Columbus defenders bring 9/11 march across Mississippi River
Airmen from the 14th Security Forces Squadron here will take the Ruck March to Remember across the Mississippi River July 26 during their portion of the 2,181-mile trek.
The Columbus Airmen began their 146-mile march July 24, taking part in the nationwide security forces event commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Beginning July 12, Air Force security forces members from 23 units have volunteered their own time to march from the Air Force Security Forces Center in San Antonio, Texas, past Shanksville, Penn., the site of the Flight 93 crash, to arrive Sept. 11 at Ground Zero.
"We simply had to take part in this historic (nearly) 2,200-mile event," said Maj. Joseph Ringer, the 14th Security Forces Squadron commander. "By participating, we honor those heroic warriors, from every branch, who have willingly given their lives, limbs and sight so that we may be free from terror's grip.
"This truly is a team effort," Ringer added. "You will see Air Force defenders marching along the road, but they represent all Airmen who stand the watch at home station, overseas and while deployed."
The 14th SFS Airmen received the Ruck March to Remember guidon from 81st Security Forces Squadron members July 24 in Garden Parish, La. The 81st SFS is located at Keesler AFB, Miss.
Local communities have come out to support the team, and they've also received escort from local police departments and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association.
Local community members who hadn't heard about the event also began to show their support within minutes of the start of the march; shouting and honking to show their support. While passing through Jonesville, La., for example, the town's mayor, Hiram Evans, made a surprise visit to welcome the team and thank them.
"Thank you all for supporting the American people," Evans said. "I appreciate what you all are doing."
"It was very motivating to see all of these fellow Americans taking notice and cheering us on," said Senior Airman David Gongora, a 14th SFS member.
The march has not been without its trials. The defenders have marched through 99-degree heat and heavy rain, as well as over hills, highway on-ramps and busy streets, officials said. Constantly supporting each other, the defenders worked together to ensure their wingmen were hydrated and that none walked alone.
"I was proud that our teamwork through the day showed off the security forces mentality of never leaving an Airman behind," said Senior Airman Jesse Bailey, a 14th SFS member.
The team did however have to say goodbye to one member of the team. Staff Sgt. Eduardo Rosero left after the first night to go home to his 6-day-old daughter. Sergeant Rosero said that joining in the ruck march towards Ground Zero to remember 9/11 was important to him in particular.
"I'm from New York, so it hits a little close to home," said the Bronx, N.Y., native and 14th SFS defender.
The team will continue to camp at a site in the middle of the planned course. Tech. Sgt. James Pender, the team leader, said that each day the marchers will ride from the camp to the location where they left off continuing the trip.
Article by Airman 1st Class Chase Hedrick, 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs