Ladies and gentlemen of the National Guard Association, it is an honor to be with you on this day of memorial and appreciation. We remember with heavy hearts the tragic loss of life, and we express thankfulness for the men and women who responded to that tragedy. We honor them, and we honor those who secure our safety even to this day.
We honor the men and women of the National Guard. For 375 years, whenever your countrymen have encountered threat and danger, you have willingly gone. Wherever the cause of freedom has called, you have answered. And as the threats to liberty have emanated from distant lands, you’ve served far from home and far from family. The nation has asked much more of you than had been expected, but you have never faltered, never wavered from the mission of your motto: “Always Ready, Always There.”
Two weeks ago, I saw the Guard in action in Louisiana after it was hit by Hurricane Isaac. For many of the people of the Gulf – who had just finished repairing their homes and getting life back to normal after Katrina – the damage from Isaac felt like too much to bear. As I toured the flooded streets, I was not surprised to find the Guard keeping order, distributing water and supplies, and caring for many of those they had evacuated and rescued.
Time and again, it has been the Guardsman's hand that has lifted a child from rising waters, that has rescued a family from a hurricane's fury, and that has fed and clothed a fellow American whose home and possessions have been lost to nature's devastation. It is a Guardsman who took out Saddam Hussein's tanks from his A-10, and who has fought to secure the villages of Afghanistan.
Our world is a dangerous place. And the attack on our homeland and citizens on September 11, 2001 reminds us that the mission of the Guard is ever more critical, and ever more deserving of our support and honor.
More than a decade has now passed since that day of tragedy. But the visions and events are seared in the memory of every American. We remember those who died. We marvel at the courage of those who stormed the cockpit when they became aware of the malevolent purpose of the hijackers. We hold up in prayer the families and friends who have lived in a shadow cast by grief. We draw strength from the selflessness of the first responders. And we renew our resolve to protect America from the designs of evil men.
Like you, I remember where I was on 9/11. I was originally planning to be in Battery Park, in New York – not far from the World Trade Center. But as it turned out, I was in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of Congress about preparations for the security of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games. A colleague and I were working in our office in the Ronald Reagan building – just a few blocks from the White House.