By Ed Brock
The celebration of Earth Day at Army Garrison Fort Gillem in Forest Park included Frisbee tossing, a 5-kilometer run, a tree planting and plenty of "Hooah!"
"It's a great day to be in the Army," said Lt. Col. Lyndra Reid in her opening remarks at the Tuesday ceremony on the shores of Stephens Lake.
"Hooah!" shouted the crowd in response.
The theme for this year's Earth Day celebration was "Preserving the Environment While Protecting our Freedom."
"This twofold message recognizes the value of our environment and reminds us that we are the guardians of freedom," Reid said. "This celebration reminds all of us to recognize and respect Earth's beautiful system of balance between the presence of animals on land, the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, human life, water, air and land. We must remain aware that these systems are fragile and abuse of them could upset the balance."
Former U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin founded Earth Day in 1970. His purpose was to "shake up the political establishment" and put the issue on the national agenda, according to the Earth Day Network Web site.
In the late 1980s environmentalist Denis Hayes organized Earth Day on a global level, involving about 200 million people in 141 countries and now it is held every April 22.
While Earth Day itself is actually on Thursday, Tuesday's events kicked off a week of celebration, said event organizer and environmental engineer with the U.S. Army Reserves Kelly Ann Few.
"This is the first year for the annual Garrison Earth Day Fun Run," Few said.
About 20 people participated in the Earth Day Fun Run Tuesday morning, including 1st Sgt. Nestor Rodriguez who finished fourth in the race.
"It was fast, a little hilly and it was fun," Rodriguez said.
And the message of the day was one Rodriguez appreciated.
"I think it's important that we preserve what we have now for the future," Rodriguez said.
Concern for the future was one idea Forest Park Mayor Chuck Hall touched upon in his speech at the event. Hall and Forest Park City Councilman Henry Estes were in attendance to symbolically plant a tree, a symbol of humanity's ongoing responsibility to care of the planet, Hall said.
"If we don't take time now to give back and protect nature then future generations are going to have problems that we created," Hall said.
Also during the ceremony Reid presented the winners of the Fun Run, Private Darrell Davis (first place) and Spc. Tyesha Johnson (second place) with awards for their performance.
The next Earth Day event will be a golf tournament scheduled for Thursday at Fort Gillem's parent facility, Army Garrison Fort McPherson in Atlanta. For more details on that event call (404) 464-2178.
On Friday the week's Earth Day events will conclude with another tree planting at Fort McPherson.
In her closing remarks, Reid read a poem by Martin Luther.
"For in the true nature of things, if we rightly
Consider, every green tree is far more glorious
Than if it were made of gold and silver.
Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go
To pieces, I would still plant my tree."