Boots on the ground: Moody Airmen march to ground zero
Most people can recall exactly where they were when they heard the tragic news of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. From the service members who acted as first responders to the middle and high school students who are now defenders of freedom, that day symbolizes a painful time in history.
Now 10 years after that fateful day, security forces Airmen from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., took to the road Aug. 4 to 9 and completed a 143-mile portion of the Ruck March to Remember, which began at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and will end Sept. 11 at Ground Zero.
The Ruck March to Remember is a 2,181-mile march in remembrance of all the service members who have fallen since the Sept. 11 attacks. There are 15 portions which are each about 140 miles long, and will be handled by units from nearby bases.
"A big chunk of time has passed since the attacks and people seem to forget why service members do what they do," said Staff Sgt. David Bollin, a 23rd Security Forces Squadron military working dog handler. "It's all about the preservation of human life and making sure nothing like that happens again. It shows how much we are willing to do and sacrifice to protect those who can't protect themselves. It's important to let everyone know that there is always someone there to protect them."
Throughout Moody AFB's portion of the march, local recruiters grabbed a rucksack, tightened their bootlaces and joined the march.
"This is a great cause, and we don't get many opportunities to get involved like this," said Staff Sgt. Matthew Allen, with the 336th Recruiting Squadron, who completed two 6.5-mile legs of the march.
"Especially after so many years have passed, it's important that we don't forget about those who have fallen," he added. "We need to remember. I personally didn't know anyone who was at ground zero, but by doing this I feel like I can show my support for the families of those who did."
Moody Airmen used their personal time and money to participate.
"Everyone from Moody is a volunteer," Bollin said. "We had a lot of volunteers, but unfortunately because of duty schedules not everyone could participate. Everyone who is taking part wants to put in the effort and make the sacrifices for this."
Another volunteer, Tech. Sgt. Brad Barth, a 336th RCS marketing NCO, also completed two 6.5-mile legs and said even the heat couldn't stop them from finishing.
"It started out great and then the heat came in," he said. "You just want to stop so bad because the hills get you, but you think about all those who are over in the desert or deployed somewhere else and the hardships they are going through. Then the hills and the heat don't seem so bad anymore. You have to think what this is doing for security forces, especially the ones who are deployed and how encouraging this must be for them."
Bollin, who was unable to march because of a recent surgery, was committed to helping during all five days.
"I'm glad to be able to support this," he said. "I originally wanted to participate in the ruck march, but I was unable to because of my recent surgery. I wasn't going to abandon it because of that. If I couldn't participate in the ruck march, I could at least drive the van and carry the water.
"Sitting in the van watching them go by was heartbreaking," he added.
Tech. Sgt. Kurt Pinkowski, the 23rd Security Forces Squadon NCO in charge of investigations, had his reasons for participating.
"We are doing this for the 10th anniversary of the attacks and in remembrance of all those service members who have fallen," he said. "Doing something like this keeps the public aware that we are paying respect to those who have fallen. There are so many who can't participate, and it's all about giving everything you have.
"It's an honor to be a part of this," he added. "It gives you a sense of belonging and represents something so big."
As the group of tired Airmen marched across hilly south Georgia roads, they were often greeted by enthusiastic veterans and proud civilians
"We saw a lot of people waving at us and honking their horns to show their support," Bollin said. "Every time someone honked their horn or waved, it made us want to push that much more."
At the end of the 143 miles, Moody AFB Airmen passed the guidon to security forces members from Robins AFB, Ga., who started their march toward Ground Zero.
Article by Airman 1st Class Jarrod Grammel, 23rd Wing Public Affairs