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Mattis: Terrorists Learned 'Americans are Not Made of Cotton Candy'

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Defense Secretary James Mattis noted at the Pentagon this morning that "maniacs disguised in false religious garb thought by hurting us, they could scare us" on Sept. 11, 2001, "but we Americans are not made of cotton candy."

"We are not seaweed drifting in the current. We are not intimidated by our enemies. And, Mr. President, your military does not scare," Mattis said at the 16th anniversary observance that began at 9:11 a.m. at the Pentagon Memorial, which honors the memory of the 184 people killed when one of four hijacked planes struck the building.

The remembrance began with the unfurling of the American flag on the building at sunrise.

"Our nation's troops today are worthy successors of our revolutionary army at Valley Forge, worthy successors of our valiant sailors at Midway, and our Marines at bloody Iwo Jima, and of our Air Force pilots patrolling MiG Alley," Mattis said. "Men and women of your armed forces, America, having signed a blank check to the protection of the American people and to the defense of our constitution, a check payable with their very lives, your military stands ready and confident to defend this country, this experiment in democracy. And we will continue to do so using all means necessary and as long as necessary."

"So today, we remember the loss of so many in New York City, in a somber field in Pennsylvania, and here in this very building behind me and in many battles since -- and some of those battles are still raging."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford note that "as President Bush said hours after the attacks, the terrorists thought they could frighten us into chaos and retreat -- but they were wrong."

"Instead of retreat, the tragedy of 9/11 produced in us an unyielding resolve. Instead of hopelessness, our mourning turned into action. And we have strengthened our commitment to the idea that the freedom of many should never be endangered by the hatred of a few," Dunford said. "So, this morning, as we recall the events of 9/11, it's appropriate for those of us still serving to remember and honor those who died, those who continue suffering from injuries and those left behind."

Truly honoring the memory of the fallen, Dunford reminded Pentagon staff, means moving forward "with a renewed sense of commitment to our values" and freedom.

"Each of us will walk away from this simple ceremony reminded that the war is not over and that further sacrifice will be required," he added. "And each of us will walk away with resolve to strengthen our personal commitment to protect our family, friends and fellow citizens from another 9/11."