5,000 Participants Expected at Colorado Freedom Walk

Organizers expect 5,000 people top participate in the Aurora, Colo., Freedom Walk event Sept. 9. Freedom Walks around the country will commemorate the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and honor American servicemembers.

Freedom Walks are part of the Defense Department’s America Supports You program, which highlights corporate and grassroots support for U.S. military members and their families.

“Operation Hope,” part of the Beacon of Hope Outreach Center, will host the Aurora Freedom Walk. The nationwide military support program, launched in 2003, provides services to more than 10,000 troops and their families.

Event organizer and Beacon of Hope Executive Director Leo Pacheco said he is very excited about the event and hopes people will come out to show their support. He noted that the event’s publicity campaign got started in mid-July. “So people have already started sending their fliers and brochures back through our direct-mailing campaign,” Pacheco said. “We are launching a major marketing campaign here in Colorado and around some of the other states, such as Kansas, Wyoming, Nebraska and New Mexico.”

The Aurora Freedom Walk is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. at the future Colorado Freedom Memorial. Walkers will be greeted by special musical tributes and be able visit various food vendors and sponsors along the route.

“Our sponsors have all very much declared their support for the troops. Even corporate America is coming together to show they care,” Pacheco said. “The Freedom Walk has a lot of great potential, and it’s going to be a huge event.”

Guest speakers will include Staff Sgt. Paul Brondhaver, an Iraq war veteran who suffered almost 300 wounds after his convoy was attacked with a rocket-propelled grenade.

“We invited Staff Sergeant Brondhaver to come and speak about what’s really going on in Iraq from his perspective, which is really positive and encouraging,” Pacheco said. “We also invited, but he hasn’t confirmed yet, actor Berry Pepper from ‘We Were Soldiers’ and ‘Saving Private Ryan.’”

The event is free to participants, but registration is required. Pacheco said organizers have set up many ways for people to register. People interested in participating can visit the group’s Web site,, or call 303-290-7412. Registration is open until Sept. 4.

Pacheco said he feels the Freedom Walk conveys his organization’s message of support for troops and their families and gives other citizens the opportunity to show their gratitude for men and women in uniform, as well.

“The majority of Americans, based on my own experiences, really, truly support our troops and feel what they are doing is productive and meaningful and will certainly change the course of history,” Pacheco said. “So, because of that, we want to communicate the message directly to the troops that America does support you and also let them know we are here to help. They need all the support they can get.”