By By Shandi Dix, Fort Riley Public AffairsSeptember 16, 2009
FORT RILEY, Kan. - It's likely that everyone who was alive eight years ago remembers exactly where they were and what they were doing on Sept. 11, 2001, when two airplanes hit the World Trade Center, another airplane hit the Pentagon and a third landed in a field in Pennsylvania.
Now, eight years later, schools across America remember those who lost their lives on that day and those who are fighting for freedom with freedom walks.
The first freedom walk held in Kansas was at Ware Elementary School in 2006.
Fort Riley Elementary students walked to Scholfield Circle, carrying flags and banners. Soldiers, including Col. John Dvoracek, deputy garrison commander for transformation, and Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Ian Mann, joined the students in their walk.
Once they reached Scholfield Circle, Dvoracek welcomed the students followed by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
Fort Riley Elementary School music teacher Greg Gooden led the school in singing "American Tears." The students spent about a week practicing this song.
Mann had Soldiers in attendance fall in formation behind him. Dressed as a Soldier, second grader Nick Mataruso was asked to stand in front of the Soldiers. Mann then spoke about what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.
"Thanks to your Family members and the Soldiers, like these right here, we are continuing to fight for the freedom that we enjoy today," Mann said. "That's the reason you walked today; was to commemorate freedom. You need to remember that.
"We are blessed in the United States, with rules like these, to be free, the land of the free. You play a big part in that by supporting your mom and dad, in supporting your teachers, in supporting each other, in doing your homework, being respectful at home, being respectful when you're at school, to not only your teachers, but the other students you go to school with, turning your homework in on time and being good people because that's what makes America great."
The school also had a spirit day contest. Every Friday students were asked to wear red, white and blue. On Sept. 11 the class which had the most participation received an award. Brittany Gray's kindergarten class had a 100 percent participation in the contest. Mann presented Gray with Buffalo Bob, a stuffed buffalo.
Mann then had Mataruso call the Soldiers to attention and dismiss them.
All schools on Fort Riley participated in freedom walks.
Morris Hill Elementary School's fifth graders spelled "Let Freedom Ring" in the chain-link fence in front of the school on Sept. 10 using red, white and blue cups.
The class did this as a real-life math problem. It took 244 white Styrofoam cups, 114 red plastic cups and 65 blue plastic cups to spell out the three words. The school plans to leave the message up as long as it will stay up.
On Sept. 11, the school population along with parents walked around the school. Each class was encouraged to make patriotic symbols to carry during the walk. They also were asked to carry a photo of a deployed parent or Family member.
A banner with the words "Never Forget" with the Big Red One symbol in front of a yellow ribbon led the school population.
Custer Hill Elementary School sang patriotic songs while walking around the school with parents. The students were asked to wear red, white and blue.
Following the walk they gathered in the school gym to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and to sing more songs.
Ware Elementary had help from the police and fire departments, Soldiers of the 1st Sustainment Brigade and the Junction City High School ROTC color guard.
Classes spent the prior week making patriotic banners to carry during their walk. The walk was led by the Fort Riley Police Department, followed by the color guard with students and Soldiers walking behind. The Fort Riley Fire Department followed the students and Soldiers.
Upon returning to the school, students had a patriotic sing-a-long. The students were then organized for a special photo. Students held red, white and blue balloons to form an American flag.