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NEWS | Sept. 17, 2011

SF Airmen complete 9/11 ruck march

By Staff Sgt. Chris Powell Defense Media Activity

After more than two months and 2,100 miles of marching, a flight of Airmen completed the Security Forces 9/11 Ruck March to Remember here Sunday, Sept. 11.

More than 300 active-duty, Guard and Reserve Airmen from 23 units took turns marching from the Security Forces Center at Lackland on July 12 to New York, handing off a guidon at each leg to honor the security forces members and Americans who've died.

"We've marched the last two months to remember our fallen, to honor the sacrifices of our defenders and their families whose lives changed forever with ours," said Col. Alan Metzler, chief of security forces, Air Combat Command, Langley Air Force Base, Va.

The Airmen battled the elements, sore feet and tired backs, but it was the overwhelming support from people throughout their march that gave them the strength to persevere.

"Every time you felt like you were getting beat down and couldn't do it anymore, someone drove by and honked or shook our hands," said Tech. Sgt. Kenneth Broughman, NCO in charge of training, 4th Security Forces Squadron, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.

Whether it was a simple honk by a passing driver or a caring veteran offering their home for the night, one thing rang clear - America supports the Airmen who participated in the march.

One such person was Barry Schneider, who saw the Airmen marching in New Jersey.
"It means everything to me; it touches my heart as an American," he said. "I've always felt bad because I never served my country, but because of what they do, I can stand here now."

As the flight of Airmen marched through Washington Heights to Times Square Saturday, they were met with cheers, salutes and a police escort. One of the escorting New York police officers was Sgt. Marc Sommers, who is an Air Force Reserve security forces master sergeant assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, N. Y.

"(The Ruck March) means a lot to me," he said. "I was there that day, and I lost a good friend, Jerome Dominguez."

Dominguez was also an Air Force Reserve security forces member and New York police officer. He died while attempting to rescue people from the World Trade Center.

During the march, the Airmen laid wreaths at the site of where United Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville, Pa., at the Pentagon and at Battery Park - just a few blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood.

The idea for the 9/11 SF ruck march first began in November 2010 with a conversation between Broughman and Maj. Jim Alves, also from the 4th SFS.

"At first, it was kind of overwhelming because we didn't think there was a way we could get it done," Broughman said.

"But we broke down the route into 15 legs, and at the first of the year, we sent (a message) out to the units asking if they would be interested in participating. Their response was an overwhelming, 'Yes.'"

Their mission ended Sunday with a simple command, "Dismissed," issued by Alves as he released his flight at Battery Park. But before they left, he explained the significance of what they accomplished.

"You will march off knowing you have become a part of history - history of security forces, history of the Air Force, history of the military and history of the United States," he said.