This 9/11 anniversary was my first in the War Zone. I have been activated before, but this was the real deal in Taliban Country. It contained moments that I will never forget. We had a Candlelight 9/11 Commemoration service themed “A Legacy of Hope and Strength”. It featured words from the heart, original music including a tremendous and thought provoking rap by SFC Russell Burton, and an original song a mix between pop ballad and today’s country by SPC Hillary Knutson answering war protestors who seem to hate the troops with a thoughtful and moving call to not praise war, but praise courage, don’t love fighting, love freedom. She sang of the courage of the American Servicemember. There was hardly a dry eye among soldiers who laugh in the face of bombardment and through a party in the bunker. She wishes to be a professional singer. She will be. Those of you who think that Americanism is old fashion, come to Afghanistan and spend time with the troops. I still believe in the exceptionalism of the American vision. I still believe in the moral superiority of liberty. I still believe that America’s best days are ahead and not behind because this experiment of liberty is too precious to let fade. Just as importantly, I believe that freedom is a universal human aspiration. On this day, I reaffirm my belief that freedom is worth defending. I hope my fellow Americans do not get complacent because of our successes in containing our adversaries. There is still a real danger. They were at war with us, but on September 11th, 12 years ago we realized it. As the 9/11 report said, they were at war with us, but we were not at war with them. I hope we take time to strengthen our resolve. Freedom is a very precious. It is worth defending and passing on to the next generation. The Islamofacists, who destort Islam into a radical doctrine of tyranny, are not people who we can peacefully coexist with. Right now the big symbol of freedom here is the pen. When the Taliban decapitated a teacher and destroyed a school. There was a rally held where the speaker declared that we will defeat them with our minds and with our pens. He said let this be the symbol of new lives as he held one up. Now the children do not ask the soldiers for candy, they ask for pens. We must support those who oppose them and defeat them. We must stand strong for religious liberty, economic liberty, universal education, and equal rights for women. Freedom is the the only antedote for tyranny. I think that is the lesson of 9/11. Have a blessed day and please say a prayer for those of us who can’t join you today. *My thoughts are solely my own reflections on private time and are in no way a statement by the United States government or military.