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Commentary | Sept. 8, 2011

Honoring those who died by the way we live

By 2nd Lt. John M. Cooper 633rd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

In remembering days like Sept. 11, the question we often ask each other is "Where were you that day?" Maybe we should ask each other another question instead--"How have the events of that day inspired you to invest in your community and your country?"

That may sound blunt, especially to my fellow Airmen and Soldiers. After all, we have all taken the oath to defend the nation and the traditions which define our proud heritage. We have lost brothers and sisters in the fight against extremism. There is no doubt that every service member has answered the call of the past 10 years with honor and dignity.

Military families have done great things for our country since that day, as well. They have born the unique burden of seeing loved ones deploy and serve overseas on a much more consistent basis, a burden most non-military families will never understand.

I ask this question because, after 10 years, perhaps we have forgotten what Sept.11 meant, and what it continues to mean.

Sept.11 was more than an attack on our cities, or a provocation of our military; it was an attack on who we are as a nation. It was an assault on our system of government, on our values as a people, and on the ideals which have made us great for decades. The purpose of that cowardly attack was to strike fear in our hearts, and perhaps even to turn us against ourselves. The goal that day was to change us for the worse.

Those who attacked us could hardly have expected our response, however. The outpouring of volunteerism and support that followed in the wake of those events was incredible, and demonstrated the cohesiveness and strength of the American people.

A decade later, though, is our will, our commitment to service and selflessness, just as strong? Do we show the same level of dedication to helping our neighbors in need? Do we take advantage of the numerous freedoms and liberties enshrined in the Constitution, freedoms which terrorists attacked that day? The immediate crisis of Sept. 11 is long past, but the opportunity to honor those who died that day, and every day since in the fight for freedom, exists every day.

Don't let the images of that day lose their intensity in your hearts and minds. Remember the patriotism we all felt in the days after, and understand that such love for country should motivate not only in days of disaster, but also in the "ordinary times."