Williams said in a telephone interview yesterday that he had been wounded and his driver seriously injured in the conflict.
He said when he returned home, he thought “I’ve got to do something. I’m not the same person I was. What better way to honor (them) than to pick up the flag” and walk. “That first year it was me and the flag,” he said, noting he walked to Dr. Roy Terry’s office on West Main Street.
After that, GX Magazine, a National Guard publication, picked up the story and he received from around the country wanting to know more about the Fallen Soldiers March.
Similar marches are now held in California, Illinois, Arkansas and Texas.
Williams said he talked with Sue Vanatta, president and CEO of the Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, who suggested holding the march on the first day of the Wilson County Fair.
Williams readily agreed. “What’s more American than apple pie and the fair?” he asked.
Although the 9-mile route was initially chosen to honor the nine Tennesseans killed in battle, Williams said the Fallen Soldiers March is “dedicated to anyone who passed away in the War on Terror.”
About 45 people participated in the march in 2007. Williams said he expects about 60 to march this year, including his father, retired U.S. Air Force MSgt. Jim Williams Sr., who is 75 and resides in Brentwood. Also expected to be on hand tomorrow is U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. Cooper represents the 5th Congressional District which includes part of Wilson County.
“The real reason I do this is so that people can be reminded…at least on this one normal day, that they can take that time to see and think about the sacrifices so many have made to keep our country safe,” Williams said, adding he hopes people who see the marchers will stop whatever it is they are doing and will wave at them as they pass by.
Many people do. As the marchers passed by the Mapco Express on Leeville Pike at South Hartmann Drive in ’07, people in the parking lot waved and blew their car horns as the marchers continued their journey.
Number of businesses will be handing out bottles of water to the marchers. They include Old Neighborhood Bar and Grill, Wilson Bank & Trust, John Greer’s State Farm Insurance, Lebanon/Wilson County Chamber of Commerce, Sellars Funeral Home, H.G. Hill's grocery and Superior Autos.
A memorial honoring the fallen soldiers was constructed last year at the Armory, and Williams said he wanted to thank Minchey’s Landscaping and Lebanon Monument for their donations to make it a reality.
Williams, of Lebanon, has spent 24 years in the military, the four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He was assigned at the Lebanon Armory but is now with the Joint Forces Headquarters in Nashville.
By beginning the march at 4:30 p.m. this year, Williams said he hopes Mother Nature will be a little more cooperative as opposed to last year when it began around 1:30 p.m. The temperature this afternoon is expected to be about 86, a bit cooler than the 104 degrees on the day of the march in ’07.
The heat took the wind out of some of the marchers. “I’m not a spring chicken anymore,” Williams said, laughing.
Marchers will range in age from 20 to 75 today, and it is open to everyone. There will be a meeting at the Lebanon Armory at 3:30 p.m. to discuss safety concerns and reminding everyone to drink plenty of water.
The Fallen Soldiers March will likely continue into the future. “I’ll do it until the war is over,” Williams said. “And that could be a long time.”