Sunday, March 18, 2007
Gathering of Angels... at Gathering of Eagles
Greetings from Arlington, VA, just across the Potomac from DC. I thought I’d give a few more details on Angel participation in the rally coordinated by Gathering of Eagles (GOE) and Move America Forward to counter the March 17th anti-war rally march on the Pentagon.
The night before, Angels Jill, Anna, Jen, and I delivered some water, snacks, and hand warmers to representatives of the Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH). We’d planned on the snacks and water at Patti’s suggestion (***special thanks to Jill for driving to do the Costco shopping and to deliver the supplies to the MOPH’s hotel – and for the ride home for me both nights – thanks Jill!! ***). But as the weather turned sleety and cold on Friday, Anna successfully tracked down and picked up a few hundred hand warmers to add to our loot. The members of the MOPH were grateful. They specifically mentioned that they’d been envious of those they’d seen with hand warmers earlier in the day! They were also a real kick to hang out with. Anna and I agreed – a laugh a minute. If you ever meet Henry Cook of MOPH, ask him how he got the cane he carried during the Gathering of Eagles rally…
After lots of rain and then sleet and snow overnight, we woke to a sunny but windy and cold Saturday in DC. Jill was down at the Mall early to help carry our donations from the MOPH van to their courtesy tent in the GOE staging area. Anna, Jen and I arrived just in time to help, along with Angel Matti in from Chicago! Jill and Anna and Matti stayed at the GOE meeting area to pass out snacks and handwarmers, while Jen and I went off to see if we could find any other Angels. Turns out, most couldn’t make it (the weather was truly hideous just to the north and west of downtown DC), but we did link up with Karen a little later in the morning – yay! We three roamed around to see where the GOE folks were and to check out their efforts to counter the ANSWER rally. After that, I was bag/pack carrier, following Jen and Karen around as they too helped give away the remainder of the snacks and water. Every taker was grateful, and so many wanted to pay for the treats. In response, we said, “If you want to, go to SolidersAngels.org and make a donation!” :-)
Earlier on in the day, I also had the pleasure of taking temporary custody of some MOPH members’ gear so that they could take a walk past the Vietnam Memorial – security was tight, so no bags… or pocket knives, or cork screws, or cigar cutters were allowed. Is anyone surprised that these seasoned vets had a few of these in their pockets? LOL You won’t find a finer, funnier group. I’m so pleased and honored to have met them. Over all, I was just tickled at how many vets (I’m not a vet) made the point of being on the Mall in DC on Saturday. The place was crawling with vets and supporters from early morning to early afternoon. The first ones I saw and chatted with were at the metro train station in Rosslyn, Virginia. I saw a group huddled around the ticket machine and asked if they’d figured it out. “NO!” they laughed. No surprise. Whoever designed the ticket machines for the DC train system deserves to be unemployed. Anyway! I made a few friends, who subsequently wanted to buy me my train ticket – I told them I didn’t need one (I have a pre-paid pass), and that I was a member of Soldiers’ Angels and had just wanted to see if I could help. The Patriot Riders among them said “we know Soldiers’ Angels!” I wished them a safe journey and headed down into the station as I was intending to join Jill as her train passed through the Rosslyn station. Turned out I had to wait a while, and got to chat with the couple from east Tennessee whom I’d helped buy train tickets. Nicest people! I think that describes that day perfectly. I kept chatting with people who I’d never met before (including Jill, Anna, Jen, and Karen!) and having it feel like chatting with old friends. We thanked vets for their service and they thanked us for being there and for our support. We had a really good time, you know?
And did I mention that the place was CRAWLING with vets and their supporters? Leather biker jackets dominated the scene, and I’d say the average GOE attendee was a Vietnam Vet, while the average ANSWER supporter was 22 years old (who do you think has a clue?). On the trains, streets, and around all the monuments, what you noticed was the roving vets. Unlike the ANSWER rally participants who congregated at their sound stage or picketed Constitution Ave or along the sidewalks, all the vets wanted to visit the memorials! It probably made it hard to do a head count as they were milling around the WWII, Korean, and Lincoln Memorials or lined up to go thru security to visit The Wall. I saw web postings last night of an early Park Service headcount that there were 3000 GOE folks versus 2000 ANSWER folks! But!!! The unofficial count via GOE today estimates that 30,000 GOE folks had boots on the ground, while ANSWER had only 5000-10,000. Woohoo! I think many of the ANSWER folks arrived at the last minute to march to the Pentagon, because during the whole of the morning my impression was that there were a LOT more veterans and GOE supporters than there were ANSWER rally participants – it was a pleasantly wonderful surprise.
And major kudos to the National Park Service and DC Police. The layout of permit areas facilitated rallies for each side, far enough away from each other so the noise of one didn’t drown out the other, and for setting up DMZs (as Henry called them!) between GOE permit zones and the ANSWER rally point and march route. It allowed each side to be present and vocal, but prevented any physical confrontations. As I’d emailed Patti on Saturday, a very successful day! I’ll add some pics if possible (if not click on the link to my blog) – please excuse the low quality picture phone pictures! Wish you all could have been there! Michelle Malkin has an awesome round-up on her blog, with many execellent pictures and links to other commentary. GOE is to have a photo gallery, too, so check that out.
P.S. My picture phone pictures are in the post below...