Pentagon Workers Enjoy Food, Raise Money for Memorial Fund
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 8, 2004 Thousands of Pentagon employees stood in line Oct. 7 to enjoy fresh-grilled bratwursts and make donations to the fund-raiser to build a Sept. 11 memorial just outside the Pentagon.
Johnsonville Sausage Company set up its "big taste grill" in the Pentagon's south parking lot, and volunteers from the company kept the charcoal going most of the day as they prepared sausages. Pentagon employees then purchased lunches, including a bratwurst sandwich, chips, soda and an ice cream bar, for a suggested $5 donation.
With one hour left in the fund-raiser, Raymond DuBois, the Pentagon's director of administration and management, announced that more than 4,000 lunches had been handed out so far. Many people chose not to buy bratwursts but made donations anyway.
All the food items were donated, so all the funds taken in went to the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which is run by family members of those killed here Sept. 11, 2001. The organization needs $17.5 million to build a permanent memorial near where American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building.
Pentagon Memorial Fund President Jim Laychak, whose brother David was killed in the Pentagon attack, said the fund has $4 million so far. Wearing a Johnsonville apron and a Pentagon Memorial badge that identifies him as a family member, Laychak noted that $3.2 million has come in the past eight months. "I really believe that we're gaining momentum and we're getting ready to go," he said.
Addressing the crowd, another family member, Elaine Donovan, expressed her appreciation to everyone who made it out to the Pentagon courtyard to contribute to the fund and urged people to not let their help stop there. "I would like to ask you to perhaps go home and think about how you can make another difference," said Donovan, who lost her husband, Navy Cdr. Bill Donovan, Sept. 11.
She suggested church groups could hold pancake breakfasts or schools could have "Pennies for the Pentagon" drives. "Please don't stop today," she said. "This is a wonderful event, and maybe by tomorrow we'll have raised $5 million with this kind of turnout."
In addition to lunch, the event featured appearances by Miss America Deidre Downs, Miss Virginia Mariah Rice, and three of the Washington Redskins cheerleaders.
Rice said she was honored to be in the Pentagon among America's military servicemembers and civil servants. "When I first walked in, I looked at Deidre, and I said, 'Wow. We are inside the Pentagon,'" she said.
Miss Virginia also had kind words for military members throughout the world. "I just thank all of our military men and women who are out there," Rice said. "I just thank you for your service. I can't tell you how grateful I am as an American for all the service that you do."
Downs said the significance of the Pentagon Memorial Fund "cannot be overstated." She said she felt the memorial is about honoring those killed at the Pentagon and is also "a reminder of those who lost their lives in New York and Pennsylvania and all the men and women who are serving overseas in the war against terror."
In addition to the donated food and manpower, Johnsonville Sausage Company donated $15,000 to the Pentagon Memorial Fund. Company president Ralph Stayer explained why he feels it's important to support the military.
Stayer said his parents started their business as a small butcher shop in Wisconsin in 1945. Today the company sells $500 million worth of sausage in 40 countries. "It's the American dream, and you people are defending our right to do it," he said to the crowd. "And we thank you for it. And that's why we're here to support the Pentagon Memorial Fund."
With two food lines going, most people waited about 15 to 30 minutes to make their donation and get their lunch. But most didn't seem to mind. Army Capt. Sarah Albrycht works in the Army Office of the Provost Marshal General and was in line with her brother, Christopher Albrycht, who works for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
When asked if it was worth the wait, she had a short response: "Yeah, it's a nice day, and it's a good cause."