Radio Program Hosts Freedom Walk Talk

By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2008 - Listeners who log on to listen to Stardust Radio's "Talking with Heroes" program on Aug. 17 will learn how they can honor veterans past and present and commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The show's host, Bob Calvert, will welcome Roxie Merritt, spokeswoman for the Defense Department's America Supports You program and director of New Media and Community Relations for the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Merritt's community relations staff is responsible for organizing this year's fourth annual National America Supports You Freedom Walk here while hundreds of others are being planned nationwide and overseas.

"It means so much to our troops serving all over the world to see this kind of support coming from their communities," Merritt said. "The military, in a lot of ways, is about community, and local actions like this have a huge impact on morale."

The America Supports You Freedom Walk tradition began in 2005 as a way for Americans to reflect on the lives lost Sept. 11, to remember those who responded, to honor veterans past and present, and to renew commitment to freedom and the values of the United States. So far, 231 walks have been registered, including at least one in all 50 states and 13 overseas areas.

The country pulled together in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, and the ongoing support for the troops is amazing, Merritt said. But, she added, the America Supports You Freedom Walks are something special.

"These are personal, community-based efforts, and to have schools and young people taking part in them sends the message, 'We -- this particular community -- we know what you're doing, we know why you're doing it, and we're grateful,'" Merritt said.

Merritt will be joined on the radio program by six guests who are organizing America Supports You Freedom Walks in their states.

One of those guests, Joey Rizzolo, 13, has written a kids' guide to planning the walks and will share plans for his second walk in Paramus, N.J. Shelle Michaels from North Dakota, Nancy Magoon from the Daegu American School in Daegu, South Korea, and Olga Vaca Durr from the Killeen, Texas, school district, will share their plans to host walks in their states as well.

The sixth guest, Dani Lamana, is planning an America Supports You Freedom Walk in Baton Rouge, La. The walks are important to Lamana, who lost her brother in the attack on the Pentagon.

"Talking with Heroes" can be heard live at 9 p.m. EDT Sundays on Stardust Radio, a media affiliate of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.

Those interested in participating in the national 2008 America Supports You Freedom Walk on Sept. 7 can register through the America Supports You Web site. The walk is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Women's Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, and will end in the Pentagon's south parking lot, adjacent to the site where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon. A musical tribute is being planned to conclude the event.

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