With the sound of shorebreak thumping on sand behind them, a group of more than 100 observed Patriot Day in Newport Beach by forming the numbers "911" and holding up American flags in solidarity.
Wednesday's event, headed by Anita Boyd on the sand next to the Balboa Pier, sought to recognize the U.S. military; the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya; and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as United Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania.
A color guard from Orange High School's Marine Corps Junior ROTC program presented the flags. Caitlin Theobald led the group in singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful."
Theobald's husband, Brent, was one of the guest speakers. The Marine veteran served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the director of veterans affairs and community relations at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa.
"I just want to thank you for taking the time to come out here and remember a very important day in our history," Brent told attendees. "[Sept. 11], to my generation, is the same as Pearl Harbor for the Greatest Generation."
He urged respect toward those who died in war, the values that "made this country great" and the values that have been "borne out of the struggle."
Joe Busch, a Navy veteran who served during the Vietnam War, said Americans are unique for their service.
"Every one of us here today has been called, at one time or another, to serve this great country of ours, the United States of America," Busch said. "That service was epitomized 12 years ago today when a group of normal citizens rushed to take control of United Flight 93. Those Americans paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our Capitol."
He also paid tribute to the Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, who died during the Benghazi attack.
"As Americans, we must never quit in service of our country," Busch said.
He concluded his speech with a quotation attributed to Todd Beamer, one of Flight 93's passengers credited with an attack to regain the airplane from its hijackers: "Let's roll!"