JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. — Joint Base Andrews was the chosen site for a ceremony Sept. 14 honoring the four Americans killed in an attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, Sept. 11.
President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, and Senators John Kerry and John McCain were among the dignitaries present.
Hundreds of State Department employees packed a hangar on the base flightline to witness the dignified transfer of J. Christopher Stevens, U.S. ambassador to Libya; Sean Smith, an Air Force veteran working as a State Department information management specialist; and Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods, both former Navy SEALs serving in protective security roles at the consulate.
The U.S. Air Force Honor Guard and Band were part of the ceremonial contingent welcoming these Americans home for the final time. Service members from all branches of the Department of Defense were represented in the Joint Color Guard that presented final honors before Clinton took to the podium.
“This has been a difficult week for the State Department and for our country,” she said in her remarks. “We’ve seen the heavy assault on our post in Benghazi that took the lives of those brave men. We’ve seen rage and violence directed at American embassies over an awful Internet video that we had nothing to do with. It is hard for the American people to make sense of that because it is senseless, and it is totally unacceptable.
“There will be more difficult days ahead, but it is important that we don’t lose sight of the fundamental fact that America must keep leading the world,” she continued. “We owe it to those four men to continue the long, hard work of diplomacy. I am enormously proud of the men and women of the State Department. I’m proud of all those across our government, civilian and military alike, who represent America abroad. They help make the United States the greatest force for peace, progress and human dignity the world has ever known. If the last few days teach us anything, let it be this: That this work, and the men and women who risk their lives to do it, are at the heart of what makes America great and good.”
Obama then addressed the crowd, providing background on each of the four Americans, and offering his sympathy to the families they left behind, including mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and children.
“To you, their families and colleagues, to all Americans, know this: Their sacrifice will never be forgotten,” the president said. “We will bring to justice those who took them from us. We will stand fast against the violence on our diplomatic missions. We will continue to do everything in our power to protect Americans serving overseas. Whether that means increasing security at our diplomatic posts, working with host countries on obligations to provide security, and making it clear that justice will come to those who harm Americans.
“Most of all, even in our grief, we will be resolute,” he continued. “We are Americans and we hold our head high. Knowing that because of these patriots, because of you, this country that we love will always shine as a light onto the world.
“‘Greater love hath no man than this: That a man laid down his life for his friends.’ The flag they served under now carries them home,” Obama said. “May God bless the memories of these men who laid down their lives for us all. May God watch over your families and all who loved them. And may God bless these United States of America.”