9/11 remembrance event to honor those who serve and protect
PRESCOTT - With the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. approaching, the City of Prescott is preparing for a different kind of remembrance event.
Prescott Special Events Coordinator Becky Garvin knows that past Sept. 11 commemorations have been somber events that looked back on the horrific 2001 attacks.
This year, she hopes local residents will focus more on celebrating the people who serve and protect, as well as the positive side of living in the U.S.
"It will be a celebration, realizing how thankful we are to be Americans," Garvin said of the event that - along with a traditional ceremony complete with an honor guard, presentation of the colors, national anthem, and speakers' personal accounts of the attacks - also will feature a Freedom Ride by area motorcyclists, five bands, and a beer garden and food booths.
"It's a remembrance," Garvin said. "Yes, there will be some somber moments, but it is also a time for us Americans to remember who we are and what we stand for."
In addition, Garvin said, "It will also be contributing back to some great causes."
One of the co-sponsors of the event is the firefighters' Wind and Fire Motorcycle Club, which will be working to benefit several causes, including the Arizona Children's Burn Camp and the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Jay D. Fillingim, the president of the local Whiskey Row Chapter of Wind and Fire, stresses the focus on honoring the people who serve in the military, as well as with fire and police forces.
"Not to take away from the solemn-ness of the day," Fillingim said of the day's events. "But we want to celebrate the people who protect our freedom every day."
Wind and Fire is working with another co-sponsor - a local organization, Buckup for Wounded Warriors. The two groups are collaborating on the Freedom Ride, which will bring riders together for ceremonies around the region and will culminate in downtown Prescott.
Carl Smith, an organizer of the Buckup group, said the idea for the charity arose while he was working on another community fundraiser and realized the needs of returning servicemen.
"There are huge holes for soldiers and their families when they come back (from serving oversees)," Smith said. "A lot of guys who are coming back are financially destroyed. There's a huge need there."
For Smith, the biggest need related to housing for the returning servicemen or women and their families.
That concern led the organization to the family of Chino Valley veteran Alvin Burns, who was severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq in October 2005.
After spending about a year and a half in military hospitals with a traumatic brain injury, Burns returned home to Chino Valley in spring 2007.
His wife Elizabeth said prospects were not good for Burns at that time. "He was on a feeding tube," she said. "He wasn't eating regular food, he couldn't even communicate, and he was completely paralyzed on one side of his body."
Burns began responding to the home care, however, and soon he was talking and using a walker to get around.
The Burnses have first-hand experience with the special needs that a wounded serviceman can face when he returns home.
For instance, Elizabeth said the family home had to accommodate "all kinds of medical equipment." Then, when Alvin started getting around with a walker, more needs arose.
"You need a ramp," Elizabeth said. In addition, she said, bathrooms needed retrofitting.
While the bulk of the Burns family needs will be covered by a grant from the Veterans Affairs (VA), Elizabeth said Buckup for Wounded Warriors has been helpful in coordinating the project and filling in some of the gaps.
And she stresses that, unlike her husband, some injured servicemen might not fit all of the criteria for the grants. That is where Buckup for Wounded Warriors can step in, she said.
"They're looking for people who fall through the cracks," she said of the local organization. "There are some who don't fit certain guidelines."
Smith agreed, noting that the organization would step in "if the grant from the government doesn't cover what the veteran needs."
Smith said the Sept. 11 event would raise money through entry fees for the Freedom Ride and by selling items at the event. Registration for the ride is available at the website, www.buckupforwoundedwarriors.com, and costs $20 per rider and $10 per passenger.
Garvin said organizers are hoping to attract more than 150 motorcycles and 100 antique cars. The group will meet the afternoon of Sept. 11 at York Motors off Highway 69 and Prescott Lakes Parkway, and will form a procession into downtown Prescott at 3 p.m.
The bands will begin performing at the courthouse plaza at 2 p.m., and will continue until 10:30 p.m. The remembrance ceremony and presentation of the colors will start at about 4:30 p.m.