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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Remembering.... on Memorial Day Weekend

Growing up, Memorial Days passed with more emphasis on BBQs than the significance of day.

Considering that I grew up in the wake of the Vietnam War, I guess that's not surprising - public rhetoric focused on the tragedy of war, not on honoring those who gave their "last full measure of devotion".

It's reassuring that that seems to have changed.

In Arlington, the hints that Memorial Day is soon to arrive are at first subtle and then persistent.

First, the quiet and subtle... When I went for a long walk after work on Thursday, I noted that the small American flags were already in place in front of every headstone in Arlington National Cemetery. The flags are placed there every year, and it touches me deep inside that those who were charged with care of our National Cemetery thought to institute this individual tribute.

Next, the persistent... Since yesterday afternoon, Highway 50 has rumbled with the sound of big shiny motorcycles cruising toward DC. With my windows open, the sound is... not subtle. The percentage of those in black leather in the DC metro area will reach its annual high tomorrow during the Rolling Thunder ride to the National Mall and the White House. Since I first witnessed this tradition 5 or 6 years ago, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. There is something uniquely satisfying about the rumble of thousands of Harleys rattling the staid and somewhat self-important core of Washington, DC. I also now have more respect for the significance of the tradition. Not only does it carry their message of "never forget" on behalf of our POWs and MIAs, but it also seems to say: let's remember together and honor the sacrifice of those we've lost.

That's not too much to ask.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bike Ride and Banners! Face of America 2009

[photo above is from Angel Ann - see link at bottom of post]

I am a bit tardy in giving an after action report on the Face of America Bike Ride 2009.

I'd posted about all the wonderful banners that Angels and friends from all over the country had sent in. I received banners from more than 65 locations, and many people sent more than one.

They came from twin sisters, a grandmother and granddaughter, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Daisy Scouts, schools and day cares, individuals, and even several locations of the Hoosier Lottery!

I got some help from some familiar Angel buddies (Kathi and her daughter, the Banner Princess), but also from all the volunteer crews that set up the 7 rest-stops along the route. I bundled up banners and clothesline and clothespins so that each rest-stop could hang up a few banners on on whatever was available. At one location on Sunday, we simply commandeered a convenient barbed-wire fence. I got help from the wife and daughter of one of our wounded marines for that one. I remember chatting with them last year as we hung banners at a lunch stop waiting for their marine to arrive with the rest of the riders.

The ride kicked off right on schedule at 0730 Saturday morning in Bethesda. Kathi, the Banner Princess, and I hung up our first batch banners along the start, then cheered the riders as they got underway. No dillydallying for this crowd!

Not long after, while on our way the Milblog Conference, Kathi and I happened to pass the riders coming up the Clara Barton Parkway. All 300+ of them were causing a slight traffic jam but that was okay as it gave me time to roll back the Mini's sunroof and for Kathi to stand up through the roof and wave a banner that we had with us. Woohoo! We honked and hollered and yelled hello to Laughing Wolf and Chuck Z, and generally enjoyed the moment. I turned to Kathi after they'd passed and asked, "Did you get a picture?" "Ah. No." LOL.

I was back on banner-hanging duty with many others early Sunday morning in Frederick, MD. Kathi swung by the Milblog Conference hotel so that Greta could join us as well, and they met me at the first stop. The folks that had set-up up the stop-over site at Frederick the night before had hung banners all around the inside walls of the gymnasium where the riders had dinner and breakfast. Great idea!

After hanging banners along that barbed wire fence near a beautiful covered bridge, we dashed off to the finish line. The ride finishes at the home of a retired marine who lives midst the rolling hills at the edge of the historic battlefield at Gettysburg.

We decked out the neighbor's red barn once again, as well as a couple of parked cars. The rest of the banners were hung up around the inside of the lunch tents for folks to see as they enjoyed the live band and chowed down on some excellent BBQ.

The finish of this ride is always a special part of the event. A volunteer bagpiper, an impromptu artillery arch across the road, a cheering crowd, plus two Ospreys and a Cobra made it extra special. Check out Banner Princess's video here - she caught the audio of the bagpipes too!

Thanks again to World T.E.A.M. Sports, to all those who sent in banners, to all who donated or volunteered (Go Angels!) to support the event, and to all who rode in support of our wounded troops.

But most especially, thank you to our troops, who have overcome some tremendous challenges and have inspired us all over again.

For more pictures, go to Angel Ann's site HERE.

And a few more:

Monday, May 4, 2009

Now recruiting virtual members for Soldiers' Angels' Bethesda Lunch Team

So I had this idea.

How would you like to be part of a Soldiers’ Angels Bethesda Lunch Team?

I’m not actually inviting you to lunch. In fact, even if you lived here in DC, I couldn’t invite you along. It’s not that kind of lunch. It’s the kind of lunch where I show up with food to feed other people. Those people are some of our troops – Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines – and their families and friends who, for whatever reason, happen to be at our National Naval Medical Center-Bethesda. Some have just been medevac’d from Germany because of a combat-related injury. Some were injured a while ago, but are back for yet another surgery. Some are ill. Whatever the reason, Soldiers’ Angels provides a simple buffet lunch once a month.

It’s not fancy, but we have make-it-yourself-&-your-way turkey, roast beef, ham, cheese, PB&J, even Nutella. To balance it out, there are usually mini-carrots, grapes, pickles, chips or pretzels, potato salad, and coleslaw. And cookies, of course.

We offer a sandwich to our hardworking Navy medical staff as well.

So, while I can’t invite you along, I could use some virtual teammates. I’m especially thinking of those folks who aren’t quite ready to adopt a deployed troop or aren’t able to volunteer in other ways, but who *might* have an extra $5 or $10 a month to support the lunch AND who might want to send greetings to those who drop by for a sandwich.

So here’s the plan: if you are willing and able, hit the “Chip In” button above or on the side bar. The donation goes directly to Soldiers’ Angels – an 501(c)(3) non-profit – via Pay Pal. Don’t like Pay Pal? Drop me an email at letters-to-send AT mindspring DOT com, and you can send in a check made out to Soldiers’ Angels instead.

After that, I’ll send you an email asking for your message for me to share, something that will fit on a 3x5 index card that I can stick in a notebook.

I’m always asked – every time we’re there with lunch and especially by the family members – “who’s providing this food?”

If this works out, I’ll be able to point to my notebook and say, “Have a look in there.”

A contribution of any size makes a difference. Really.

Thanks in advance!

P.S. The total in the Chip In widget is a rough budget for the year. If extra funds are donated, others - Mary Ann, Roger, or our Walter Reed team - who also provide support to our wounded troops can put the funds to good use. Click on their names to see the kinds of TLC that they provide.