By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2006 – A veteran Utah Army National Guardsman from Salt Lake City is coordinating efforts to hold the municipality's first Freedom Walk. Salt Lake City's Freedom Walk is slated for the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Chief Warrant Officer Paul Holton, an Army interrogator, said.
"It's important for people to remember how we felt that day," Holton said. It's also important to honor military veterans, especially those who've given their lives safeguarding freedom, he added. Holton is working to get sponsors and publicity for his city's Freedom Walk. He hopes for thousands of participants, but acknowledged, "If I get 500, I'll be happy, too."
Salt Lake City's mile-and-a-half-long Freedom Walk will be conducted downtown and will kick off at 11:30 a.m., Holton said. Formal registration isn't required, and participants will be provided commemorative T-shirts.
Similar Freedom Walks are scheduled around the country to remember those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 and to honor America's military veterans, past and present. The local events around the country parallel the Washington, D.C., Freedom Walk scheduled Sept. 10 and sponsored by the Defense Department's America Supports You program. America Supports You spotlights ways the American people and the nation's corporate sector support U.S. servicemembers. The Pentagon sponsored the first America Supports You Freedom Walk, in the Washington, D.C., area, in 2005.
Holton founded Operation Give, which is affiliated with DoD's ASY program, in October 2003. The group supports children in war-torn and natural disaster-affected areas of the world. Operation Give has provided toys, medical supplies and other items to children in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iraq. "We're providing whatever is needed for kids in crisis," Holton said. The U.S. military distributes much of the material, most of it in Iraq, he said.
Holton is a 36-year veteran of the Utah National Guard. He served during the 1990-91 Gulf War and also saw duty in Iraq from February 2003 to March 2004. Holton wrote a book, "Saving Babylon: The Heart of An Army Interrogator in Iraq," about his experiences in Iraq, which included a stint as an interrogator of captured Iraqi generals.
Most Iraqis are very happy and grateful that Saddam Hussein was deposed, Holton said. Yet, he acknowledged that violence continues there. Holton said he is a firm believer of confronting global terrorism and said it's imperative for the United States to stay the course in Iraq. "It's extremely important the American people unite under the cause of supporting the troops and fighting the war on terrorism," he said.
Information for people interested in organizing Freedom Walk observances in their communities is available at the America Supports You Freedom Walk Web site.