The Magazine

The 9/11 Generation

Sep 12, 2011, Vol. 16, No. 48 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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When a resurgent Taliban threatened to give al Qaeda more space to plot against us, the additional forces I ordered to Afghanistan went on the offensive—taking the fight to the Taliban and pushing them out of their safe havens, allowing Afghans to reclaim their communities and training Afghan forces. And a few months ago, our troops achieved our greatest victory yet in the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11—delivering justice to Osama bin Laden in one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in American history.

Credit for these successes, credit for this progress, belongs to all who have worn the uniform in these wars. .  .  . I would ask all those who served this past decade—the members of the 9/11 Generation—to stand and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.”

And here is General David Petraeus at his retirement ceremony the next day:


“I have been privileged to serve in the arena together with America’s finest, its men and women in uniform, as well as with its finest diplomats and civilian officials and innumerable coalition partners. .  .  . All of them have been magnificent, and the members of our young generation in uniform in particular have earned the description Tom Brokaw gave to them. After a great day with us in Iraq in 2003, he shouted to me over the noise of a helicopter before heading back to Baghdad: ‘Surely, General, this is America’s new greatest generation.’ I agreed with him then, and I agree with him now. .  .  .

When the great Sergeant Major Hill and I visited units this past Fourth of July in Afghanistan, a commander stopped and asked me how many Fourths of July I’d spent deployed over the past decade or so. When I answered eight of the past eleven, he thanked me for my service and sacrifice. I responded, in fact, the privilege has been all mine. It has been the greatest of honors to have soldiered with our nation’s new greatest generation in tough but important endeavors for the bulk of that time. I can imagine no greater honor.

Before closing I also want to remember reverently those who have given the last full measure of devotion in our endeavors in recent years. They and their families must never be forgotten. In a poem published a few years ago, a British trooper who was deployed in Afghanistan captured eloquently the emotions of those who serve and those who sacrifice. He wrote,

And what is asked for the service we give?

No high praise or riches if we should live,

Just silence from friends, our name on a wall,

If this time around it is I that fall.

To the family, friends, and countrymen of those who have fallen and to all those who have served and sacrificed on behalf of our cause, I offer my deepest respect and my eternal gratitude.”

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