Staff Sgt. Joel Pena
10th Mountain Division Journalist
Hundreds of Soldiers, Family Members and Fort Drum community members gathered April 24 in front of North Riva Ridge Chapel to “Walk a Mile in Their Shoes,” an event to raise awareness about sexual assault victims.
“We are here this morning to raise awareness about sexual assault, sexual harassment and the prevention of these in our formations,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, Fort Drum and 10th Mountain Division (LI) commander.
“Sexual assault is a violent crime against our Soldiers and our Family Members,” Townsend said. “It’s an illegal act that breaks down the bonds of trust, teamwork and cohesion in the U.S. Army, 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, and we won’t tolerate that.”
The Walk a Mile in Their Shoes was the last in a series of events conducted throughout April as part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“As part of the SAAM, we sponsored a Zumba class, self-defense class, one commanding general enlisted focus group, one mid-grade focus group, Denim Day and the Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Anne Gessner, 10th Mountain Division Sexual Harassment / Assault Response and Prevention program team victim advocate. “We also had awareness tables set up at the Exchange.”
Gessner said she was pleased with the response to the Walk a Mile in Their Shoes event.
“I think it was a fabulous day,” she said. “I was personally moved to tears to see the number of supporters (who) came out to support our sexual assault survivors. It was great to see the commanding general represent the warfighter while walking along with the guys supporting their ladies in heels.”
One Soldier who was happy to support the SAAM was Sgt. Jesse Peterson, B Battery, 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment.
“This is a great way to raise awareness,” Peterson said. “Just look at the turnout. I got my shoes … and I wore them with red socks because red represents artillery.”
The mile-long walk started at North Riva Ridge Chapel and ended at the Multipurpose Auditorium. Townsend and his aide led the way, and what seemed like a river of people followed.
Once everyone crossed the finish line at the MPA, participants were treated to coffee, water and a light breakfast. A couple of the participants also were recognized for having the best shoes and clothing for the occasion.
At the conclusion of the event, Col. Thomas D. Macdonald, 10th Mountain Division (LI) chief of staff, thanked everyone who supported the walk.
“I love to see the support we’ve had today,” Macdonald said. “It proves that you care about each other and that you stand firm against anything that threatens our teamwork and cohesion.”
“Overall, I think it was an amazing day,” Gessner said. “I’m very proud to have been part of it.”