Reading President Obama's eloquent tribute to the 9/11 generation in his American Legion speech today, I thought of our late and beloved friend and colleague, Dean Barnett, and his terrific July 30, 2007, cover story "The 9/11 Generation." It's very much worth reading, or re-reading--and you can do so here.
Meanwhile, here's some of what the president had to say today:
"Today, as we near this solemn anniversary, it's fitting that we salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 Generation-the more than five million Americans who have worn the uniform over the past ten years. They were there, on duty, that September morning, having enlisted in a time of peace, but they instantly transitioned to a war-footing. They're the millions of recruits who have stepped forward since, seeing their nation at war and saying "send me." They're every single Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine and Coast Guardsman serving today, who has volunteered to serve in a time of war, knowing they could be sent into harm's way....
"A generation of innovators, they've changed the way America fights and wins its wars. Raised in the age of the Internet, they've harnessed new technologies on the battlefield. They've learned the cultures, traditions and languages of the places they've served. Trained to fight, they've taken on the role of diplomats, mayors and development experts, negotiating with tribal sheikhs, working with village shuras, and partnering with communities. Young captains, sergeants and lieutenants have assumed responsibilities once reserved for more senior commanders, reminding us that in an era when so many other institutions have shirked their obligations, the men and women of the United States military welcome responsibility.
"In a decade of war, they have borne an extraordinary burden, with more than two million of our service members deploying to the warzones. Hundreds of thousands have deployed again and again, year after year. Never before has our nation asked so much of our all-volunteer force-that one percent of Americans who wears the uniform.
"We see the scope of their sacrifice in the tens of thousands who now carry the scars of war, seen and unseen-our remarkable wounded warriors. We see it in our extraordinary military families who serve here at home-the military spouses who hold their families together; the millions of military children, many of whom have lived most of their young lives with our nation at war and mom or dad deployed.
"Most profoundly, we see the wages of war in those patriots who never came home. They gave their all, their last full measure of devotion, in Kandahar and the Korengal and Helmand, in the battles for Baghdad and Fallujah and Ramadi. Now they lay at rest in quiet corners of America, but they live on in the families who loved them and in a nation that is safer because of their service. And today we pay humble tribute to the more than 6,200 Americans in uniform who have given their lives in this hard decade of war. We honor them all.
"Through their service, their sacrifice, their astonishing record of achievement, our forces have earned their place among the greatest of generations. Toppling the Taliban in just weeks. Driving al Qaeda from the training camps where they plotted 9/11. Giving the Afghan people the opportunity to live free from terror. When the decision was made to go into Iraq, our troops raced across deserts and removed a dictator in less than a month. When insurgents, militias and terrorists plunged Iraq into chaos, our troops adapted, endured ferocious urban combat, reduced the violence and gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future.
"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, 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, this progress, belongs to all who have worn the uniform in these wars. Today, we are honored to be joined by some of them. I would ask all those who served this past decade-members of the 9/11 Generation-to stand and accept the thanks of a grateful nation."