A crowd that included military veterans, Gold Star families, City and County leaders, first responders and civilians stood in solidarity at Friday’s 2020 Freedom Walk as they honored the thousands of lives lost during the 2001 World Trade Center attack.
The event, put on by City Commissioner Pam Smith-Wright, brought to light the importance of remembering the lives taken 19 years ago, as well as the ongoing tragedy facing veterans every day — such as a high suicide rate stemming largely from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Smith-Wright, who’s held Owensboro’s Freedom Walk every year since 2002, made introductory remarks and sang the National Anthem before former City Manager and Marine veteran Bill Parrish gave the invocation.
The event’s guest speaker, Lou Drawdy — a Marine veteran and longtime member of the Owensboro-Daviess County Veterans Organization — implored the crowd to remember the lives lost during the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
He then said the United States was “still a nation at war.”
“We must strive to protect our family and never let this happen again,” he said. “We must not forget the sacrifices our comrades have made and are still making.”
Drawdy said it was of the utmost importance that Americans pay tribute to the lives lost, both on 9/11 and in the line of duty every day. He asked the crowd to continue supporting the families who’d lost loved ones on the front lines.
Standing in front of the Charles E. Shelton Memorial as he spoke, Drawdy said there was “a great calamity” occurring in the U.S., one that involved a large number of people seeking answers to questions but too often coming up short.
“We have among us those who are also trying to find answers and have given up hope,” he said. “I speak to the great tragedy, and a crisis, amongst our veterans. They’re looking for answers and not finding them. They are now taking their own lives.”
In a grassy area to Drawdy’s right, he pointed to a plot of miniature American flags staked into the ground, each one of them representing an American veteran who’d committed suicide over the last month.
The space contained more than 600 flags.
“Estimates are that we are losing 22 veterans a day to this crisis,” he said. “Yesterday, September the 10th was National Suicide Prevention Day. And this week, September 6-12, is National Suicide Prevention Week.”
A moment of silence was then held for the fallen veterans, followed by a moment of reverence for, as Drawdy described, “our comrades who are still with us.”
Smith-Wright presented three plaques at Friday’s ceremony from AmVets Ladies Auxiliary Post 119 — one to Drawdy, another to a woman who’d participated in the Freedom Walk every year since its inception, and one to Parrish.