The SWAC area community came together yesterday for our third Support the Troops rally (previously held in 2003 and 2005) which doesn't include the times we stand on the streets as a presence against the anti-war protesters. The way everyone pitches in to help always impresses me.
The Republican chairmen from Augusta County and Staunton were there as well as SWAC bloggers Spank That Donkey, John Maxfield of Journal of the Civilized Man, RightsideVA, and SWAC Girl. The background work for a rally involves many facets. To say "thanks" isn't enough....
Sound System: Kurt Michael, Chairman of Augusta County Republicans, set up the sound system and operated it throughout the program. Music is an extremely important part of setting the mood for a rally ... inspirational, heart-warming, heart-wrenching ... music speaks to us in a way nothing else can. To hear songs such as "American Soldier" and "Arlington" and "The Bumper of my SUV" booming off the surrounding buildings in downtown Staunton makes chills run up my spine. It reinforces the reason we are there in the first place. To have a microphone to amplify voices for all to hear, even those on the sidewalk holding American flags, is extremely important. Kurt also operated the sound system for our August 2005 rally at the Courthouse.
Troop Flags: Spank That Donkey helped set the stage for the event by framing both sides of the podium with troop flags -- flags representing every branch of the military -- which was especially significant as military veterans and active service members were asked to stand or raise their hands to be recognized and thanked. Through his FreedomGear.com company, Chris also provided chairs for the speakers and tables for displays and background use. His help in set-up and tear-down, just as he did for the August 2005 rally, was especially appreciated.
MC - The Announcer: A program needs someone to move it along ... and John Maxfield did an excellent job MCing. He was in charge of everything from opening remarks to the prayer to announcing the speakers to reading names of local active military members. He was also instrumental in setting up and tearing down the staging area as well as compiling the music for the program.
The Singer: Henley Folk has been a part of all three "Support the Troops" rallies. Yesterday he was a surprise addition because his Christian group, The D.O.G.S. of Pray, had been in Nashville recording. As soon as I saw him walk up (and after I got over my surprise at seeing him), I asked if he would sing the "National Anthem" instead of us using the recorded one that was planned. He said he would be happy to, and it added a wonderful addition to the program. With his sound system expertise, he was also able to work with Kurt as they balanced the sound during set-up.
Remembering Three of Our Own: In Augusta County we have lost three young Marines in Operation Iraqi Freedom ... Lance Cpl. Jason Redifer, Lance Cpl. Daniel Bubb, and Lance Cpl. Daniel Morris. They were remembered as their names were read and there was a silent time to honor them as "Arlington" was played.
The Speakers - SSgt. Herb Harman: Herb is a patriot who puts his money where his mouth is. I honestly think his blood runs red, white, and blue. Now working out of Ft. Dix, NJ, he drove 12 hours through Friday night's snowstorm to attend the Rally. At GOP HQs during the Bush 2004 campaign I called him my radical conservative Republican because this man doesn't just talk the talk; he walks the walk. And if you don't think our mission in Iraq is winnable, just talk to Herby. After spending a year in Baghdad and returning stateside in January, he can tell you about all the good we are accomplishing in Iraq that is not told by the mainstream media. But I'll have more about him in another post....
The Speakers - Rhonda Winfield: Rhonda has paid the price for all of us with the supreme sacrifice of her family when they lost her 19-year-old son, Jason, in Iraq. She is a staunch believer that the mission in Iraq can and should be won, and that we should stay until the job is done. More on Rhonda later....
The Speakers - Scott Sayre: Military veteran and Republican candidate for the 24th Senate District Scott Sayre had a desire to address those attending the rally. Stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army in the 1980s, Scott experienced that country's terrorism threat which was at a high during that time. This VMI graduate understands the war we are in and the threat to our country, and the need to publicly support our military men and women worldwide.
The WW II Veterans: They are The Greatest Generation ... they are aging ... but they came out in the cold and stood on the sidewalk holding American flags. The frosty wind blew but they stayed, determined, proud.
Speedy Hite: Mr. Hite was career Army, serving during World War II, Korea, and Vietnam. This 86-year-old Augusta County resident has been to every rally and is often on the street when we stand against the protesters. Yesterday after the rally he approached me with red-rimmed eyes to say thank you for the Rally. No, Mr. Hite ... it is I who owes you the thank you.
The Other Veterans: Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and Operation Iraq Freedom veterans attended in addition to the World War II vets. They all stood proudly as they held flags and listened intently to the speakers.
The First Responders: We recognized and thanked firefighters, police officers, and emergency/rescue personnel who keep our homeland safe.
