The White House released the following excerpts from remarks by CIA Director Leon E. Panetta made Friday at the memorial service for seven CIA workers killed in Afghanistan.
Excerpts from Remarks by CIA Director Leon E. Panetta At Memorial Service Held at CIA Headquarters for Those Who Fell In The Line Of Duty In Afghanistan On December 30, 2009
Mr. President, Honored Guests, my colleagues from the CIA, Ladies and Gentlemen: Today we come together to honor seven courageous men and women. And to their loved ones, we come together to offer our comfort, our support, and our lasting gratitude.
As Director, I have never had a more difficult duty than to bid farewell to colleagues taken from us. From Dover, to the family services, to this memorial, it is tough to say good-bye. Within this Agency, they were more than co-workers or friends-they were part of our family. And as family, even knowing that God has a plan for each human life, it's hard to accept the sudden loss of so many good and decent people.
Thank you, Mr. President, for being here-you honor us with your presence, and I thank you. Thank you, Madam Speaker-you also honor us with your presence. We are also joined this morning by many senior officials-from the Intelligence Community, the White House, the Congress, the Pentagon, and many other places. You, too, are part of our family, because the responsibility to protect and defend the nation belongs to all of us. On behalf of the entire Agency, I thank you for your support, both public and private, during these difficult days. Your presence here is important to all of us.
The deepest grief, of course, is felt by those who knew our officers best and who loved them most-who called them husband and wife, father, mother, son, daughter, sister, brother.
Despite the pain and the grief, the families of our fallen have been pillars of strength. As tragic as this event has been, you are our inspiration. Thank you for sharing with us your loved ones-these extraordinary people. All they are and all they achieved is because of you. We simply cannot do these jobs-we can't do these jobs-without the love and support of our families. We are forever grateful for the support and for the love. We are forever grateful for the sacrifices all of you made as they faithfully served our nation. We are honored to have you as part of the CIA family because, in a very real way, your love is what made them patriots. They gave their lives because they loved you-and they wanted all of us, and all of you-to have a safer nation.
Six decades ago, Adlai Stevenson famously described patriotism as "the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime." What he said next was equally important, and I quote: "These are words that are easy to utter. But this is a mighty assignment. For it is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them."
The men and women we remember today are genuine patriots. They took on that mighty assignment. They not only fought for this nation, they lived up to our highest principles. They understood that America is more than a place. It is the keeper of our ideal-that all people deserve to live in freedom and without fear.
Devotion to that ideal brought our colleagues to Khowst, that little known outpost in Afghanistan. Like others before them, they stepped forward to perform a very dangerous, but essential, mission. They collected intelligence-which was what they were trained to do-that simply cannot be obtained anywhere else. With courage and skill, they worked to defeat the most urgent threat of our time. And as they worked to protect lives, they sacrificed their own. For this, we honor them-now and always.
These remarkable men and women are the story of America. They are the heart and soul of this great country. Their devotion to duty is the foundation of our country. Throughout history, our nation's strength has rested on the service and the sacrifice of individual Americans-brave warriors who believed that the life of the nation was worth their own lives. The officers killed and wounded on December 30th upheld that enduring truth.
In silent service to our country, they accepted great risks, and they bore heavy burdens. They can rest now in the knowledge that they did their duty: They helped to keep our nation safe.
In their name and in their honor, the men and women of CIA will carry on their noble mission. Each of their stars-stars that we see here-will be emblazoned on our Memorial Wall, and will forever be a reminder of their sacrifice-and will forever be an inspiration to carry on their mission. For this Agency-by virtue of its purpose and its people-we find strength in adversity. We are on the front lines. We will carry this fight to the enemy. Our resolve is unbroken, our energy undiminished, and our dedication to each other and to our nation, unshakable.