Sweat dripped and boots clomped Sept. 11, as members of the 11th Security Forces Squadron participated in a 9/11 Memorial Ruck March that spanned nine miles and 11,000 meters around the perimeter of Joint Base Andrews. Beginning at Building 1845, the 11th SFG headquarters building, more than 25 11th SFG members completed the march that ended with a ceremonial raising and lowering of the American flag to half staff at the William A. Jones III Building.
Organized the week before, participation in the ruck march was a last-minute decision for many of the Airmen. But, despite the short notice and many conflicting schedules, 11th SFG Airmen pulled together and completed the memorial march in a record three hours.
"I saw an e-mail about marching to remember the 9/11 victims and I decided I had to do it," said Tech. Sgt. Theodore Ashley, 11th Security Forces Group installation security constable and memorial march participant. "Marching was a way for me to honor those who lost their lives that day - to pay respect to those who are no longer with us."
Prior to the start of the march, Chaplain (Capt.) Denis Gueu, 11th Wing Chaplain; and Senior Master Sgt. Leonard Arsenault, 11th SFG memorial ruck march event organizer, offered words of reflection to the Airmen about the importance of remembering 9/11 and honoring those that lost their lives that day.
"This ruck march is a way to honor our fallen and build camaraderie," said Arsenault. "From the 11th SFG's lowest-ranking Airmen, who was in 5th grade in 2001, to everyone who serves our country every day, we must never forget that day that changed so many lives. We must continue to serve with honor and pay tribute to those that came before us and remember days like 9/11 - days that define us."
Last year, the 11th SFG participated in a similar, but slightly longer, 9/11 Memorial Ruck March. On the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Airmen from Air Force installations nation-wide participated in a march relay that started at Joint Base Houston, Tx., and ended at the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, Pa. Airmen from the 11th SFG marched the 13th leg of that 2,000-mile memorial march.
Before this year's commemorative march, by Col. Erik Goepner, 11th SFG commander; and Chief Master Sgt. Todd Fuller, 11th SFG command chief, revealed a framed collage of newspaper clippings about the 11th SFG's participation in the event last year.
"Marches like these let the families of the victims know that we haven't forgotten," said Tech. Sgt. David Wood, 11th Security Forces emergency services team member and memorial ruck march participant. "By marching, we're remembering not just those who died, but also their families and all those that were affected by 9/11."
By the march's end, 11th SFG Airmen weren't found discussing their blistered heels or other minor marching aches and pains. As the American flag was raised and then ceremoniously lowered to half staff in front of all who participated, all were reminded to again take a moment to remember the real reason for the day's events.
"We cannot allow the memory of those innocent civilians, brave emergency service workers, and valiant military members to fade to a point that we do not honor them," said Arsenault. "We are still on the field of battle and fighting the war on terror every day. We are still losing incredible service members. We must never forget the sacrifice and contributions of those lost in the defense of this great nation."