President Biden commemorates 9/11 anniversary with service members in Alaska

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Curt Beach
  • JBER Public Affairs

U.S. President Joe Biden observed the 22nd anniversary of 9/11 terrorist attacks with a remembrance ceremony at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Sept. 11, 2023.

More than 1,100 service members gathered in a hangar to engage with the president as he highlighted the continued commitment to defense of the nation and support to allies as an ongoing tribute to the lives lost during the terrorist attacks.

“We’ll never forget, when faced with evil and an enemy that sought to tear us apart, what we endured,” Biden said. “While every year we mark this hallowed day, it’s never easy. To anyone here or across the country who’s grieving a lost child, parent, spouse, sibling, friend or coworker. ….All those who still bear the wounds from that searing September morning, I know how hard it is on a day like this, bringing you back to that moment when you saw the news, or the moment you got that phone call, the moment you realized you’d never say again, ‘see you later, mom,’ or ‘talk to you soon, son.’ Think of everything your loved one might have done if they had a little more time. What would they have done?”

U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Amy Miller, 673d Medical Group aerospace medicine service functional manager, recounted how the events of 9/11 affected her.

“Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001,” Miller said. “For me, I was an Airman 1st Class, serving at my first duty station, Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, as a medic. After being stopped in my tracks in disbelief, watching what was unfolding on TV. I remember getting the notification from my supervisor that I was being assigned to a search-and-recovery team and that I needed to go home and pack my bags. Our team was leaving that same night in response to the shocking attacks on our country that I watched unfold mere moments ago. I didn’t know what to expect, what we’d be doing, or how long we would be gone. I just knew that we were needed. Our country needed us. Our fellow Americans needed us, and we, as was our sacred duty, answered the call to serve.”

Military presence in Alaska provides top cover for North America by defending, detecting, deterring and defeating threats to the homeland.

“Terrorism, including political and ideological violence, is the opposite of all we stand for as a nation that settles our differences peacefully under the rule of law,” Biden said. “We’re going to continue to track terrorist threats in all forms wherever it may be. We’re going to continue to disrupt terrorist activity wherever we may find it, and I will never hesitate to do what is necessary to defend the American people – just as I will never forget our sacred duty to those of you who serve. Never before in our history has America asked so much of so many over such a sustained period for an all-volunteer force. You make up one percent of the population. You’re the strength, the backbone. You’re the sinew of America. Ordinary Americans, responding in extraordinary and unexpected ways – that’s who you are. You are the soul of the nation. That’s not hyperbole.

“To me, that’s the central lesson of Sept. 11 – not that we’ll never again falter or face setbacks, it’s that for all our flaws and disagreements, there’s nothing that we cannot accomplish when we defend with our hearts, which make us unique in the world. Our democracy. Every generation has to fight to preserve it. That’s why the terrorists targeted us in the first place – our freedom, our openness, our institutions – but they failed. And we must remain vigilant.”

The president said today, service members can look across the country and around the world and see anger and fear in places they have been stationed before.

“It’s more important than ever that we come together around the principle of American democracy, regardless of our political background,” Biden said. “We must not succumb to the poisonous politics of difference and division. We must never allow ourselves to be pulled apart by petty manufactured grievances. We must continue to stand united. We all have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, to preserve, to protect our democracy, and always remember American democracy depends, not on some of us, but on all of us. American democracy depends on the habits of the heart, of ‘we the people.’”

The Al Qaeda threat from Afghanistan and Pakistan has reached a historic low, Biden said, referencing a declassified memo from the intelligence community.

“While [we have made all this progress] over the last 22 years, the resolve of the American people has proved we never bow, never bend, we never yield,” he said. “Our longest war is over, but our commitment to preventing another attack on the United States and our people and our allies will never, never rest. Never.”

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, 11th Airborne Division commanding general, echoed this sentiment.

“On this day we must commit to continue to honor them all, through our selfless service to our nation, and by taking care of the families of the fallen, we must energetically be ready to fight and win our nation’s wars,” he said. “I am proud to serve with all of you. You are America’s best. For you had many choices and despite the hazard of our profession, you courageously chose to serve, and tell America, ‘I’ve got your back.’ I thank God for you all. May God bless you. God bless our great nation.”

JBER serves as a premier power projection platform, and the decision to recognize the 9/11 anniversary here highlights the transition from a military focus on the Middle East to one of competition in the Arctic and Indo-Pacific Regions.

“As a nation, we have many obligations, but I’ve been saying for 30 years, we only have one truly sacred obligation – to prepare those we send into harm’s way and care for them and their families when they return home,” Biden said. “And when they do not return home. It’s an obligation not based on party or politics, but on a promise that unites all Americans.”