More than 1,200 Fort Meade service members kicked off a month of Sexual Assault Awareness Month activities with a 3-mile run through the installation on Friday morning.

The Joint Service Sexual Assault Awareness Day of Action Community Run began a monthlong dedication to addressing and working to prevent sexual assault and harassment in the military.

Each year, April is dedicated to heightening awareness of the crime, as well as informing the community of services offered and encouraging victims to use the resources.

"We ran this morning as a symbol of our unity and our commitment towards combating sexual assault and harassment in our military," Garrison Commander Col. Brian P. Foley said.

Foley and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Thomas J. Latter kicked off the event with the signing of the Sexual Assault Awareness Month proclamation in the McGlachlin Parade Field gazebo.

"Sexual harassment and assault must be stopped in our ranks," Foley said. "We all have personal responsibilities in this fight."

The 12 Fort Meade units, which stood in formation along the parade field, began marching toward English Avenue shortly after Reveille at 6:30 a.m to start the 3-mile run.

Led by a fire truck, as well as Foley and Latter, service members ran through the installation carrying unit flags and singing cadences.

Runners arrived back at the parade field around 7 a.m. They momentarily returned to their formations before crowding around the gazebo for remarks from Foley, who discussed Sexual Assault Awareness Month and Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is also commemorated in April.

"As we go through this month, also think about our children," Foley said. "Our children are the future of this nation, of our world. Every child deserves to grow up in an environment free of abuse."

Foley said the run was held to show the military?'s unity and commitment against sexual assault and harassment.

"They are cancers that literally attack the very fibers of our strength and our unity that we need so deeply in our military," he said. "This month we take time out to pay special attention and focus on this cancer."

Everybody has the responsibility to check their own actions in their daily lives and to inform others if they experience or see the problem, Foley said.

"Every human being deserves to come to work and live their lives free of fear," he said. "Assault and harassment do nothing but create fear in other human beings."

Page last updated Mon April 14th, 2014 at 14:00