When Jodi Nerney and her team from Veterans of Foreign Wars Arrant-Smith Post 4127, began planning the 2021 Freedom Walk to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the horror of the September 9, 2001 attacks, no one could have imagined it would take place against the backdrop of the recent upheaval in Afghanistan.
As with most events last year, the Freedom Walk was held virtually to still allow participation. According to Nerney, “We had people from all over the country watching!”
The program, originally established by the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, will follow the traditional routine with a few new offerings. For those who may be first-timers, “The Freedom Walk is a walk of remembrance and support; it is an event that allows the community to remember the victims of the September 11th 2001 attacks on the Pentagon, the Twin Towers and Flight 93 over Pennsylvania. It is also an opportunity for us to show our support to the first responders and the many men and women in uniform, past and present, who protect our freedom.”
Registration will begin Saturday, September 11, 2021, at 9:00 a.m. at the VFW, 601 NE 2d Rd, Homestead. The first 300 individuals will receive a medallion, swag bag, and T-shirt. (T-shirts will also be for sale for $20). A short Remembrance Ceremony will take place at approximately 9:30 with the walk beginning immediately after. The route is about two miles and comes back to VFW Post 4127 for the Celebration of Freedom, a free lunch, music, and other activities.
The “walkers” usually includes groups, individuals, and often families with younger members in strollers. Multiple Scout Troops, area High School Junior ROTC (JROTC) units, the Braddock Sea Cadets, and Young Marines are likely to be among the youth groups. The American Legion, Marine Corps League, Vietnam Veterans, and Military Affairs Council (MAC) are past participants as well and there will be a representative from the State VFW and the State Auxiliary President. A highlight as always, are the South Florida Trail Riders.
The Commemorative Corner features a new exhibit this year with a timeline for attendees to see photographs depicting before, during, and after the attacks, plus a tribute honoring all the names of the more than 3,300 men, women, and children who were killed that day. Our local first responders who traveled to New York to help in the aftermath will be included in a special section of the exhibit.
Another tradition continuing in this event is the Field of Honor where flags are dedicated to active military, veterans, and first responders. Individuals or businesses/ groups may sponsor a flag for $35 and the flags will be dedicated during the ceremony. They will be on display for a month and can be picked up after October 10, 2021 by the donor. In view of the intense past year and on-going impact of COVID-19, healthcare workers are included as first responders and will also be honored.