Thousands to Participate in Third National Freedom Walk
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 7, 2007 Thousands have indicated their desire to commemorate the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, and support the nation’s troops by walking in the third annual America Supports You Freedom Walk here Sept. 9.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
“I think more than ever, our military men and women need to know that we support them,” said Stephanie Linder, the national Freedom Walk coordinator. “It’s really meant to just show thanks for these people that are day in and day out putting their necks on the line for our freedoms.”
Today, with just hours to go before online registration closes at 6 p.m., more than 8,000 people had registered to walk from the Lincoln Memorial to the Pentagon. The walk, which will begin at 9 a.m., will conclude in the Pentagon south parking lot with a musical tribute by the Harlem Gospel Choir. Those wishing to attend the musical tribute must be registered and participate in the walk.
Across the country, 229 similar walks will be held in all 50 states and 10 countries around the world. That’s nearly 100 more than last year, Linder said.
“I think that shows … American citizens here within the country and American citizens all over the world are remembering the day … and extending their support to our (military) men and women,” she said.
The story behind each walk is as unique as the walks themselves. In Baton Rouge, La., Dani Lamona is organizing a Freedom Walk in honor of her brother Scott, a member of the U.S. Navy who died at the Pentagon.
In Bowling Green, Ohio, the terrorist attacks inspired longtime National Guardsman Chris McKinney to find his way to the Pentagon shortly after Sept. 11, 2001. Once there, he helped with rescue efforts. On Sept. 8, McKinney, his town’s walk coordinator, will host a walk with the Bowling Green AM Rotary Club, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
In Colorado Springs, the Beacon of Hope Outreach Center is organizing its second annual Freedom Walk at the Fort Carson Army post. Participants will include Cheryl McGuiness, wife of Tom McGuiness, the pilot of American Airlines Flight 11 that hit one of the World Trade Center towers; author, radio host and comedian Ken Davis; and best-selling author Stephan Mansfield. Country singers Aaron Lines, Tammy Cochran, and the Kory Brunson Band will perform.
Linder said a lot of eyes are still on Colton Lockner, 10, who organized a Freedom Walk for his town of Sebring, Ohio, last year that drew 2,001 of the town’s nearly 5,000 residents. Lockner has organized Sebring’s second walk this year and has enlisted the talents of 13-year-old Nashville Star winner Jesse Galchick to perform after the walk.
“We also have another stellar student, Joey Rizzolo, who is in Paramus, N.J., who also is expecting tons of people to come out to his walk,” Linder said of the 13-year-old. “He’s written a book for other students on how to host their own Freedom Walks.”
While the national walk is shaping up to be the largest walk by numbers, Linder said Beacon of Hope Outreach Center’s walk may just be the biggest local walk this year.
More information on the national America Supports You Freedom Walk, how to participate or how to register a local walk, is available on the America Supports You Freedom Walk Web site, www.americasupportsyou.com/freedomwalk/.