WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — The deaths of 22 people at a concert hall in Manchester, England, this week shows the need for institutions like the U.S. Military Academy to produce soldiers willing to battle those who would commit terrorism, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday.
"Manchester's tragic loss underscores the purpose of your years of study and training at this elite school," Mattis told the 950 graduating cadets at West Point. "We must never permit murderers to define our time or warp our sense of normal. This is not normal."
Twenty-two people were killed in a bombing at a concert hall in Manchester on Monday. Authorities say the 22-year-old bomber who struck the Ariana Grande concert was known to security services because of his radical views and had strong links to Libya.
"You will drive home a salient point," Mattis told the cadets. "That free men and women will volunteer to fight, ethically and fiercely, to defend our experiment that you and I call, simply, 'America.'"
The retired four-star Marine general became defense secretary Jan. 20, hours after President Donald Trump was sworn in.
He spoke on a sun-drenched day at the military academy's football stadium in New York's Hudson Valley, but spoke of "storm clouds gathering" around the world.
"Our enemies are watching," he said. "By your commitment, you will prove the enemy wrong. Dead wrong."
He drew loud cheers when he added: "We Americans are not made of cotton candy."
Three brothers are among the cadets. Noah, Sumner and Cole Ogrydziak of Nederland, Texas, entered the academy in 2013. The last time three siblings graduated together was 1985.