This is truly puzzling. Phriendly Jamie over at West of Shockoe read my post about "A Gathering of Eagles" and left two confusing comments. I am only left to surmise that she misread and/or misinterpreted what I was saying.
She then immediately wrote a post on her blog proclaiming Republican bloggers had slandered the Vietnam Vets and were against the troops, and how appalled she was.
After at first being shocked, I had to laugh. Me? Against the troops and our veterans? Boy, has she got the wrong person!
The SWAC area has supported the troops publicly since January 2003 when the first anti-war protesters appeared on the streets of downtown Staunton. An Augusta County resident stationed with the Air Force in South Korea read the local newspaper online from halfway around the world, saw photos of anti-war protesters, and emailed her mother to ask, "What is going on in Staunton?"
Her comment was relayed to me. The newspaper article had said the anti-war people would be on the corner every day that week to protest the then-impending U.S. entry into Iraq.
It was time to do something. We couldn't let this go unanswered.
I was the most unlikely "leader" of something like this you could ever imagine ... the quiet kid in school who took zeroes rather than stand in front of the class to give an oral book report ... and I had grown into a quiet adult.
But I had memories of the Vietnam War coverage burned into my brain from my teenage years ... the nightly news showing angry young protesters vandalizing buildings, and trashing and burning vehicles. Military men returning from Vietnam were spat on, called names, and had trash and feces thrown on them. They were advised not to travel in uniform because it was too dangerous ... in the United States of America!
It left a lasting impression on my young brain. So in 2003, as a middle-aged adult, I realized it was time to step to the plate. It was time for the quiet generation from the Vietnam years to take a stand and speak up.
I sent emails and made phone calls to everyone I knew: "Friday, noon, on the corner in downtown Staunton. Bring American flags and signs of support." I added the plea, "Please don't leave me standing there alone."
I had no idea what the response would be. We got there a few minutes early that Friday in January 2003, my husband and me, carrying flags and signs to the corner ... and waited. The anti-war faction had about six people on the street. As the noon hour struck ... I looked around ... and my Republican friends and neighbors started showing up from every direction. Young people, parents with children, retired folks, friends who were on their lunch hour, Mary Baldwin College Republican students, home school students, military families, military veterans from WW II, Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm ... dozens of people arrived to show their support for our soldiers.
I stepped to the corner of Johnson and Augusta Streets and held up my sign: "HONK ... If You Support Our Troops." And the horns started blaring. We couldn't believe it ... it was almost continuous. Folks honked and gave a thumbs-up. Pedestrians walking the street called out, "Honk, honk!" Military guys from the local Armory rode by and honked. Even the trolley driver rang his bell.
Office workers came out to thank us and said they were tired of seeing the anti-war protesters all week. A caterer brought cups of hot chocolate, compliments of surrounding office workers and, since it was January and extremely cold, the hot chocolate was appreciated. A local delivery driver stopped by with pizza.
Our group hit the streets every time the anti-war protesters were out from January until we entered Iraq in mid-March 2003. When I asked the anti-war protesters how they thought they were supporting the troops, they said they were only protesting the idea of going into Iraq and, once there, they wouldn't be out anymore.
"They wouldn't protest anymore" ... that turned out to be a huge lie.
When we lost our first young Marine, Lance Corporal Jason Redifer, 19, from Augusta County, it was time to support a military family, and SWAC Republicans did. We have since lost Lance Corporal Daniel Bubb, 19, and Lance Corporal Daniel Morris, 19, also from Augusta County.
Just this week it was announced that two bridge overpasses in Augusta County would be named in memory of Jason and Daniel Bubb. A resolution commemorating the life of Daniel Morris was passed in the just-completed General Assembly.
From Our Hearts was started by Benny and Diane Rankin who own T-Bone Tooter's Restaurant in Churchville and is made up of local residents who send hundreds of care packages to local soldiers and Marines in Iraq.
While loved ones are in Iraq, our military families have been taken under the wings of locals. Some have babysat military children at the local Armory allowing the parents time to share with other adults. Individuals have their own way of remembering the troops and their families ... cards, packages, letters ... taking the family out to eat, inviting them to join in cookouts and get-togethers, offering to be on call if the hot water heater goes out in the middle of the night.
Some of the strongest supporters are military vets themselves ... and our support of the troops and our military veterans continues to this day.
A Gathering of Eagles - Support the Troops Rally: Saturday, March 17, 12:00 Noon in downtown Staunton. We will be there to stand up to the anti-war protesters who are out every year on this anniversary.
Update: Flora at UCV has Eagles Gather in SWAC Country.
Update: Good Sense posted about this issue here.
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