29ers put support to 911 cause
Spc. Benjamin Gilbert & Pfc. Occoles Trotter
29h ID PAO
The Arlington County Police Department in conjunction with several area fire and rescue units held the Second Annual 9/11 Memorial 5K Run on Saturday September 6 to raise money for several 9/11 related charities as well as to commemorate those who lost their lives during the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Soldiers of the 29th Infantry Division (L) and other Virginia Army National Guard units provided military support to civilian authorities for the major event that included hundreds of onlookers..
More than 2,000 participants ran or walked the 5K (3.1 mile) course that took them through Crystal City and the Pentagon. Numerous spectators showed their support for the runners with lots of positive encouragement. Last year, the event attracted approximately 2,600 participants and raised $40,000 for the 9/11 charities, “This is the public safety community getting together with the public to raise money for 9/11 charities while providing a means for people to come together to commemorate 9/11,” said, Captain Matthew J. Smith, Arlington County Police Department and a Co-Director of the Race.
During the afternoon event, 16-year Guard member Sgt. Ishma Joseph Hodges, a personnel specialist from Suffolk, VA, re-enlisted in the Virginia Army National Guard. Hodges said that being able to re-enlist at the event made his decision to extra special.
“Remembering 9/11, bringing everyone together in solidarity, and to show the world that we haven’t forgotten. And that’s what’s most important.,” he explained.
First Sgt. Phillip L. Scott, Headquarters, Headquarters Company first sergeant, served as NCOIC for the 29th’s presence for the event. When asked if he would participate in the event again.
“In a heartbeat. Looking around, you can see there is no conflict. Everyone’s exhibiting camaraderie… in military terms, esprit de corps,” Scott said.
Along with the 29th Infantry’s presence, retired World War II veteran Enso V. Bighinatti was present. Bighinatti, 82, was captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp, and then escaped.
When asked about his feeling about the race and the level of participation, he said, “Its breathtaking… its amazing, the turnout.”
Mr. Bighinatti was also asked for words of wisdom for todays soldiers.
“First, you’ll always have the full support of the people of the United States. Secondly, what you’re fighting for is the benefit of you and your family.”
Several companies and organizations along with the Arlington County Police Department contributed volunteers, funds, and supplies to the festivities including the Charles E. Smith Residential Property Management Association, American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Miller Lite, Papa John’s Pizza, United Mortgage, Nextel, Doubletree Hotel, Sport and Health Club, “We couldn’t do it without our sponsors, community, and public safety agencies, said Smith.”
There was extensive diversity among the participants in the race. Among the racers, Steven McCay, a firefighter with Fairfax County Fire and Rescue, Walter Washburn, an 80-year-old retiree from Vienna, Va. and Matthew James O’Brien, a 12-year-old Seventh grader from Sterling, VA, were all excited to be in the race and saw the importance of “Just having fun.”
Hundreds of onlookers came to show their support for the racers and the event including Washington Redskins Cheerleaders; Madelyn Olack, a student from Springfield, MA, who was there to cheer on a relative who was in the race; and Alice Kammerer, a from Falls Church, Va., housewife, was there to cheer on her daughter.
Kammerer said, “Those of us that felt helpless and that could do nothing that day, are doing something today.”
The emcee for the event was Lesli Foster, a news anchor for WUSA Channel 9. Foster said, “Its sort of bittersweet because in one hand, you want the event to be successful, but on the other hand, you wish the event never had to happen.”
Among the soldiers participating in many different functions, Spc. Keasy C. Sweet, an administrative specialist from Gardner, IL, worked as Recruiter Support. “To me, this event serves as a reminder that freedom is not free. Many lives were lost on 9/11 and we want everyone to know that we have not forgotten,” he said.
The race brought together the local community , serving in many different functions, from racers, to volunteers, to onlookers. All present were there for two reasons, to show their support for those who lost their lives two years ago on September 11, 2001 and to raise money for the victims’ families. As Lesli Foster stated, “I’m just honored to be here today with so many people who gave up their Saturday for this great cause. This is about them and how great Americans are. They’re willing to contribute to something so important.”