Community members gathered Wednesday morning at Killeen High School to honor first responders and those serving in the military at the Killeen Independent Schools District’s annual Freedom Walk.
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.
“This Freedom Walk is a visible sign that we will not forget the events of Sept. 11,” said Robert Muller, the district’s superintendent.
Attendees at this year’s Freedom Walk included district students and staff as well as 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 Cavalry 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 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.”
Following remarks by Muller and Col. (promotable) Douglas Gabram, deputy commander of support for the 1st Cavalry Division, the audience walked to the adjacent Leo Buckley Stadium, where it circled the track and rang a bell 11 times in remembrance.
The Freedom Walk is also held in honor of soldiers and first responders who lost their lives in the line of duty.
Kimberly Hornsby was the flag bearer in honor of her late husband, Killeen police officer Robert “Bobby” Hornsby, who was killed in the line of duty in July.
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 a poignant reminder of their loss.
“In a lot of ways, we are still recovering,” Clapp said.
Tuesday marked the 12th anniversary of the attacks, and the seventh year that the Killeen district has hosted the event.