- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The U.S. Defense Department will hold a walk and country music concert to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks and to honor U.S. troops and veterans.

Allison Barber, deputy assistant secretary of defense, said the walk is “the perfect marriage of both sentiments: commemorating September 11 and the importance of our freedom.”

The two-mile walk will begin at 10 a.m. past the section of the Pentagon hit in the attack and is tentatively scheduled to go through Arlington National Cemetery before crossing the Arlington Memorial Bridge and passing the Lincoln Memorial, said Air Force spokeswoman Tech. Sgt. Eileen Lainez.

The walk will conclude on the south side of the Reflecting Pool with a free concert by Grammy-award winning country music star Clint Black. The stage will be next to the John F. Kennedy hockey field, between the Lincoln Memorial and the National World War II Memorial.

The walk will be preceded by a private ceremony for the 184 persons killed at the Pentagon on September 11, 2001.

The ceremony is being sponsored by the Pentagon Memorial Fund Inc., which is raising money to build a memorial to those killed, either inside the Pentagon or on American Airlines Flight 77, which struck the building.

More than $8 million of the $18 million needed for construction has been collected, said James J. Laychak, the group’s president and chairman. The group hopes to break ground next fall for the memorial. The design features a metal-alloy bench for each of the victims.

Mr. Laychak said the walk will help “get out the word” about the fund.

“It’s not just about us,” Mr. Laychak said. “It’s about supporting the troops.”

Mrs. Barber said organizers and police expect anti-war backlash. “It would be naive to do anything in Washington and not expect the other opinion,” she said.

Protesting the walk, she said, would be tantamount to “protesting the events of September 11 or protesting our veterans.”

Participants and volunteers must register by Sept. 9 at 10 a.m. at www.americasupportsyou.mil. Organizers need 2,000 volunteers.

“We’re asking people to register for security reasons [and] to make sure there are enough T-shirts and water,” Sgt. Lainez said.

The first 1,000 persons to arrive at the Pentagon will receive an “America Supports You” lapel pin, and all participants will receive a free T-shirt.

Sgt. Lainez said the Defense Department will screen participants before the walk and hopes the event will serve as a model across the country. “The goal for 2006 is for each state to hold a freedom walk,” she said.

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