WASHINGTON (NNS) -- The memory of those killed during a Sept. 16, 2013, shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard will always burn brightly and the wounds will carry on for a lifetime, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said June 23.
Mabus spoke at a Navy Yard ceremony held to honor the three women and nine men who died that day after a contract employee entered the base and opened fire, as well as to honor the courage and sacrifice of numerous others.
"As a family, we grieve and continue to grieve," Mabus said. "We gather here again as a family to recognize the heroism of those we lost and the heroism that confronted evil on that day last fall."
When the shooting began, employees of the Naval Sea Systems and Naval Facilities Engineering commands ran into danger to aid and protect others, the Navy secretary said. He also cited the colleagues, friends and strangers who saved others from peril and comforted one another.
"The courage we witnessed on the 16th of September did not end with the closing of that terrible day," Mabus said, adding that people began returning to work the following day, and that three days later, most of the Navy Yard was reopened.
"Thousands represented here today, whose lives had been in real peril just three days before, were back doing the vital work of our nation. That courage endures," he said.
Navy Yard employees embody the mottos Semper Fortis - "always courageous" - and Semper Fidelis - "always faithful," Mabus said.
Navy Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, chief of naval operations, said Navy Yard personnel comprise sailors, civilians and families.
"We are all shipmates," he said. "Last September [when] tragedy struck, shipmates demonstrated courage. Since that day, you have all embodied resilience [and] determination to continue the mission."
Navy Yard employees, both military and civilian, are the foundation of American sea power, Greenert said.
"Your nation turns to you now in this period of our world, and the future, more than ever before," the admiral added. "You have unmatched dedication, teamwork and patriotism, and I'm honored to call you my shipmates."
About three dozen awards honored fallen Navy Yard employeesand surviving co-workers, an official at the ceremony said.