Mike Pence gave an amazing speech today at Camp Atterbury in Pence's home district. September 11th forever changed America and it forever changed Mike Pence as he leads us into the future in the War on Terror.
Thank you for that warm welcome. I am deeply honored and profoundly humbled to be with you.
As I thought about what I might say today, what words of inspiration and hope I might share on this solemn anniversary, I couldn’t help but be struck by how incongruous it is that I should be speaking to you. Our roles today are backwards. It is I and all of Congress who should be sitting in your seats, and you before the microphone.
It is one thing to speak of courage; it is quite another to be courageous.
Whatever inspirational that exists in me is but faint reflection of what already abounds in you.
The fact is, it is YOU who inspire ME. It is you who bring me courage.
It is you who teach me—and the entire nation—about bravery, sacrifice, commitment, and honor. What it means to be an American. And like all great teachers, you teach not through words, but by example.
But I thank you for your kindness. I can think of no place I would rather be on this fifth anniversary of 9-11. It is significant on so many levels.
Camp Atterbury has played a major role in our nation’s response to the vicious attacks on our soil—a key reason why, despite the enemy’s plans, there has been no repeat of those horrible events. The men and women who train here see to that.
America has more than 30,000 reasons to be grateful to Camp Atterbury.
That’s the number of service personnel from each branch of the armed services, as well as agents with Homeland Security and the FBI, who have trained here for deployment in the War on Terror.
By taking the fight to the enemy’s soil, and executing it with precision, determination, and bravery, you have secured for all Americans the ability to do what President Bush urged nine days after the attacks: “Live your lives. Hug your children.”
For five years Americans have been living their lives and hugging their children…not huddled in the shadow of fear, but openly, exuberantly, in the light of liberty, the way our Founding Fathers—and our Heavenly Father—intended. America’s service men and women preserve not only our lives, but also our spirit.
Each of us remembers where we were at 8:46 a.m. Eastern Time on this day five years ago. Some of you were in class, maybe even cutting class. Some of you were at work, others just getting up, or hitting the sack after pulling third shift.
I was at work when I learned we were under attack. I was in the Capitol Building when the Trade Towers were hit. Then I was told the Pentagon had been hit, and another plane was headed straight for us. My first thought was for my family and my staff. Where do we go? What do we do? My next thought was, “Where do I report for duty?”
I waited for instructions. Tense, anxious minutes passed. Finally, the official word came down. And it was, in fact, just one word:
What’s that supposed to mean?!
It dawned on me: that coolly detached directive meant….
“Run for your lives!”
It was a helpless feeling. I wanted to do something…anything…. But there was no duty roster. No one to report to, no plan to follow. Congress, like most of America, was not prepared for such an emergency.
Thankfully, our military was. Our service men and women did not disperse. They reported for duty. Ready, confident, determined. They knew their jobs and did them.
The airspace secured, I stood with my congressional colleagues on the steps of the evacuated Capitol Building that evening. The sky was eerily silent, save for the whine of F-16s. We still didn’t know exactly what we would do, should do. But we knew with a certainty what we would NOT do. Neither we, nor America, would simply…disperse.
In that moment, there rose a swell of resolve and pride. It swept through us like a wave, and someone began the first notes of God Bless America. We instantly joined in. It was a spontaneous moment.
Unorchestrated, unstaged…and decidedly off-key. But it was the most purely authentic moment I have ever experienced in Congress. No politics, no agendas, no grandstanding. We simply stood shoulder to shoulder and asked God to bless America.
Five years later I can say with certainty…He has.
And He still does. Some of the blessings are obvious, others come in….camouflage….
You, our Citizen Soldiers.
Our nation’s security and defense were founded on that concept ---everyday people setting aside a piece of their lives to serve and defend their country. It is a concept that is alive, well and flourishing yet today.
Our nation does not today compel its citizens to service. Yet our military has never been stronger, more effective, or more professional. I believe that’s true not in spite of the dissolution of the draft, but because of it.
There may have been a time when a slick brochure or smooth recruiting officer could fill a quota, swaying the reluctant with promises of tuition reimbursement or “glamorous” world travel a la “Private Benjamin.” That ended on 9-11.
