Remarks at the Dedication Ceremony for the Diplomatic Security Memorial
Antony J. Blinken
Deputy Secretary of State
Diplomatic Security Headquarters
September 18, 2015
DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good morning. It is with deep humility and great respect that I join you today to dedicate the Diplomatic Security Memorial and to honor the memory of fallen colleagues and friends.
Greg, Director Miller, thank you for your outstanding leadership but also thank you for making today possible, for your commitment to this memorial and to this ceremony. We’re grateful for the work that you do every day, for the teams that you put together, and for what you do to protect and defend our nation, our diplomatic personnel, and indeed our citizens around the world.
General Bailey, thank you very much for being here. I’ve been very privileged in my own travels to meet some of the Marines who serve at our embassies, and I’m always inspired by their honor, their courage, and their commitment to corps and to country.
And Father Moretti, thank you for your wonderful words. But most especially, I’m here to say thank you to the families and friends of the men and women we honor today. We cannot really put in words except to acknowledge the sacrifices that you’ve made – that you’ve made to support your loved ones in their life’s work in the noble, in the heroic, and indeed in the utterly selfless calling that is diplomatic security.
And you know better than anyone on Earth it is not an easy calling.
Two hundred and twenty-five years ago, when Thomas Jefferson became our very first secretary of state, he could never have imagined the diversity of international engagements or the indispensable role that the United States plays around the world today. And I don’t think he could have predicted the number of Americans abroad that we’d help or the problems we’d have to confront and the threats we’d have to avert, and indeed the powerful dangers that we face.
But he did know this: that our principles – our belief in the liberty, the dignity, the rights of every single human being – would be challenged over the years, and that good men and good women would be called upon to protect them.
These ideals come under threat from armed militia looking for targets of opportunity; from terrorists hoping to sow fear; from lone individuals seeking notoriety in violence and in vengeance.
And today, the tremendous responsibility of predicting, of confronting, and defeating these threats falls in great part to the members of Diplomatic Security, whose exceptional valor and devotion to duty knows no bounds and no borders.
It’s a duty that requires around-the-clock protection for our people and our posts at more than 200 U.S. missions and consulates around the world.
It requires protecting foreign leaders who come here to the United States to visit.
It’s participating in global counterterrorism and counterespionage efforts.
It’s ensuring the integrity of our visa and passport systems.
It’s engaging in a nonstop battle with those determined to penetrate our technology and steal our classified information.
In short, wherever we face a war or a crisis, wherever we fight to save lives in a disaster or foster a fragile peace or help local communities improve their own security, all of those places, you will find a DS agent – not because it’s easy, not because it’s safe, not because we simply want to do good, but because our diplomatic mission is essential to our nation’s security, to our prosperity, and to the values that motivate each and every one of us.
And of necessity, the work of DS takes place behind the scenes, and it’s not known, it’s not seen. Our fellow citizens don’t know what your loved ones, your family members, your friends did and do every single day. But we know that every day that passes without an incident, every trip that comes home safely is entirely thanks to the quiet and often unheralded work of Diplomatic Security.
I have to tell you that in my own job, I’ve had occasion to travel to various danger zones around the world – to Iraq many times, Afghanistan – and traveling around in those countries, the single most comforting thing to me is the presence of my colleagues from Diplomatic Security. And I can speak, I think, for all of my colleagues at the State Department, who feel exactly the same way. It is a personal debt that I cannot repay and none of my colleagues can repay either.
We, of course, are not the only country in the world whose diplomatic presence has drawn fire. But because of who we are, because of what we have accomplished, because of what we represent and because of what believe in, the risks that we face have been profound and the cost has been very, very high.
And so this morning, we dedicate, as Greg said, a wall with 137 names – 137 individuals who went to work every day from Sana’a, to Baghdad, to Ankara, to Islamabad, to Nairobi, and many other places – in service of a mission larger than themselves.
They were citizens, they were friends, they were colleagues, and they came from other countries as well. They protected secretaries of state, members of Congress, presidential delegations from around the world. They served guard duty. They fortified our embassies. They tracked down criminals to quite literally the ends of the Earth.
Some of them were local football heroes, forensic scientists, former police officers, and they hailed from every reach of our country and beyond – from South Hadley, Massachusetts to Franklin, Alabama to Boardman, Ohio.
And they were from our partner nations who stood with us, shoulder to shoulder, at our front gates, even though they may never have had the opportunity to actually set food on American soil here in the United States.
It is said that the greatest virtue of all is courage – because every other one rests upon it. So as we think of those in our diplomatic family whom we have lost, we are called on to live up to their exceptional example – to honor their commitment to our country and our fellow citizens with a truer sense of our own.
With today’s dedication, the sacrifices of these 137 heroes – enshrined forever in your hearts, in your memories; in our hearts, in our memories – now they etched in the enduring history of a grateful nation. May the challenges that we face be fewer because of what they have done and what they have inspired us to do.
Thank you. May God bless you. May God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)