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America Supports You: Freedom Walk Nears 200 Mark Nationwide

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2007 – In 46 states across the country, 188 groups are planning Freedom Walks to be held in conjunction with the national America Supports You Freedom Walk planned for Sept. 9 here.

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 Aug. 28, 3,200 people had registered to walk in this year’s national Freedom Walk, part of a series of events commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

“All along we’ve been about 100-plus people (ahead of last year),” said Stephanie Linder, national Freedom Walk coordinator.

In addition to the 188 walks scheduled around the country, six are planned in overseas locations, Linder said. A group of Army wives in Schweinfurt, Germany, registered the first overseas walk.

The Navy Operational Support Center at Santa Rita, Guam, and the Al Asad Morale, Welfare and Recreation office in Iraq are organizing Freedom Walks, Linder added. So are the Vicenza Health Center in Vicenza, Italy, an MWR office in Kuwait, and schools in Yokosuka, Japan, and Seoul, South Korea.

Linder said she welcomes organizers to register their walks as late as Sept. 10.

“I know there are so many … out there that people just haven’t registered,” she said. “We don’t have a way of knowing about them unless they register.”

The students of Zachary Elementary School in Zachary, La., made sure their walk was registered and for good reason. Not only will their walk commemorate and honor the lives lost on Sept. 11, they’ll be saying “Thanks” to their principal, a Louisiana Army National Guardsman.

Capt. Patrick Jenkins has served as the school’s principal for four years, though he’s only been in the building for about a quarter of that time. In 2002, he served in Afghanistan. He was called back to active duty to assist in New Orleans during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Now he and his unit are preparing for an upcoming deployment to Iraq.

The walk will include the high school band, and Junior ROTC cadets will present the colors. Students will carry photos or names of those they wish to honor, said Ashley Singleton, a teacher at the school and one of the walk’s organizers. Jenkins’ daughter, a student at the school, will carry a photo of her father, she said.

Singleton said she has her own reasons for being passionate about the walk. Her husband is a soldier in the Inactive Ready Reserve who returned from Iraq just last month.

“I believe everything happens for a reason,” she said. “Although his recall to active duty was hard, I feel it happened so that I can help others - especially young students - cope with deployment.”

More than 15,000 walkers participated in the inaugural Freedom Walk on Sept. 11, 2005, 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, beams of white light shone from the building’s center courtyard honoring the people who lost their lives in the attack on 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 proceed to the Pentagon, where they will enjoy a patriotic program featuring the Harlem Gospel Choir and military musicians.

For those wishing to participate in the national America Supports You Freedom Walk, the deadline to register is 6 p.m. Sept. 7. Walkers can register through the America Supports You Freedom Walk Web site, www.americasupportsyou.mil/freedomwalk. The site also includes a link to registered walks around the country so visitors can locate walks near their communities. It also includes information on how people can organize a walk if none is yet scheduled in their area.

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