[September 11, 2023] Ten years ago, USAF Colonel Scott DeThomas, 6th Air Mobility Wing, gave a 9/11 speech that took the nation by storm. His comments went viral and can still be appreciated today. Here is what he said that day. Always, Always remember 9/11.
Good morning ladies and gentlemen, and veterans from across the area.
Webster’s dictionary defines “patriot” as one who loves his or her country and supports its authority and interests.
It is an honor to be surrounded by so many patriots in the finest military community in the world. In a state like Florida, that boasts some 20 military installations and over 1.5 million veterans, almost 400,000 that live within the Tampa Bay and surrounding counties, it is an honor to stand before you on this very somber day in American history.
Today not only marks the 12 year anniversary since American’s lives changed forever in what should be our generation’s day of infamy, but it also marks the one year anniversary as we honor those 4 patriots killed in Benghazi one year ago today.
While I sometimes start my comments with something light or funny, today I will ask you to imagine the following…Imagine you are going on vacation to Raleigh, North Carolina. You have to pack, get the car ready and take days off work. But then, also imagine that you have to get a visa for every single state you drive through to get to Raleigh. Then you have to reach a checkpoint at every state at an exact time. You also have to reach a checkpoint at your destination at a specific time, if you don’t reach the checkpoint in time you are detained.
That is a possible scenario for many countries around the world except the United States of America and it’s because of a simple concept that our country uses everyday: FREEDOM
It is what our nation’s patriots defend every single day since the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 2nd 1776, and is actually where the concept of Patriot Day first started to commemorate the first battles of the American Revolutionary War back in 1775, the battles of Lexington and Concord.
In the United States we grow up in a world where everything is based on the idea of freedom and liberty. We know nothing else. We don’t realize how rare the quality of freedom is until we look outside our country. Americans are shielded from these circumstances around the world because it seems unfathomable.
However, on this day 12 years ago our country was turned upside down when a plane crashed into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York City. At first people just thought it was an accident. Then a second plane crashed into the other tower. Then a third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington D.C… finally a fourth plane crashed in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
I think everyone here can remember exactly what they were doing at the time of the attacks.
For me, I was at my favorite barber shop in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina where I had wandered in for a haircut. I was a transport pilot who had just returned home from a two week road trip delivering cargo and pax around the globe. As I sat listening to the normal barber shop banter between the customers and barbers, we were shocked to see the first aircraft hit the first of the twin towers.
As a pilot, it was difficult to fathom how this happened. I stood in amazement and prayed for the soles on board and their families. I proceeded to finish my haircut and headed home to find the unfolding of events that would change this world forever.
Three weeks later I would find myself flying missions from Germany in support of the innocent people of Afghanistan by airdropping foods as others toppled the Taliban…my life changed forever.
Our country bonded together that day and for months after to stand together for the one idea we grew up knowing and living everyday: freedom.
Rudolph Giuliani, the mayor of New York City at the time, even said, “the attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic, and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom.”
It is the one word, freedom, which stands out in the quote.
And then last year the American stand for freedom was tested again. We have the American diplomatic mission around the world to create a more secure, democratic, and prosperous world. That mission at Benghazi in Libya was attacked on September 11, 2012 by a heavily armed group. Four Americans, who were performing that mission, died in that attack including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, foreign affairs officer Sean Smith, security agents and previous Navy SEALs, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods
Your military, your United States military, stands and will continue to stand for and defend our freedom.
John F. Kennedy said during his inauguration to office:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
Just at the 6th Air Mobility Wing, we have over eighteen thousand whom have deployed since 2001 to defend our freedom and liberty around the world.
The date, September 11th, has many meanings but it is now known as Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance.
Remember the three thousand lives that were lost that day in 2001, the four lives lost in 2012, and the thousands more who have died defending our freedom overseas. That day and every anniversary after that should remind us of a day that shook the United States out of complacency and made us realize that we are not completely immune to the hardships around the world.
I will leave you with one more fact. The one World Trade Center is the main skyscraper that is being built at the site of the September 11 attacks in New York City. This building will be exactly one thousand, seven hundred and seventy six feet tall. How fitting for a number which represents our freedom to be standing at that site.
To all the patriots in the audience, our veterans, our amazing friends from the Tampa Bay area, thank you and thank you for stopping and remembering the tragedy of 9/11 and remember that this nation will not bend, and we are stronger today than ever…thank you and God bless!
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