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Community honors those who serve

Freedom Walk 2009

POSTED: September 14, 2009 10:54 a.m.
Photo by Denise Etheridge/

Freedom Walk participants pose under a large American flag for a photograph.

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Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001? It seems every American old enough to remember the terrorist attack on the nation has an answer. Those who participated in Thursday’s Freedom Walk on Fort Stewart were no different.
The annual Freedom Walk, organized by Fort Stewart Emergency Services Department Director James Hackney and Terry Middleton, commemorates the tragedies of Sept. 11. First responders and military members were honored for sacrifices made then and now as a result of Sept. 11.
Fort Stewart Police Chief Jim Sykes said along with remembering the victims of Sept. 11, honoring the heroism shown by first responders, police officers and the “average citizens who tried to help,” also should be commemorated.
“It (Sept. 11 observance) brings us back to that day, to what we were doing,” Sykes said.
Sykes was an active duty soldier stationed in Germany eight years ago when the Pentagon and Twin Towers were hit by terrorist planes.
“Everything was at a hush,” he said, remembering how his co-workers reacted to the news broadcast. “I had some friends at the Pentagon that day. It was an emotional time, a significant event.
“I was in Indianapolis, Ind., heading into my recruiting station,” said 1st Sgt. Richard Knott of the 3rd Signal Company, Division Special Troops Battalion, 3rd ID.
Knott, who was then an Army recruiter, said the attack spurred many young people to enlist.
“I was in high school,” said Capt. Kevin Beatty of Division Special Troops Battalion – Headquarters Headquarters Service Company. “They (teachers) completely stopped everything and put on the TV news.
“When I got home after seeing the news the first thing I did was call my mom,” said Lt. Col. Nora Marcos, who was at Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., on Sept. 11. “She was crying.” Marcos is a division special troops battalion commander.
“The Freedom Walk is a way of keeping their (victims) memory alive,” said Audrey McGirt, who works in the Liberty County finance department. “Many people lost their loved ones. It’s a way to let people around the country know we still care. It’s a way to reach out.”
Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo spoke about the shared sorrow he saw publicly expressed the day of the attacks. Cucolo was in Washington, D.C., eight years ago.
“I drove home through Old Town Alexandria that evening,” Cucolo said. “People were standing outside on the street holding lit candles.”
Cucolo said despite the differing view points and diverse ethnicities among Americans, the Sept. 11 attacks united us all.
The message the United States conveyed to America’s enemies in the tragedies’ aftermath, he said, was, “If you choose to take us on, we will rise up as one.”
Cucolo said soldiers and first responders have much in common. Both place others’ lives before their own, he said.
Following speeches by Cucolo, Hinesville Mayor Pro-Tem Charles Frasier and Liberty County Commission Chairman John McIver, a banner signing ceremony was held.
The banner led the way for the roughly 200 people who marched in this year’s Freedom Walk.
 

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