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A personal and patriotic pilgrimage: US service members walk 100 miles to remember lives lost on 9/11

Special Agent Chris Dowling, of Orange Park, joined the group which started from Fort Dix in New Jersey and ended at New York's Ground Zero.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Every step was significant.  Every mile had a meaning.

For Chris Dowling, it was a journey that just felt right.

“I thought doing this one thing that was physically and mentally exhausting was a drop in the bucket of what the families of my friends have had to deal with,” he told First Coast News.

The Orange Park native, along with 11 others, walked 100 miles from Fort Dix in New Jersey to New York’s Ground Zero.

It was part of a fundraiser for the 9/11 Memorial Fund and the families of the 13 US service members who were killed in Afghanistan last month.

“Being there on those hallowed grounds, on the 20th anniversary, just those feelings of sorrow, of grief, loss,” Dowling described.

Dowling enlisted 18 years ago and since that time had four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He lost seven of his friends during those deployments and knew the right way to honor them was to bring their memory to this year’s remembrance ceremonies.

A flag they carried with them now flies in New York.

Credit: Courtesy: Chris Dowling
A group of US servicemembers walked 100 miles from Fort Dix to Ground Zero to remember the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. Orange Park native Chris Dowling joined them.

“I think about the things they are missing out on every day because of the personal sacrifices that they made; that their families continue to make,” Dowling said of the loss of his friends.

Dowling has three young children and hopes they grow up to understand how the country turned disbelief into determination.

It was a trip he says he needed to take; it was a personal and patriotic pilgrimage to never forget the fallen.

“Do something bigger than yourself, as an individual. Do it for the greater good of the group, of America,” he said.

For more information about their fundraiser, click here.