07/08/11 — Airman joining 9/11 tribute march

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Airman joining 9/11 tribute march

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on July 8, 2011 1:46 PM

It effected everyone differently -- the series of attacks that unfolded on American soil nearly a decade ago.

But for members of the Air Force's Security Forces community, it did not simply signify an escalation in a conflict they had been a part of since the early 1990s.

It meant their role would change -- that deployments would require far more than securing bases at locations across the world.

"9/11 was a huge turning point for our career field," said Maj. Jim Alves, the 4th Fighter Wing Security Forces Squadron commander. "Pre-9/11, we were doing jobs similar to the ones we do here. ... Since 9/11, the missions we have done, on Sept. 10, we never would have dreamed of doing that stuff."

So as the nation prepares to mark the 10th anniversary of a day that has lived, ever since, in infamy, those airmen whose mission has been transformed will set forth on a journey -- one meant to remember -- to honor -- those sacrifices they have seen firsthand since combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began.

And no matter how much physical strain that 2,182-mile march will require, they will make it, Alves said, to Ground Zero.

After months of planning, members of the 4th Fighter Wing will see their tribute come to life Tuesday, as a group of their Security Forces comrades begin a trek from Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, to the site where the World Trade Center crumbled as the world watched.

And from the moment that first group leaves the Security Forces Headquarters, the guidon set to travel with them will not stop moving until Sept. 11.

"We wanted to do something pretty special," Alves said. "So we sent (the idea) to a bunch of bases and said, 'Hey. This is what we're thinking about doing. Who wants to play?'"

The response was overwhelming.

"There are 23 units completing 15 legs," said Tech. Sgt. Kenny Broughman, the airman who spent weeks mapping out the course -- one that relies, largely, on state highways and backroads to get the airmen half way across the country on foot.

Each group -- airmen from Lackland, Randolph, Barksdale, Keesler, Columbus, Eglin, Tyndall, Moody, Robins, Pope, Seymour Johnson, Langley, Andrews and Dover Air Force Bases and Joint Base McGuire-Dix will participate -- is expected to cover some 150 miles over their five-day portion of the journey.

And while it is still unclear just how each base will chose to complete their mileage -- some will hike, others will march in formation -- Alves said the only thing that really matters is getting that guidon to Ground Zero on time.

"It's going to be physically intense no matter how we do it," Alves said. "It's one of those things where it's, 'Just keep moving.'"

The 4th Fighter Wing's leg begins Aug. 21 just south of Greensboro.

But in order to make their portion of the tribute a reality, they need support.

Bake sales, car washes and other fundraisers will be held across Goldsboro in the coming weeks to help the airmen raise the funds necessary to complete their latest mission.

Those interested in donating to the cause can find information at the event's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pages/Security-Forces-911-Ruck-March-to-Remember/170407923010504

But whether or not enough money is raised, Alves said they will find a way -- even if it means reaching into their own pockets -- to complete their 150 miles and later attend a wreath-laying ceremony at the site at which their world forever changed.

"The bottom line is, yeah, we're getting up there," Alves said. "We'll make it work somehow."