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Commentary: 10 years later, tragic losses of 9/11 reflect nation's unity, strength

Gen. Donald Hoffman

Gen. Donald Hoffman

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Ten years ago we experienced a tragic attack on our nation -- an attack that changed our lives and changed our national security focus. Though we suffered great loss, the devastation on Sept. 11 failed to achieve its intended goals. Rather than causing us to shrink, we grew stronger; instead of breaking us apart, we became more unified and determined. In the face of terrorism, we refused to fall prey to our enemies' fear-inducing tactics. We stood together then and we stand together now.

Every year on the anniversary of Sept. 11, we observe Patriot Day to both pay respect to victims and celebrate the steadfastness of our great nation. We must never forget those we lost, but we must do more than simply remember them. We must fortify our spirits and remain united in preventing new attacks. Our individual and collective resilience, resolve and commitment to core values are our key strengths. We honor and celebrate the resoluteness of individuals, families and communities across America.

Department of Defense civilian and military members have known no rest during these last 10 years. Since Sept. 11, 2001, our Air Force accomplished more than 1 million deployments. Right now, we have more than 40,000 Airmen deployed, with average tour lengths of 179 days. We fly an average of 530 sorties daily over Iraq and Afghanistan. Each deployment and combat operation carries inherent personal risks. We can never forget America's sons and daughters who gave their lives to defend our freedom and ensure our nation's security. As you read this, reflect a moment on the nearly 6,200 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who made the ultimate sacrifice in military operations and the approximately 45,600 who were wounded in action, all in the service of our country. These patriots exemplify service and selfless sacrifice.

Our nation's efforts paid off. We sharply reduced the capabilities of terrorist groups through the collaborative efforts of the international community. We remain committed to working with partners around the world to confront and counter violent extremists. Through concerted effort and vigilance, we deterred and prevented additional attempts to attack the United States.

Take time this Patriot Day to unite in remembrance of victims and their families and to honor the continued sacrifice of our civilian and military service members. Thank you for your contributions to Air Force Materiel Command, to the Air Force and to the United States. Finally, thank you for being unyielding in your devotion to keeping America the greatest nation on earth.