Story by: Carlos Cuebas, Fort Buchanan Public Affairs Officer
FORT BUCHANAN, PUERTO RICO- Service members, civilians, and family members conducted a road march around the perimeter road here on Sept. 9 as part of the Patriot Day and National Day of Service and Remembrance, to honor the 9/11 victims by carrying non-perishable food on their rucksacks.
"This anniversary also serves as an opportunity to encourage citizens to pay tribute to the victims by participating in good deeds, contributing to food drives, helping refurbish homes in their communities, or doing something to support and honor veterans, soldiers, military families, and first responders. It is a time to remember by serving," said Col. Charles N. Moulton, Commander of Fort Buchanan, the only U.S. Army installation in the Caribbean region.
Before departing for the road march, Fort Buchanan Department of Emergency Services members conducted a bell ringing ceremony to honor the first responders and how their courage embodies the spirit and resilience of our nation.
Brig. Gen. Carlos Torres-Febus, Puerto Rico’s National Guard Land Component Commander, led the Puerto Rico National Guard formation during the road march.
"9/11 will live in our memories forever. However, some soldiers in this formation were very young that day. Others were not even born. That is why we cannot let this anniversary pass without reflecting on and teaching our children about what happened that fateful day and the freedom we still enjoy despite the terrorists' efforts," said Brig. Gen. Torres-Febus before the road march started.
At the end of the 4-mile road march, the service members quickly emptied their rucksacks into pre-established containers. Quickly, Maj. Joseph Okpe, and Staff Sgt. Juan Merced, from the Fort Buchanan Religious Support Office, led a convoy to deliver the recollected food to the Puerto Rico Food Bank in Carolina.
"This is a great way to honor the spirit of service of all those victims of 9/11. That is what we are doing here, remembering their sacrifice, and serving others," said Maj. Okpe.
According to the Puerto Rico Food Bank officials, the food collected during the road march will make a huge difference to many local families.
"You have just delivered over 2,600 pounds of food, equivalent to over 2,200 servings, that will feed over 177 families from Puerto Rico for a week. Thank you to the military personnel, civilians, and families at Fort Buchanan for this great donation," said Mari Jo Laborde, Executive Director of Puerto Rico Food Bank.
According to the Puerto Rico Statistics Institute, food insecurity is a social problem in Puerto Rico that prevails in many sectors of the population.
As the Department of the Army's center of gravity in the region, Fort Buchanan serves a diverse military community comprised of approximately 15,000 Active Duty, Reserve, and National Guard soldiers, Marine Corps Reserve, and the Navy's Operational Support Center personnel.