Do not forget the sacrifice of those who perished, nor the unity that arose in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Guest speakers offered this powerful message at Western University of Health Sciences’ Sept. 11 memorial service, organized by the Military Medical Student Association.

The service featured the WesternU Chamber Singers performing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” a reading by WesternU President Philip Pumerantz, and special guests from the University, the military, and local police and fire departments.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Juan-Carlos Parra, who also served in the Coast Guard, commented that he did not hear a lot of morning news reports commemorating Sept. 11.

“I find it sad that the tragedy – 3,000 souls lost – is already fading from our memory,” he said. “But the truth is that we cannot forget. It’s something we will never be able to forget. Sept. 11 was a day our nation came together, and for the months and even a few years afterwards, we had a restored sense of patriotism and a restored sense of unity.

“This is something we must cling to. Unity is what makes our country strong. That day our ideals were struck. We are the greatest nation on the face of the earth because of our ideals.”

The nation looked to first responders and service men and women for guidance and protection in the wake of the attacks, he said.

“I hope as we leave here today, and as we continue on with our lives, we will take a moment and pause to remember, to steel ourselves and to renew ourselves in our commitment to not forget, to stand behind the men and women that protect us, to be a nation and to continue to be great,” Parra said.

Los Angeles County Fire Department Capt. James Roy said the New York firefighters evacuated thousands of people from the World Trade Center.

“Many more people would have perished if they didn’t do what they did,” he said. “I’m in awe of them. All the people there – Port Authority, police officers, civilians, our military, anyone who stands in a position of public service who is willing to put their lives on the line or even just to help another in a neighborly fashion – they should be applauded. That’s something that’s always been in the American spirit and will always continue to shine.”

Roy recounted the story of Father Mychal Judge, chaplain for the New York Fire Department, who followed firefighters into the World Trade Center’s North Tower after it was hit. He stood in the lobby in prayer and refused to leave despite the danger. He was hit by debris and killed, the first recorded victim of the terrorist attacks.

“Some of his last words were, ‘My work here is not done,’” Roy said. “His mission was to stay. His work is not complete. It’s evident by the men who back him and serve every day. Our job will never be done. We will continue to do this because we love to do it. We hope the fire department serves you well. We hope you have faith when you call us that we will be there. We will give everything we have to make your lives better.”