‘Human Flag’ Event Kicks Off Hampton Roads Freedom Walks
By Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Grieco, USN
Special to American Forces Press Service
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va., Sept. 11, 2006 Servicemembers from around the Hampton Roads, Va., area came together at Mount Trashmore Park here today to remember the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Sailors from the Naval Coastal Warfare Squadron 4 stand at attention while the national anthem plays at Mount Trashmore Park, in Virginia Beach, during the 9/11 Hampton Roads Remembers ceremony. More than 1,200 people attended the event to help construct a human flag and remember the tragic events that took place Sept. 11, 2001. Photo by Seaman Kiona McKissack, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
The servicemembers, along with local civic leaders and citizens, created a “human flag.” Roughly 1,200 people banded together to create the flag by holding pieces of painted cardboard over their heads.
“I’d do this every day of the week if I had a chance,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Kevin Russell, a sailor assigned to Navy Coastal Warfare Squadron 4. “You didn’t have to pull my leg to get me to come here. I’m proud to be an American today.”
Many in attendance found the massive display of pride covering the hillside to be an inspiring sight. “Seeing that flag fills me up with pride,” said Capt. Garrat Cooper, commanding officer of Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek. “What it does is solidify the liberties we enjoy every day.”
Virginia Beach Mayor Meyera Oberndorf joined Cooper and other key members of the Hampton Roads community to deliver several speeches during the opening ceremonies. The speeches were followed by a rendition of the National Anthem and a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m. to honor the lives of those who died on that tragic day.
“Three thousand people died five years ago today,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Joseph Christos, from NCWS 4. “It truly saddens me, and I’m proud to be here remembering those people.”
After the display of the human flag, a color-guard team from NCWS 4 rendered a 21-gun salute.
“Something like this is extremely honorable and humbling at the same time,” said Chief Petty Officer Joe Waldron, of NCWS 4, who led the honor guard for the ceremony. “To do something like this for our country and to represent everyone in Iraq is a great feeling. We may not be taking the bullets right now, but we can come out here and support them.”
Today’s ceremony was the kickoff of a much larger event, the Freedom Walk, the Hampton Roads community’s way of showing support to local servicemembers and all those affected by the Sept. 11th terrorist attack. All seven Hampton Roads cities, including Virginia Beach, were scheduled to host Freedom Walks today.
They are among some 130 cities across the United States hosting Freedom Walks.
(Petty Officer 3rd Class Patrick Grieco serves with Fleet Public Affairs Center Atlantic.)