By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
June 20, 2007 – As the sixth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks approaches, America Supports You is gearing up for its third annual Freedom Walk on Sept. 9 in the nation's capital. America Supports You is a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with military personnel and their families serving at home and abroad.
The inaugural America Supports You Freedom Walk, created by Pentagon employees to commemorate the attack on the building and honor all the lives lost on 9/11, was held Sept. 11, 2005. Since then, the America Supports You Freedom Walk's message has remained consistent.
"The Freedom Walk continues to be our country's way to commemorate the lives lost on 9/11 -- to really embrace the families and let them know we haven't forgotten about their loss," said Allison Barber, deputy secretary of defense for internal communication and public liaison. "(It's also) to honor our veterans past and present and really recommit ourselves to freedom and what that means to each person on their own level."
Last year, Barber's hope was that a Freedom Walk would take place in every state. While there was at least one walk in each state, no two walks were exactly alike. And that, she said, is precisely the way it should be.
"I really want to communicate to people that Freedom Walks don't have to be complicated. They don't have to be expansive," she said.
In San Diego, the walk was conducted on an open course, and walkers could participate as their schedule allowed. Walkers in St. Louis all wore yellow T-shirts and formed a human "yellow ribbon" in centerfield at Busch Stadium.
The differences were evident right down to the organizers. America Supports You home-front groups organized most of the walks. However, in Sebring, Ohio, Colton Lockner, then 9, organized a walk for more than 2,000 of his town's nearly 5,000 residents.
It's already evident that this year's walks will be as varied as those in the past. In fact, Barber said, a shopping mall is planning a walk for people who walk the mall for exercise.
That's just one of the more than 80 walks in the works so far for this September's observance.
"I think it's important for the American people to know that whatever moment they create in their communities, their schools, their corporations ... is important, because it's all about remembering and honoring," Barber said.
More than 15,000 walkers participated in the 2005 inaugural walk to remember those who lost their lives and honor the nation's veterans. That walk began at the Pentagon and ended on the National Mall with a performance by country singer Clint Black.
The 2006 America Supports You Freedom Walk, which took place on Sept. 10, began on the National Mall with a brief opening program before walkers crossed the Potomac River bound for the Pentagon. In addition to a patriotic program featuring opera singer Denyse Graves, beams of white light shone from the building's center courtyard honoring the people who lost their lives when American Airlines Flight 77 was flown into the Pentagon.
This year's America Supports You Freedom Walk will be held on the morning of Sept. 9 and will look similar to its predecessors. Walkers will begin at the Lincoln Memorial and walk to the Pentagon, where, as in years past, they will enjoy a patriotic program.
Those interested in participating in the national walk can register through the America Supports You Freedom Walk Web site, www.americasupportsyou.mil/freedomwalk. The site also helps people find Freedom Walks near their communities, and provides information on how to organize a Freedom Walk.