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Chicago Emphasizes Unity, Remembrance in Freedom Walk

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

CHICAGO, Sept. 10, 2006 – Unity and remembrance emerged as the resounding themes of today’s Freedom Walk here.

Hundreds of Chicagoans braved a cold morning rain to remember the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks on the United States and to honor the nation’s veterans and first responders, past and present.

Master of ceremonies Dave Kupcinet, grandson of renowned Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv “Kup” Kupcinet, set the tone. “We don’t have to watch the news long to hear stories about issues which divide us,” he said. “We constantly hear words like ‘partisan,’ ‘polarized,’ ‘divided’ and ‘split.’ But I tell you that this is where our nation’s strength rides. We’ve been divided before. In fact, since the founding of this country, there has never been a time when Americans have not been divided over an issue. Yet, as Americans, what unites us has always been stronger than what divides us.”

Kupcinet noted an undercurrent of animosity in today’s divisions and warned that it doesn’t serve the nation well.

“Disagreement is good for us as long as we remember that what unites us as a nation will always outweigh that which divides us. … And tomorrow, of all days, we should remember that we are all Americans.”

On the eve of the fifth anniversary of the terror attacks, Kupcinet recalled the nation’s unity in the immediate aftermath. “For a time, there was no democrat, no republican, no liberal, no conservative. For a time, all that mattered was helping each other. For a time, we were all simply Americans. So, after the speeches today, and after the walk and once you leave here, please remember that and do not treat your fellow Americans with animosity. Tomorrow is a day for us to unite, to focus not on our divisions, but on that which we have in common.”

Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn summed up the Freedom Walk’s goals.

“All of us who are gathered here today who are going to walk, we walk in remembrance -- remembrance of those innocent victims of 9/11 in 2001 who lost their lives, in remembrance and in honor of the first responders who went in when danger was greatest to rescue people and save people, in honor of the men and women who answered the call to duty to defend our democracy and go forward in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world to prevail over terrorism. We honor their service.”

Quinn said he attended the funeral in southern Illinois yesterday of Army Sgt. Matthew J. Vosbein, who was killed Aug. 29 by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

“It was his second tour of duty,” Quinn said. “He had two children; he was told he did not have to go a second time to Iraq. But he wanted to be there with his comrades, with his fellow soldiers. He lost his life less than a month from when he was going to be coming home. And in that great, sad day yesterday, at that very, very sad funeral, we honor not only Sergeant Vosbein, but (also) all of the soldiers of Illinois and our country who have given their lives since 9/11.

“We honor their service,” Quinn continued. “They had servants hearts. They are the embodiment of what Isaiah said in the Old Testament -- they are oaks of righteousness.”

Quinn said every citizen’s duty every day is to be an oak of righteousness for democracy. “We must, as citizens, walk together today and inspire all of our fellow Americans that being a citizen in this democracy is the greatest gift that God could give us,” he said. “And as we band together and walk today, we shall remember always the victims, the innocent victims of 9/11. We remember always those men and women, those first responders, who inspired all Americans with their heroism on 9/11 and the days thereafter. And we remember always the men and women in uniform who gave, as Abraham Lincoln said, their last full measure of devotion to our democracy.”

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.

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