Each of you knew what enlistment could mean. Yet freely chose your path; moved not by grudging obligation, but by honor and desire. It is part of who you are, and why this nation is so great.
The people boarding United Flight 93 in Newark on the morning of September 11, 2001 began the day as ordinary citizens. They ended their morning—and their lives—as Citizen Soldiers in a Pennsylvania field.
It was the first battle in our nation’s War on Terror. The soldiers were untrained and unarmed. The enemy had trained for two years; the Citizen Soldiers had mere minutes to hatch their plan. They had never even met.
It was a conscription they neither sought nor planned. Yet these citizen soldiers--armed only with a refreshment cart and their bare hands--instinctively answered the call to duty.
One of them, Todd Beamer, summed it up while on a cell phone with a GTE Customer service rep. He told her that he and other passengers were going to rush the cockpit.
“Are you sure that’s what you want to do?’ she asked.
The Citizen Soldier answered. “It’s what we have to do.”
You, more than most, have a depth of appreciation for those words. I suspect they pretty much sum up why you’re here, why you each made the decision you did to serve your country. It’s what you have to do. … not because someone requires it, but because it’s who you are. Like the passengers of United Flight 93, it is not in you to just stand by.
The words of another passenger aboard that flight seem to echo throughout this camp. Knowing what the hijackers had planned, Tom Burnett told his wife simply: “Some of us are going to do something about it.”
In the five years since, one by one, tens of thousands of everyday people made the same life-altering decision. To do something about it. They streamed into recruiting offices or re-enlisted. Soon, many of you will be in the theaters of Iraq, Afghanistan and Kosovo. You go knowing what it means.
With hearts aching to hug your own children, you bear your longing so that others may hug their children.
In bearing loneliness for a time, you spare untold millions from permanent sorrow.
In postponing your lives for a time, you give millions the freedom to pursue theirs.
In bearing temporary hardship and fatigue, you prevent countless and unknowable horrors.
And because you have seized your own fear by the throat and wrestled it into submission, you have wrested the heel of oppression off millions of innocent men, women, and children, and opened their hearts and minds to democracy.
But you do not go alone. You take with you the prayers and heartfelt wishes of a grateful America.
For each Citizen Soldier, there are scores of friends and family who also bear the burden of sacrifice. Many are here today. I know it isn’t easy. The price you pay is dear. On behalf of all America, I thank you. Our thoughts are with you.
Before I close, I want to share with you a certainty I hold in my heart: We are winning this war.
Last year, I sat in a meeting with President Bush in the Roosevelt Room . At the end of the meeting, it came my time to speak. He was sitting next to me, so I turned to him and said, “Mr. President, thank you for being more determined than our enemy.”
He sort of reared back in his chair and looked at me. Then he broke into a smile. “I like how you put that.”
I said it not to please him, but because it was true. I was honored when I heard that he’d subsequently adopted the sentiment for use in his own remarks—but not before improving upon it.
He says something like, “Our enemy is determined but America is more determined.”
Mr. President, I like how you put that.
He’s right. A president can only be as determined as the nation he leads, and a Commander in Chief only as good as his troops. Being here today confirms for me the truth of my belief that yes, we will prevail.
For as Ronald Reagan wisely said, “America is great because America is good.”
The dark and evil hearts that spawned carnage and destruction upon our people five years ago succeeded only to increase our might, because they awakened what is good in us.
How utterly maddening that must be to the enemy! Not only did they NOT cripple us with fear or elicit cowering submission, they actually managed to awaken in us a greater measure of those things they so despise in us.
Instead of crushing our spirit, they renewed it.
They unleashed an army of Todd Beamers, Mark Binghams, Jeremy Glicks, and Tom Burnetts. Only this time they have guns, tanks, and planes. They’re trained, armed, and ready.
The enemy intended that the events of 9-11-2001 would never be forgotten….and so it shall be. But not for the reasons they intended.
It is the enemy, not America, that has dispersed.
And though we shall never forget the victims and the heroes of 9-11, 2001, neither shall we forget the heroes of each day that followed, and the ones yet to come.
God bless you, and God bless America.