Michigan Town Plans Freedom Walk

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9, 2006 - The city whose native son helped turn the United States into a nation of motorists will shun Henry Ford's invention for a time on Sept. 11.

"We felt that it was important, as we approach the five-year anniversary of the tragic events of Sept. 11, to have a ceremony to remember all those who lost their lives that day," Randy Coble, deputy director of public information for Dearborn, Mich., said. "It's a way to come together and express what we all believe: that we need to remember the victims of Sept. 11 and that we need to make sure our men and women serving in harm's way know that we support them and appreciate their sacrifices."

Dearborn's walk will take place at 6 p.m. Sept. 11. The location, Dearborn's Ford Community and Performing Arts Center, holds significance, Coble said. It opened just one week after the 2001 terrorist attacks in New York, Shanksville, Pa., and at the Pentagon.

The walk and accompanying ceremony will be a simple, somber affair, Coble said. Dearborn Mayor Michael A. Guido will welcome walkers before a flag that was flown over Ground Zero in New York is raised.

The New York Fire Department presented Dearborn with the flag in 2002 in appreciation for the city's efforts in raising $125,000 for the families of fallen New York firefighters, Coble said. The firefighters also presented the city with an urn of ashes from Ground Zero at the same time.

The program will include a moment of silence, the walk around the reflecting pond on the arts center grounds, a playing of "Taps" and a 21-gun salute. Before the ceremony concludes, clergy will offer silent prayers over the ashes from Ground Zero.

Dearborn, a community of about 100,000, boasts residents who hail from some 80 different nations and cultures, Coble said. It also is one of the largest Muslim communities in the country.

"Dearborn is a true American melting pot, where diverse people live together as one community, including people of different faiths," Coble said. "Because of this, we know the truth of the old saying that there's a lot more that unites people than divides them, and our Freedom Walk is an example of that."

Dearborn is known as a city that remembers and pays tribute regularly to the military, Coble said.

Because of that support, the city is no stranger to the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which highlights grassroots and corporate support of the nation's servicemembers.

Tournament Players Club Michigan held a golf fundraiser yesterday to benefit Home for Our Troops, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, and the Wounded Warrior Project -- all America Supports You team members. The event drew the attention of Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense for internal communication and public liaison, who spoke at the event.

Barber, architect of the America Supports You program and the America Supports You Freedom Walk, also took the opportunity to speak with Guido about his city's Freedom Walk.

"(Dearborn is showing) an ongoing grassroots commitment to our military members and their families in the Dearborn region," Barber said of the city's hosting the two events in support of America's servicemembers.

To date, 39 cities across the country have confirmed plans to host America Supports You Freedom Walks to pay tribute to those who lost their lives on Sept. 11 and to honor the nation's veterans, past and present.

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