FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Several hundred service members and community members came together Sept. 10 to walk a mile to honor the 2,993 victims killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and to support American service members, during the Freedom Walk 2010 event hosted by U.S. Army North at the historic Quadrangle here.
Under floodlights in the pre-dawn darkness, Lt. Gen. Guy Swan III, commanding general, U.S. Army North and Fort Sam Houston, spoke to those attending the event about the importance of the Freedom Walk and remembering the events of 9/11.
"September 11, 2001, is a day in which we all remember where we were that day," said Swan. "The first freedom walk I remember is Sept. 11, 2002, when the Pentagon opened back up - and it was a somber day as we remembered all those who lost their lives."
Swan also thanked the service members from throughout Fort Sam Houston for their service to the Nation.
"It's an honor and privilege to protect this nation's freedoms and be protected, every day, by people like you," Swan said.
The solemn procession of walkers, carrying guidons, banners and remembrances, traced Staff Post Road around to Liscum Road and S-6-N Road before heading back to the Quadrangle on North New Braunfels Ave.
Freedom Walk 2010 at Fort Sam Houston, one of three walks held in Texas, was a cooperative effort with Army North, said Amy Palmer, chief operating officer and co-founder, Operation Homefront.
Operation Homefront is a national non-profit organization headquartered in San Antonio. It coordinates for walks such as this around the country to honor the victims of 9/11 and to reflect on the freedoms Americans have and to pay tribute to its veterans, past and present. It provides emergency financial and other assistance to the families of service members and wounded warriors.
"Operation Homefront is grateful for the participation of Army North in this year's Freedom Walk," Palmer said. "This year's Freedom Walk is about Americans from all walks of life re-committing ourselves to freedom, and there is no better place to do that than at the foot of Fort Sam Houston's Quadrangle, where the defenders of our Nation's freedom have stood sentry for over 130 years. This event is part of a continuing partnership between Operation Homefront and Army North, and we are proud to provide emergency financial and other assistance to the military families who make Fort Sam their home."
For many at the event, the walk was a way to try and make sense of the tragedy of 9/11 in addition to being proud of their service.
"To me, Freedom Walk shows unity, pride and remembrance," said 1st Sgt. David Roels, Operations Company, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, Army North.
Roels, a native of Sparta, Wis., and veteran of multiple deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, said everything changed after 9/11.
"I had just completed a 12-mile foot march in Hawaii when the towers were hit," Roels said. "I remember sitting in front of the company when a staff duty noncommissioned officer told us a plane just flew into the World Trade Center. We were all exhausted and figured it was a freak accident. Then the second plane hit, and then the Pentagon was hit. Instantly, our lives changed."
Sgt. 1st Class Barney Muller, who carried the battalion colors for HHBn, Army North, said he remembered 9/11 vividly.
"I was at Fort Bragg, N.C.; we have just finished a field exercise, and I was in bed sleeping when I got a phone call recalling me to the company," Muller said. "Shortly afterward, we were stood up and deployed to Washington, D.C."
As Americans, he said, people take their freedoms and comforts for granted at times. The walk, he added, serves as a way to remind people of what they have and that there are still wars being waged.
"It is very important to remember 9/11," Muller said. "We are so advanced that we tend to forget there's a world out there."
The walk provided those gathered a moment away from their day-to-day lives to think about 9/11 and to consider what it means, said Roels.
"We all must remember what it felt like that day - what it feels like to be attacked," he said. "We need to remember, not in anger or prejudice, but in reflection."