KILLEEN — Community members gathered at the Killeen Independent School District’s annual Freedom Walk at Killeen High School on Sept. 11 to honor first responders and those serving in the military.
The Freedom Walk is held each Sept. 11 as a way to remember those who died in the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania 12 years ago, as well as recognize emergency personnel and current and veteran military service members.
“Our nation was attacked by an enemy intent on destroying our beliefs and our freedoms,” said Col. (promotable) Douglas Gabram, the event’s guest speaker. “The terrorists who attacked us wanted to shatter us, but they only strengthened our resolve as a country.”
Attendees at this year’s Freedom Walk included district students and staff and representatives of Fort Hood and the Killeen, Harker Heights and Nolanville police and fire departments.
Also in attendance were soldiers from Fort Hood’s 1st Calvary Division and members of the Fort Hood Warrior Transition Brigade.
Staff Sgt. Scott Sharpe, one of the 75 brigade soldiers in attendance, said he was proud to see the Killeen community, which is home to a great-many military families, participate in the Freedom Walk.
“The reason I’m still in the Army is because of 9/11,” Sharpe said. “It’s great to see everyone coming together to remember what happened.”
The Freedom Walk is also held in honor of soldiers and first responders who lost their lives in the line duty. Kimberly Hornsby was asked to serve as flag bearer for this year’s walk in honor of her husband, the late Killeen police officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby.
Local Gold Star families participated in the event, releasing gold and purple balloons in memory of their fallen military family members.
“Every time I release the balloons, it represents letting go and trying to move on,” said Shelann Clapp, a Gold Star spouse. “It says that we are never going to forget, and that we will always remember them.”
Clapp, an educational diagnostician at the high school, lost her husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer-5 Douglas Clapp, in a 2004 helicopter crash near Fort Hood. For Clapp and other Gold Star families, the events and memorials held Sept. 11 are poignant reminders of their loss.
“In a lot of ways, we are still recovering,” Clapp said.
In his speech, Gabram thanked the military and civilian families who lost loved ones in the line of duty.
“Their sacrifices, and yours, will ensure our nation perseveres,” Gabram said.
Contact Chris McGuinness at email@example.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow him on Twitter at ChrismKDH.