By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 12, 2008 - Significance is meaningless without sacrifice. That was the message more than 100 people heard yesterday after completing Sebring's third annual America Supports You Freedom Walk.
"It's so painful, but we need to remember," said Scott Warner, who fought to maintain his composure. "Today, we come together to remember all the lives that were lost at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, Flight 93 and all the troops that have fought for freedom since then. Those freedoms were paid for with the lives of others few of us actually knew."
Those cowardly acts perpetrated by terrorists prompted new heroes, including his son, to step forward and defend the United States, Warner said.
Marine Pvt. Heath Warner was killed Nov. 22, 2006, while serving in Iraq's Anbar province. He deployed to Iraq two years ago yesterday, and his father said he remembers that day as a "bittersweet time of fond last memories."
"It was a day of last phone calls, last texts, and the day that I began to endlessly worry about a son going to war," Warner, of Canton, Ohio, said. "I will remember my son, today, as a hero."
Americans certainly should take time to remember their servicemembers, but others deserve that courtesy as well, Mark Lowman, a Sebring Police officer, said.
"Take time to remember the 2,996 lives that perished at Ground Zero due to terrorism," he said. "Remember your thoughts, your feelings of shock, pain, helplessness and anger throughout the days and weeks that followed."
Lowman noted the national unity that followed the attacks.
"Remember, at that particular, time we weren't considering ourselves Ohioans, Pennsylvanians, New Yorkers or District of Columbians. We were Americans," Lowman said. "Remember that at that particular time, there were no color barriers. The only colors that we really recognized were the red, white and blue."
Another speaker, Rick Mirenzi of The Veterans Connection, echoed Lowman's sentiment and said the Freedom Walk participants were displaying America's true power.
"One of the things that I heard this week is there's nothing more powerful than the heart of a volunteer, and that's why I know terrorists can never win in this country," he said. "I would encourage you to never let events like this [Freedom Walk] die."
Colton Lockner, 11, who organized this and Sebring's first two America Supports You Freedom Walks, said he does it because people in places like Ohio, where none of the terror attacks took place, need to keep the memory alive.
"My Freedom Walk helps people remember the lives lost on that day and how it was a national tragedy," he said. "[The attacks were] so far away, and people forget. They just won't remember."
Lockner, now in sixth grade, recently moved from his hometown of Sebring to Lake Milton, about 20 minutes away, but he said he never thought twice about organizing the third walk. In fact, he geared up and got nearly 300 residents of his new town walking to commemorate the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and to honor veterans past and present, with a walk Sept. 10.
His mom, Robyn, who has served as her son's de facto secretary during the planning of all of the walks, cited the distance between the two towns as the biggest obstacle.
"We spent a lot of money going back and forth for door prizes from businesses in both places, fliers, advertising in both places," she said. "This year we utilized the fax machine and e-mail a lot more, especially with the two walks in two cities."
She said her son's desire to maintain the walk in Sebring was supported by his former school and village council members.
"That kind of gave him the driving force," she said. "He started the tradition. He started it here. This is his hometown. This is where he wanted to continue."
The Sebring and Lake Milton walks were part of more than 300 America Supports You Freedom Walks held across the country to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
America Supports You is a Defense Department program that connects citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.