Defenders reach New York in time for 9/11 anniversary

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lieutenant Keavy Rake
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
A joint installation security forces team took the final steps of a 2,182 mile journey ending in Battery Park Sept. 11.

The park is just six blocks away from Ground Zero and was filled with spectators, camera flashes and tears as the security forces guidon made its way through the last four miles of the Security Forces 9/11 Ruck March to Remember that began in San Antonio, July 12.

The march was created to honor the victims of 9/11 and as a time to reflect on sacrifices made by service members and their families over the past ten years.

"We've marched the past two months to remember our fallen, to honor the sacrifice of our defenders and their families," said Col. Alan Metzler, Air Combat Command chief of security forces. "And to ensure that we always remember the challenge that Jefferson so perfectly professed at the birth of our nation. Through the sacrifice of patriots we will remain free."

The Ruck March consisted of 15 participating units, each walked nearly 145 miles. The idea originated with the 4th Security Forces Squadron commander, Maj. Jim Alves. Alves presented the idea to Tech. Sgt Kenneth Broughman, also of the 4th SFS, who helped plan the event over a span of ten months.

"We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men and women of the 4th SFS at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in North Carolina," said Metzler. "This march of remembrance was their idea; and their commander, Major Jim Alves, provided the leadership and perseverance to make it happen. Their leadership and sponsorship of this march is especially meaningful to me... you see, on Sept. 11 2001, I was the commander there."

The defenders persevered through many miles and challenging weather to complete the Ruck March.

"We marched through searing heat, hurricanes, earthquakes and repeated downpours but we did not walk alone," said Metzler.

An outpouring of community support marked their trail along the way to Ground Zero.

"We were hosted almost every night," said Broughman. "We actually had to turn meals away."

This was a somber commemoration of what Alves referred to as ordinary citizens making extraordinary sacrifices. Throughout the march they had many quiet moments of reflection and weariness.

"As painful as the miles were it was nothing compared to what our security forces members are doing while deployed," said Broughman.

Staff Sgt. Benjamin Seekell, a military working dog handler from the 4th SFS and his MWD Charlie were adorned with Purple Hearts. They joined two Airmen from New York to lay a wreath in front of 'The Sphere' that stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center during the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 and was later placed in Battery Park.

"It's the least we could do to commemorate their lives, to get out there and put ourselves through some physical turmoil and march all those miles," Seekell said. "To show them we care and that we're here for them even though they passed we still remember and we want to carry on the legacy, that's why we do it- we do it for them."

The three 4th SFS airmen concluded their journey with an interview on FOX and Friends to share their experiences.