. Many Americans, both military and civilian, who watched these scenes unfold echoed the thoughts of author Ayn Rand who once wrote that, “…if a war came to threaten this, I would like to throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.”
The act of terrorism that was intended to defeat the American spirit backfired…within hours of the tragedy, American flags were flying around the country, and indeed around the world as other nations stood tall with us. From the highest buildings to our own neighborhoods, and adorning cars and store windows…American resolve and patriotism was more alive and vibrant than it had been in years.
Since that day, America has embarked on a course of finding and bringing to justice those who would harm our nation. Under the leadership of President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld, and General Myers, the nation’s armed forces launched a “Global War On Terrorism” designed to eradicate terrorists and those who support them, and to make the world safer for freedom-loving people everywhere. The Air Force and Team Malmstrom have both been critical in supporting these operations.
Operation NOBLE EAGLE: designed to provide for homeland defense and civil support missions. The Air Force role in NOBLE EAGLE has included more than 29,000 fighter, tanker and airborne early warning sorties since September of 2001.
Operation ENDURING FREEDOM: launched to destroy terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, the capture of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, and the elimination of terrorist activities in Afghanistan. In addition, Operation ENDURING FREEDOM provided humanitarian and relief aid to the long-oppressed Afghan people. The Air Force team has flown more than 86,000 sorties in support of OEF, and more than 2.2 million humanitarian aid packages have been delivered.
Operation IRAQI FREEDOM: designed to remove the brutal Iraqi regime from power, disarm Iraq of any weapons of mass destruction, and assist the Iraqi people in the transition to liberty. To date, 38 of the 55 “Most Wanted” have been captured or killed, and the rest will no doubt be accounted for soon. The Air Force has flown more than 40,000 sorties, and our space-based capabilities give our warfighters the winning edge every facet of warfare: navigation, timing, warnings, communications, and intelligence.
In each of these operations, Team Malmstrom has been proud to offer up the finest Airmen in the world. All Air Force units in the Malmstrom community, including the 341st Space Wing, the 819th Red Horse Squadron, and the 120th Air National Guard, have participated in the Global War On Terrorism, either directly, by deploying and serving in hot, dusty, remote areas of the globe; or by maintaining and defending the homeland right here in Montana. Security forces, civil engineers, medics, communications, commanders, public affairs…Malmstrom has made its’ mark in every Operation.
Everyone gathered here today should be very proud of the Airmen standing here, and all of the others that they represent: they are America’s finest, choosing to stand bravely in the struggle to keep America strong and free. The voluntary service of these heroes, and their brothers and sisters of the other Armed Forces, is one of the true linchpins of our society. Every American can take comfort knowing that we stand ready at all times to defend our nation from any threat. To the families of those who serve, we also offer gratitude; your support of America’s defenders is noble and good.
I would like to close by quoting former Senator Fred Thompson, who was able to sum up two of America’s most cherished values in one sentence: “Without the brave, there would be no land of the free.” I think that describes the entire Team Malmstrom community: Bravery and Freedom.
The events of September 11th will never be forgotten. In many ways, the American experience was changed forever. Our society will never again be quite as innocent as it was such a short time ago, but rest assured that the nation now has proven that it has the resolve and the strength to defeat terrorism and any other threats to our freedom.
Thanks to Susanna (of Cut on The Bias) for reminding me of Senator Thompson’s quote.
And if you want a beautiful picture to hang on your wall with the Gail Wynand quote (from top of post) on it, go here.