Freedom Walk Represents What Makes America Strong, Alderman Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
CHICAGO, Sept. 10, 2006 As hundreds of Chicagoans huddled in a cold rain in anticipation of today’s Freedom Walk here, a member of the city council told them that while the weather may have kept their numbers down, their spirit and the freedoms it represents are what make America strong.
Chicago’s Freedom Walk was one of more than 120 such events scheduled in all 50 states yesterday, today and tomorrow to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to honor the nation’s past and present servicemembers.
Ward 11 Alderman James Balcer, a former Marine decorated for his service in Vietnam, thanked the Freedom Walk participants for turning out despite the weather.
“I’ve been to a lot of ceremonies in my 25 years with the veterans,” he said, “And I’ve always said whether it’s one person or 1,000 standing there, it’s important. It shows that our democracy works -- freedom of speech, freedom to assemble, freedom of the press. This is what has made our nation strong.”
Balcer said Sept. 11 is as important a day in American history as Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and thrust the United States into World War II.
“As then, we are fighting a very determined enemy,” he said. “They will stop at nothing to destroy our democracy and our great nation and other nations that are freedom-loving countries.”
The lessons of 9/11, he said, are simple. “Our nation must stay always prepared,” he said. “Military preparedness, military awareness, keeping our military strong and vital.”
Retired Army Lt. Col. Ryan Yantis, who was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and subsequently was decorated for his actions following the terrorist attack, told the Chicago Freedom Walkers that Americans are known for having an open mind and being tolerant of diverse beliefs, but the same can’t be said for the nation’s enemies.
“Five years ago,” he said, “there were people who tried to destroy us as a nation, as a people, and as a way of life. They don’t like our culture; they don’t like the way we think; they don’t like the freedoms that we give and take for granted.
“They don’t like who we are or how we are,” he continued. “They just don’t like us. That’s OK, until they cross the line and they try to kill us.”
Terrorists tried to take the United States down on Sept. 11, 2001, Yantis said. “They were not successful,” he added, “nor will they ever be successful. They bring nothing positive or new. They want to retreat a number of centuries and create a mythical kingdom that never existed. They had to steal our technology to hurt us.”
Yantis emphasized the need for resolve, courage and unity in facing down the enemy.
“We must move forward united, without political bickering, without squabbling,” he said. “We must deal with the terrorists and terrorism as a full-spectrum problem. It is not for the military to solve alone. We must engage economic, social and cultural means to reach those that we can, and then we’ll have to deal with those that we cannot.”
Chicago is the largest among more than 120 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.