Many of the children at Fort Leavenworth had not been born at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, or they are too young to remember that day.
"But this is a day you should learn about and never forget," Col. Timothy Wulff told students from the Fort Leavenworth public schools.
Wulff, the fort's garrison commander, spoke Wednesday during a Freedom Walk ceremony at the post's Normandy Field.
Students had walked to the football field from the fort's three elementary schools and junior high school. Superintendent Keith Mispagel said about 1,900 students and 250 school staff members had assembled for the event. He estimated that between 500 and 750 parents and other patrons also were in attendance.
Wednesday was the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon.
"If you ask your parents, they will surely remember that day in detail," Wulff said to the assembled students. "They will remember where they were at and what they were doing the morning of Sept. 11, 2001."
He said the country was attacked by "terrorists who hoped to weaken us and threaten our way of life."
Wulff said the terrorists failed. He said Americans recovered from the attacks and became stronger.
"We have successfully defended our freedoms and the way we live," he said.
Wednesday's event was the Fort Leavenworth school district's sixth annual Freedom Walk.
"Freedom Walks were started in 2005 by Pentagon employees to honor the lives of those lost on Sept. 11, 2011," Mispagel said.
He said the walks have become a way to renew the participants' commitment to freedom and honor the people who help Americans maintain their freedom.
For Wednesday's ceremony, students from each of the district's schools read essays about what freedom means to them.
Jesena Hernandez from MacArthur Elementary School questioned how she can write about freedom when she's had it all her life.
"We tend to take for granted the freedom and liberties we enjoy every day," she said.
Sarah McMartin from Bradley Elementary School said many Americans use their freedoms without realizing how valuable they are.
Kate Bircher from Eisenhower Elementary School said she was born 10 days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. She said she's never known the country when it wasn't at war.
She said the Constitution provides the freedoms Americans have today. But she said freedom means more than what's written in the Constitution. She said one of the things freedom means is being able to grow up to be whatever a person wants.
Lawson Smead from Patton Junior High School said freedom means different things to different people. Smead, who talked about some of the liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights, said freedom undoubtably was a founding principle of the country.
Page 2 of 2 - During his remarks, Wulff said there are many things that make Americans strong but he focused on two reasons.
The first reason he cited ― the Fort Leavenworth children's parents.
"They have fought in the war against terrorists or they have supported the war effort from here," he said.
Wulff said many of the children's parents joined the military because of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
And the second reason he cited ― the children's teachers.
"Teachers make us all smart which makes the United States smart," he said.