America Supports You: Freedom Walks Total 157 Nationwide
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 7, 2007 Planning for the 2007 America Supports You Freedom Walk is well under way in the nation’s capital as well as in 41 states across the country.
The inaugural America Supports You Freedom Walk, created by Pentagon employees to commemorate the attack on the building and honor the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, was held Sept. 11, 2005. America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
As of today, 1,231 people have registered for the national Freedom Walk, part of a series of events commemorating the Sept. 11 attacks.
“That’s kind of … on track (with last year,)” Stephanie Linder, the national Freedom Walk coordinator, said. She added that the number of walks scheduled across the country seems to be on a high-speed rail. Organizers have registered 157 registered Freedom Walks across the country so far. “As of last year at this time, we had … 39 walks,” she said.
A handful of those walks cover the Hampton Roads region in Virginia. “Eight cities -- Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach and Williamsburg -- all are hosting Freedom Walks,” Linder said.
Students aren’t to be outdone by their grown-up counterparts. One Texas school system is contributing to the number of walks registered. “Killeen Independent School District has 50 separate schools,” Linder said. “Each school will have a Freedom Walk.”
More students will learn about Freedom Walks in a couple of weeks when they return to school and get their first Weekly Reader issue of the year.
As the publication for students did last year, it has published a piece telling its readers how they, too, can organize Freedom Walks. Last year’s article caught the eye of Sebring, Ohio’s Colton Lockner, then 9, whose uncle had been deployed to Iraq.
When he asked his mom and his principal, they gave him the green light, thinking it would be a school event. Little did they suspect that he could rally nearly half of his town’s 4,800 residents to participate.
Lockner, now 10, is featured in this year’s Weekly Reader article, Linder said.
“The reason Colton was featured was because that’s how he learned about Freedom Walk last year,” she said. “It’s kind of an encouragement (for other students). ‘He did it, so can you,’ basically is the message.”
She hopes the article will create a surge of student- or school-organized walks.
More than 15,000 walkers participated in the 2005 inaugural walk to remember those who lost their lives and honor the nation’s veterans. That walk began at the Pentagon and ended on the National Mall with a performance by country singer Clint Black.
The 2006 America Supports You Freedom Walk, which took place on Sept. 10, began on the National Mall with a brief opening program before walkers crossed the Potomac River bound for the Pentagon. In addition to a patriotic program featuring opera singer Denyse Graves, beams of white light shone from the building's center courtyard honoring the people who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon.
This year’s America Supports You Freedom Walk will be held on the morning of Sept. 9 and will look similar to its predecessors. Walkers will begin at the Lincoln Memorial and walk to the Pentagon, where, as in years past, they will enjoy a patriotic program.
Those interested in participating in the national walk can register through the America Supports You Freedom Walk Web site, www.americasupportsyou.mil/freedomwalk. The site also helps people find Freedom Walks near their communities and provides information on how to organize Freedom Walks.
A list of registered walks and when they’re taking place can be found on the Freedom Walk Web site.