By J.D. LeipoldAugust 17, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Aug. 17, 2007) - Soldier-mom Marcia Hawkins and nine others will start a seven day, 400-mile walk from Deerfield, Mass., to Washington, D.C., Sunday to let America's military know the country appreciates their service - whatever branch, wherever stationed.
Dubbed "Walk a Mile for a Soldier," Ms. Hawkins hatched the idea after talking with her Soldier-son, Sgt. Cary Hawkins, who is serving in Iraq but slated to return home this fall. She was also receiving emails, letters and phone calls from his fellow Soldiers who she says she's adopted since her son enlisted four years ago.
"Based on all the interaction I was having with them, I got the feeling that they felt unappreciated based on what they were hearing in the media," Ms. Hawkins said. "Another reason I wanted to do this was because one of my son's friends, who had spent Thanksgiving with us and was close to our family, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in March."
The response by the public to her venture has been almost overwhelming, and what she set out to achieve is already happening though the walk hasn't started.
"We haven't even left yet and the outpouring of support we're getting already is exactly the essence of our mission," she said. "What I hope to accomplish and what I hope comes out of this is that I want to create a ground swell of support, of thanks and of gratitude to all our Soldiers and our entire military."
Ms. Hawkins' campaign has generated calls from National Guard Soldiers who aren't currently activated or deployed, from Vietnam veterans, mothers of deployed Soldiers and even from people who don't have any Family or friends in the military but wanted to let military members know they support them.
"We've actually had a few inquiries from people who want to join our battalion for the walk," she said. "I even had one Vietnam vet who is in a wheelchair tell me that while he didn't think he could make it all the way to DC, he could sure do a few miles. I thought, God bless him; it shook me to my core. He epitomized the will of the American Soldier to just do whatever it takes to get the job done."
Ms. Hawkins said she believes a lot of people will come out along the route, and she hopes they bring signs, flags, yellow ribbons and wave to the marchers as they pass.
"My fantasy would be to compile this into a video, a slide show and maybe some sort of publication that we can send to the Soldiers to show them that, yes, America is behind you," she said. "This march is to thank the military, all branches, past, present and future, so we are dedicating it to our fallen Soldiers, their Families and to let them know they will never be forgotten. I'm not a mother stomping her way down to D.C. because her son had to deploy to Iraq. I'm marching because I'm an American and I want to support the troops - it's kind of like a big hug from us to them."
The march will start from the South Deerfield Fire Station with a rally, then the battalion will follow Route 5 through Connecticut, around New York City and into New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Md., and D.C. on the final day.