Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Patently Patriotic Post of the Day (9/13/05)

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 12, 2005) – U.S. Army Reserve Master Sgt. Valerie Golowaty was among the thousands who took part in the first “America Supports You Freedom Walk” Sept. 11.

If she and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld have their way, it’ll be the inaugural one of many Freedom Walks to come.

Standing on the stage set up on the JFK Hockey Field next to the World War II Memorial, where the walk finished and from which country music star Clint Black performed a 90-minute concert for the walkers, Rumsfeld addressed the throng who sat on the grass before him.

“This was the first march for freedom,” Rumsfeld said, “Looking at the size of this crowd, I suspect it won’t be the last one.”

“I’m glad to hear that these walks will continue,” Golowaty said after she managed to get a photo taken with the Defense secretary. “I’ll walk again.”

Golowaty, a member of the Army Reserve’s 3409th Military Intelligence Detachment from Gaithersburg, Md., was called to active duty in April 2003 and is now working at the Defense Intelligence Agency, said she participated in the Freedom Walk for a couple of reasons.

“Nothing touched me like what happened on 9-11,” said native New Yorker Golowaty. “I really felt the pain that day.

“I’m also doing this for my fellow Soldiers,” she said, “especially for the ones overseas. They’re in harm’s way now. My heart also goes out to their families.”

On a day full of memories, the secretary of Defense had memories of his own. In his remarks, Rumsfeld – who had walked in today’s march – said that the last time he walked across Memorial Bridge was as a congressman in November 1963, going to Arlington National Cemetery in President John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession.

“Walking the other way today, I couldn’t help thinking of that,” he said. He went on to express his appreciation for those who took part in today’s walk.

“Thank you for your wonderful support of all our men and women serving nobly everywhere,” Rumsfeld said. “Thank you for your support of freedom.”

More than 15,000 people registered online to take part in the walk. The approximately two-mile route started at the Pentagon, went to Arlington National Cemetery, made a sharp turn across Memorial Bridge, went around the Lincoln Memorial and ended beside the Reflecting Pool.

Like the day four years ago, Sunday in Washington was beautiful, with temperatures in the low 80s and a clear blue sky overhead.

The marchers included members of all of the Armed Forces and family members, civilian employees of the military and people with no ties to the military, small children and senior citizens with canes. There were those who had been in the Pentagon four years ago and others who had lost loved ones there. Many were veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of those were in wheelchairs or walked on artificial limbs.

As explained on the America Supports You website ( www.americasupportsyou.mil), the intent of the Freedom Walk was to remember the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks on America, to support American men and women in uniform, past and present, and to commemorate freedom.

From the comments by the walkers, these goals were met, to include some up-close examples of exercising the freedom guaranteed by the first amendment to the Constitution – the right to peacefully protest.

There were demonstrators along parts of the parade route. Most walkers ignored them or read their signs without comment. Some did their own impromptu, verbal counter-protests back at the protesters.

One Soldier gave his son an impromptu civics lessons as they passed by one small protest group.

“Do you know why they can protest like that? Because of people like us who fight for their rights.”

From Soldiers Online