Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mother Nature and all her wicked ways.

With Hurricane Dean gaining strength and about to enter the Gulf of Mexico, I started thinking back to my first hurricane experience. I have lived in Houston for 2 1/2 years, and in the days leading up to Hurricane Rita immediately on the heels of the devestation left by Katrina, I have to say that those days were one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I remember the day they announced Rita was heading to Houston, it was a Tuesday, and it was my birthday. I suppose it was some cosmic joke that I got a hurricane for my birthday...

Being blessed to live in America, I had never known a day where I couldn't run down to the local grocery store or gas station to pick up what I needed. I wasn't prepared for the frantic "free-for-all" as people tried to prepare for the impending storm. People were waiting in line for hours to get gas, and most ended up running thier gas tanks dry and before they got to the end of the line the gas was gone, tempers flared and arguments started as people tried to position themselves to get what they could. The grocery stores that were still open had bare shelves and people were fighting over what little was left. No D batteries, bottles of water or canned good could be found anywhere. It was almost as if this metro area of 5 million had rolled up the sidewalks and been abandoned by the outside world. It was completely deserted except for the freeways heading out of town where people sat in a traffic nightmare for 15 to 30 hours to reach their destinations.

Not to say there weren't moments of decency that I witnessed. A young woman was in line to purchase one of the last rechargeable flashlights to be found when a older woman with 5 children in tow asked her where she found the light, but it was the last one. The woman handed the grandmother the flashlight and left the store. Hours later in a little mom & pop corner store, while a man was arguing with the store clerk over the price of a case of coke, a young couple was digging for change to buy a few meager sodas and chips to ride out the storm, it turned out this young couple didn't have any money because even though he had gotten his paycheck early, it was dated for Friday. the day of the Hurricane, and the bank wouldn't cash it, so a stranger stepped in and handed them a $10.00 bill. There were millions of other gestures of kindness as people offered water and food, and even gas to stranded motorists.

At the time I managed a group home and I also took care of a little old man who had no family. By the time I had prepared them to evacuate or weather out the storm, there literally wasn't anything left for me. I couldnt get gas, bottled water or even a flashlight. I chose not to leave and made the best of the situation. I filled ziplock bags with water and put them in my freezer, I managed to find a few things like a little LED reading light and a radio that ran on AA batteries. As it turns out, the storm turned east and hit the Texas/Louisiana border. I was blessed, my power never even went out, although many others were not as lucky. Even though the storm never made landfall here, it is one I will remember to the end of my days.

Anyway I am prepared for Hurricane Dean if it comes this way... I have water, batteries, gas in my car and other necessities. I wont be leaving things to chance this time. I hope others in the potential path of this storm will do the same.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

As our Eagles prepare to gather again on September 15th to soar side by side against ANSWER, Code Pink, Black Bloc and the rest of the anti war crowd, I thought I would share a look back at our first attempt to present our "support our troops and their mission" message. The following is a reprint of a letter written to the Marines of Regimental 6 deployed in Iraq from a fellow Eagle, Erin Coda. In it she shares her first Gathering of Eagles experience on March 17, 2007.

