<b>FORT STEWART, Ga.</b> - The 5th Annual Freedom Walk at Fort Stewart commemorated the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the sacrifices made by servicemembers since that day.

The message expressed by Soldiers and first responders - police, paramedics and firefighters - who participated in Freedom Walk 2010 at Fort Stewart, Sept. 10, was that the walk is not - and never will be - a celebration, because freedom comes at great costs, which are usually paid for by military, law enforcement and other emergency personnel.

No American living today was there when our forefathers prevailed against the mightiest military in the world at that time (1775-1783), winning for us the freedoms some Americans now take for granted. Only a few Americans living today remember the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941, and the bloody war that followed, in which nearly 500,000 American servicemembers gave their lives to preserve our freedom.

Most of us remember the attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Sept. 11, 2001 - vicious, unprovoked attacks that took the lives of 2,972 innocent civilians and 55 military personnel.

According to www.militarytimes.com/valor/, another 5,668 servicemen have since died in Operations Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Each of the 434 Soldiers of the 3rd Infantry Division and attached units who were killed in OEF/OIF is represented by an Eastern Redbud tree at Warriors Walk.

This year's Freedom Walk began with the Star Spangled Banner and an invocation, followed by comments from first responders, including fire and police chiefs from Fort Stewart, Liberty County, Riceboro, Midway, Eastern District, Lake George and Wathourville. Some of these first responders and installation leaders - Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Phillips, 3rd ID deputy commanding general-rear; Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Ashmen, 3rd ID command sergeant major-rear; Col. Kevin Milton, Stewart-Hunter garrison commander; and Command Sgt. Maj. James Ervin, Stewart-Hunter garrison command sergeant major - carried the "From our Heroes to your Heroes!" banner during the walk. Hinesville Mayor James Thomas and city councilmen also participated. The walk began with the firing of a 75mm Pack Howitzer by Battleking Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, 3rd ID.

In addition to American symbols of freedom like Lady Liberty, the Liberty Bell and the 3rd ID patch, the banner included a quote by Albert Einstein: "The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who didn't do anything about it."

Hundreds of Soldiers and Family Members participated in the walk, some with babies in strollers, others with dogs on leashes. They walked a route that began at the corner of 6th Street and Gulick Avenue. The participants marched down Gulick, passing by Warriors Walk, on to Vanguard then Bundy then back to 6th Street. Their participation in the walk not only commemorated the attacks of 9/11 and the sacrifices made since that time; their participation also sent a message to the "evil" people in the world that they and millions of Americans like them are willing to prevent future attacks on this country.

Emergency response vehicles lined both sides of 6th Street, including a 1941 Ford Darley fire engine recently acquired and restored by the Stewart-Hunter Directorate of Logistics. According to Pat Young, Fort Stewart Public Affairs, firemen from around the country donated parts to help restore the old fire engine.

Throughout the walk, participants cheered each other on and maintained a steady pace. As they marched, a large-screen "Marne-tron" displayed footage of the 9/11 attacks, reminding them of the horror of the attack - which no American should ever forget.

A Freedom Walk scheduled for Sept. 11 at Hunter was cancelled due to a threatening thunderstorm.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16