The Lady Marine: Before the program started as I walked around taking photos, one middle-aged lady standing alone caught my attention because she had a red, white and blue scarf around her neck and was holding a flag. I took her photo, then walked over to thank her for attending. She stuck out her hand to shake hands and introduced herself .... a Marine veteran. I thanked her for her service and introduced myself and, when she heard my name, recognized it and said she would like to volunteer. She recently joined the Marine League and heard about the event from Spank That Donkey at their last meeting. We will be honored to have her join us.
The Virginia Defense Force: When it came time for SPC Brian Kelly to address the crowd to explain about his group, he had to take a few moments to compose himself after the emotional testimony from those who spoke before him. After apologizing (there were many tearful people in the crowd), he explained that his group steps in when the Virginia National Guard is deployed. Since the Staunton Armory unit is on standby for deployment any day, SPC Kelly and his fellow volunteers are ready to fill in. They need volunteers to help beef up their force.
The Flags: Few things are as stirring to me as the sight of the American flag. Dozens of American flags on 8-foot poles were strategically placed around the perimeter of the Courthouse by SWAC Husband, Spank That Donkey, and John Maxfield. The extremely stiff winds that gusted to 15-20 mph throughout the day made the flags stand out proudly, and helped call attention to passersby that there was an event going on. (Thanks, RightsideVA.) The local VFW brought dozens of little American flags while larger ones were displayed in other areas. One American flag had a yellow ribbon attached. That was Nate's yellow ribbon ... but it was also for every other American Marine and soldier and airman and sailor and National Guardsman and reservist who are in harm's way to protect our freedoms.
The Wind: After Friday's snowfall in the Valley, Saturday dawned sunny, cold ... and windy. Gusts up to 20 mph were expected throughout the area with a high in the 30s after an overnight low in the 20s. Everything had to be anchored down to withstand the blustery day, and gloves, coats, layering, and extra socks were definitely the rule of the day.
The Photo Boards: Three photo boards were on display: photos of Lance Cpl. Jason Redifer, photos of current local military members serving around the world, and photos of previous rallies.
The Names: All three rallies have offered the opportunity for the community to write the name of friends or family serving in the military. These names are read by the MC throughout the program ... and yesterday was no different. I paused in the middle of what I was doing when I heard "Lance Cpl. Nate Salatin" read out loud ... it was a public recognition and gratitude for his service. Each name means something to someone in the crowd so we can never underestimate the importance of continuing to do that.
The Patriot Guard Riders: These folks are awesome. They come from all areas of SWAC, Virginia, the Nation, and stand up for fallen military members. At Lance Cpl. Daniel Morris' funeral in February they stood guard with American flags outside the funeral home the night of visitation and, at the funeral, they were there again with American flags to honor this fallen Marine and his family. Their presence at the rally was inspiring.
Man on the Street: Tom Nelson is a SWAC Republican who arrived early at the rally with his American flag in hand. He picked up the "HONK To Support Troops" sign and stood on the corner of Johnson and Augusta Streets for the entire time -- before and during the Rally. He held the sign in one hand and the flag in the other ... and the horns blared the entire time. Tom served 27 years in the Navy so he knows what it means to the military to know America is behind them.
Win the War Signs and Bumper Stickers: SWAC Daughter manned the table for military names and to buy Win the War signs and bumper stickers. We sold out of stickers, and the signs were going fast. SWAC Son helped out, too ... two conservative College Republicans.
The Children: There were little children in the crowd bundled against the cold holding American flags. Four little home school girls stood on the steps of the Courthouse, waving flags, while the National Anthem was sung.
The Signs: "Win the War! Victory in Iraq." The signs were everywhere, and they are cropping up all over the SWAC area as the Silent Majority is finding its voice in a war that sees the MSM pushing a liberal agenda against our President and troops in reporting only the negative aspects of the war and none of the numerous positives that are coming out of it.
The Media: Reporters and photographers representing WHSV TV-3, NBC-29, Staunton News Leader, Waynesboro News Virginian, and the Harrisonburg Daily News Record attended. We are thankful for their coverage.
My Husband: My husband, God bless his soul, is a trooper. I get an idea ... and he helps me fly with it. He's not the front person who receives much recognition for these events ... but he's there helping to load and unload, set-up and tear-down, pull patriotic materials out of the garage and then pack them back again ... he's the wind beneath my wings. Nothing could be done if I didn't have him there to back me, support me, encourage me, be my sounding board. He has helped with all three rallies and most events on the street.
More on the rally to come including photos....