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Rain Fails to Dampen Spirits at Chicago Freedom Walk

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

CHICAGO, Sept. 10, 2006 – Hundreds of people braved a cold rain in Chicago’s Freedom Walk here today, drawn by the chance to make a statement in remembering the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and honoring the nation’s past and present servicemembers.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Hundreds brave a cold morning rain for Chicago’s Freedom Walk Sept. 10. Photo by John D. Banusiewicz

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Chicago is the largest among more than 200 American cities and towns to host a Freedom Walk.

This and similar events yesterday, today and tomorrow are patterned after tonight’s national Freedom Walk in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Defense Department’s America Supports You program. America Supports You spotlights ways the American people and the corporate sector support the nation’s men and women in uniform.

Though the weather clearly kept the number of participants down, those who turned out weren’t going to let anything get in their way.

“I would have come if there was a blizzard outside,” said Ed Manowsky, of Downer’s Grove, Ill., who walked with his wife and teenage children. “I was going to be here one way or the other. I brought my whole family; they were all willing to get up nice and early this morning and drive into the city.”

Manowsky said his family attends as many troop-support rallies as possible, even though they have no relatives serving. But that doesn’t mean they don’t know who they’re supporting. The family sends packages to and corresponds with several deployed servicemembers they’ve been paired with by Operation Military Pride.

Eric Brendel, of Chicago, the third generation of his family to have served in the Marines, also said his decision to participate in the Freedom Walk was made as soon as he heard about it, and he wasn’t going to let the rain keep him away.

“I have family that is currently serving over in Afghanistan, and this is something that comes close to my heart, being a former Marine myself,” he said. “This is for them, and for remembering the people of Sept. 11.”

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said the Freedom Walk provided an opportunity “for people to come together as a community.”

“That’s really what Illinois is -- we’re a community of shared values,” he said. “And our foremost value in the Land of Lincoln is our belief in democracy. Abraham Lincoln said, ‘Government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the Earth.’ And I think on the eve of 9/11, the people should thank God for the gift -- the divine gift -- of democracy. And we have to band together in our country to make sure that we are always there to protect democracy.”

Quinn said the highest office in a democracy is that of citizen. “And in taking on terrorism, we all have a role to play,” he said.

Eric Schuller, Quinn’s senior policy advisor, was involved in organizing the Freedom Walk and also invoked Lincoln in noting that while the weather kept some people from participating, the spirit of the city and the state of Illinois is clear.

“The people of Chicago and the people of Illinois, we have what I think is a strong will,” he said. “It’s part of being in the Land of Lincoln. The people are here today, and we know we’re going to prevail over terrorism.”

Schuller cited two groups: Operation Homefront and Operation Support Our Troops Illinois -- through which, on a day-to-day basis, citizens and businesses in Illinois work hard to support the nation’s servicemembers. “Two years ago, we had a soldier from Wheaton, Ill. -- Sgt. Joel Gomez, a quadriplegic -- (for whom) the town of Wheaton rallied together and bought a house for him. Every time we put a basic call out, I’m just totally amazed by the overwhelming support that people respond to us with.”

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Related Sites:
Freedom Walk
America Supports You

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America Supports You: Chicago Gears Up for Sept. 10 Freedom Walk

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