TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — MacDill Air Force Base held a 9/11 memorial ceremony in honor of the lives lost in the terrorist attacks on the United States.

The message shared: while we honor the lives of those killed in the attacks, we also honor those who gave their lives and made sacrifices to protect against terrorism.

Almost 20 years to the date, a special ceremony took place at MacDill’s Special Operations Memorial.

“That morning in 2001, determined Al-Qaida attackers claimed 2,977 lives,” said Commander of U.S. Special Operations Gen. Richard Clarke with the U.S. Army.

In part, the focus was on the victims of 9/11 — those who lost their lives when four American planes were hijacked and used to bring harm and terror to major U.S. landmarks. Since then the call to serve our country has been answered, and military leaders at MacDill say they too should be remembered.

“We mourn the loss of the innocent who perished on 9/11 and the loss of those who answered the call in the past 20 years,” said Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Marcus Evans. “We remain resolved to honor their legacy and to never forget.”

As flowers were laid at the feet of the memorial, a reminder is expressed: freedom is not free. While recent events have taken the U.S. out of Afghanistan, the war against America’s enemies is not over.

“Terrorism still exists. It’s not going to come to an end just because we left,” Clarke said.

Leadership on the base says because of the sacrifices made, and the things they’ve learned in 20 years, they are better prepared to defend our nation.