By Samantha L. Quigley
WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2006 – Simi Valley, Calif. -- home of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library -- is planning a Freedom Walk to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and to show the community's support for the nation's servicemembers. "Simi Valley is a very patriotic city," said Debbie Gregory, one of the event's planners. "We respect our troops, and we want to show our support, and what a wonderful way to be able to do it."
Gregory is president of Military Connection, an Internet-based resource of information for servicemembers and their families, and a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program. Military Connection and the Reagan Library are co-hosting the nearly two-mile walk that will take place Sept. 11 at 5 p.m., Gregory said.
As of this morning, 112 similar Freedom Walks are scheduled in 49 states and the District of Columbia 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 DoD's America Supports You program. America Supports You spotlights ways the American people and the nation's corporate sector support U.S. servicemembers.
With help of local businesses and civic organizations, the Simi Valley event hosts are distributing 30,000 fliers to announce the event. Some of those fliers will go home with area schoolchildren in a packet of weekly announcements, Gregory said. "Because the Reagan (Library) is involved, and they have the reach they do, we have the ability to put them in all the packets," Gregory said. "There's no better way to reach people in a community than through their children and the packet that comes home the first week of school."
The walk will begin with an opening ceremony in the courtyard of the Reagan Library. A color guard from the Ventura County Marine Corps League and VIP speakers are scheduled to participate, Gregory said. "We're hoping to receive confirmation from the Simi High School Band," she added. The first 500 people to arrive will receive small American flags. T-shirts purchased with cash donations from local newspapers will go to the first 750 walkers.
Water and refreshments will be available, thanks to area grocers, and the Ventura County Red Cross will be on hand to distribute the water. Shuttles, provided by an area business, also will be available to return walkers from the park below the library where the walk concludes, to their cars in the library's parking lot.
"The driveway is about a mile straight up," Gregory said. At first, organizing a Freedom Walk on a tight schedule seemed nearly impossible to Gregory. Then she realized the importance of the day.
"It's important to all those people who lost their lives, all the people fighting the war on terror," she said. "The very least we can do is put ourselves out and say, 'Hey, thank you. You're important.' "We owe the biggest sincere thanks to the people out there that are fighting this war on terror, that are keeping America safe," she added.
Information for people interested in organizing Freedom Walk observances in their communities is available at the America Supports You Freedom Walk Web site.