WASHINGTON: Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III on the completion of two years since the end of the Afghanistan war paid tributes to the valor, patriotism and selflessness of the American service members and civilians who fought and served in that country over the course of 20 years.
Throughout America’s longest war, our troops showed great courage and compassion. My thoughts today are with all of the brave Americans who answered the call to duty after al-Qaeda’s terrorists attacked America—including the Pentagon itself—on September 11, 2001.
“We bow our heads today in memory of the 2,461 U.S. service members who never made it home, including the 13 courageous troops taken from us in the attack at Abbey Gate in the final hours of the war. We also remember the hundreds of service members from allied and partner countries who lost their lives during this 20-year war. And we honor the more than 20,000 Americans who were injured waging war in Afghanistan, including many who still bear wounds that are not visible,” said the Secretary of Defense.
In the war’s final days, the United States, along with our allies and partners, safely evacuated more than 124,000 civilians from Afghanistan, in the midst of the pandemic and in the teeth of danger. In recognition of teams that operated and excelled under these difficult and dangerous conditions, I am proud to announce the approval of the Presidential Unit Citation for the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force-Crisis Response-Central Command, and Joint Task Force 82 of the 82nd Airborne Division and its supporting units.
“We remain deeply committed to supporting the Afghan allies who fought by our sides and to helping those who are now building new lives outside their troubled homeland. We will continue to push to help resettle our Afghan allies, and I am proud that we have welcomed more than 115,000 Afghans who stood by our side to the United States over the past two years.
“Today, our hearts and our prayers are with the brave Americans who volunteered to keep our country safe, with the Gold Star families whose loved ones fell in Afghanistan, with the military families who endured so much over those two decades, and with the veterans who still carry the memories and the scars of war. The war in Afghanistan is over, but our gratitude to the Americans who fought it is unending.”