I want to let you know that, despite the discouraging words aired and printed daily by our news media, there are a great number of Americans who support both the troops and their mission, and who have pledged their faith in a thousand ways both great and small. This is the story of my experience with one such group.
In February of this year, I joined a little-known group called Gathering of Eagles (GOE), which was formed with the originial intent of protecting our monuments and memorial sites against vandalism by anti-war groups. These anti-war groups were planning a march from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the Pentagon on March 17, 2007, in order to commemorate the 40th anniversary of another famous march during the Vietnam War. The anti-war event was being sponsored by a number of fringe groups with Communist or Socialist ties, such as ANSWER and World Can’t Wait. Guest speakers were to include Jane Fonda and Cindy Sheehan. Members of the GOE had already found postings on the Internet indicating that some of the protesters were planning to bring spray paint, etc. It was obvious that something had to be done.
That something was us.
We came in trickles, walking downhill from the Metro station to the Lincoln Memorial. We came in droves, caravanning across the United States with Move America Forward and collecting flags as we came. We flew in from as far as Hawaii and Belize. We came on foot, on motorcycles, in wheelchairs. We came in the biker leathers of Rolling Thunder and the Nam Knights, the flattened caps of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the face paint and patriotic t-shirts of hot-blooded kids, and the heavy winter coats of ordinary citizens. We stood in the mud left by the previous night’s sudden snowfall, in a sea of snapping flags in front of the GOE main stage, where veterans and Gold Star Mothers told us stories of sacrifice and honor. We stood guard by the Vietnam memorials, the Iwo Jima memorial, the gates of Arlington Cemetery. We stood in a large mob on the side of the Lincoln Memorial, shouting our resolution and our outrage back at the opposition by means both vocal and silent that we would never surrender our ideals or r country. We stood on the Memorial Bridge with our faces stinging in the icy wind, and met the signs of the marchers with thousands of American flags.
Some of us left that day knowing only a piece of the story– a shouting match with a protester here, a cold and uneventful vigil there. But soon enough the reports began to pour in. Unofficial estimates said that we– with a de-centralized command structure, a few short weeks to plan, and NO corporate sponsorship– had outnumbered the 10,000 anti-war protesters by as many as 3 to 1. (Jane Fonda, incidentally, never showed.) Several groups reported potential vandals stopped in the act by the sight of Eagles standing watch. It looked like we had indeed accomplished our mission.
And then the stories began to grow. Whispered through the ranks, stated openly in local newspapers, shouted triumphantly in blogs and online forums came the news that, for the first time, anti-war groups were beginning to face direct opposition from supporters of the U.S. troops and the War on Terror. The Communist and Socialist roots of many anti-war groups were exposed publicly and in print. In Indiana, in Hawaii, in front of the Coast Guard Academy and in Times Square– suddenly, wherever anti-war groups planned to disrespect the United States and her protectors, Eagles were there to look them in the eye. And– to put it succinctly– the opposition blinked. I don’t know how much credit we can take for things like Cindy Sheehan’s resignation or the internal crumbling of certain anti-war groups, but the fact is that they are crumbling, and we are not. Perhaps that’s because they define themselves by what they oppose, while we define ourselves by what we support.
For those of us (like myself) who have never been in the military, we are learning– possibly for the first time– what it’s really like to stand strong with our brothers and sisters, to guard our country’s assets and our buddies’ backs under harsh conditions. And while getting windburn on the Memorial Bridge is hardly a patch on what you all are going through, we bear it gladly for your sake. Like you, we sometimes reap a pile of scorn for standing up for our beliefs. And like you, we find that it often brings out the best in us. Disabled veterans travel thousands of miles to pay their respects and stand guard again after all these years. Normally inarticulate people find the words and the courage to write letters to their newspapers and their representatives. Those in hardship somehow find the means to make another trip or another donation. The timid find courage, and the courageous find strength, and the strong find solace. We do it not to glorify ourselves, but to support you, our protectors, by any means we can.
Those things– strength, courage, and solace– are what I wish for you, today and always: the strength to bear what must be borne, the courage to do what must be done, and the solace of knowing that a great number of your countrymen and -women stand with you in spirit. You are our foundation and our future. May God grant to you the blessings of a fair fight and a just outcome, and to us the grace never to let you down.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Why it means so much

The other day I was asked why I was promoting Gathering of Eagles so much and did I really think we could make a difference?

The answer, of course is a resounding yes!

A Gathering of Eagles is approaching Congress on September 10, 2007 to remind them that we no longer live in a September 10th world. The attack by Muslim extremists on September 11th 2001 changed living in America forever. Right now we are engaged in a struggle with extremists in Iraq with the same terrible mindset as those who killed 3,000 innocent Americans that fateful day. For that reason alone we must remain vigilant and take advantage of this one chance at defeating this Jihad against America and regaining stability and peace in our world by allowing our military the opportunity to finish their mission.

I am not generally a pessimist, but I think this time around we will only get once chance to get this right. Just something to think about, but what kind of message are we sending by folding and coming home? If our troops are forced to come home, this will be seen as an extremist victory that will fuel more and more attacks. If we leave now, we will just be opening Pandora 's Box to a bigger set of problems than we already face, with consequences that will make September 11, 2001 look like a tea party.

Even if the reasons for entering Iraq are no longer valid in the eyes of many; it doesn’t change the fact that we are there now and we have a job to finish. We must unite behind our troops, and we must finish the mission or face the consequences. Cutting off our troops funding now makes as much sense as sending firefighters to fight a fire and then cutting off the water and telling them to go home while the building is engulfed in flames and threatening to burn down the entire block.

I know people are tired of this war, I am tired of this war, but it must be undertaken to secure our future and stability in the Middle East. We must be strong and determined to finish this. Please give the surge a chance to work. We are seeing many positive results in just a few months time, and we need a little more time to make sure that Iraq is a stable as we can possibly make it

Our troops believe in their mission, and they want to leave with their heads held high, knowing that a future generation of Iraqis and Americans will enjoy the precious fruit of freedom because of their efforts.

The reason Gathering of Eagles can make a difference is because we are uniting as a group to make our voices heard. We can counter the voices of those who protest this war with our own voices of victory, we can give our troops the moral support they need, and we can stand up for what we believe in. .

Now you have a choice. You can sit by and watch our country lose this war and let the anti war crowd speak for all of us, and give the extremists the victory they desire…. or you can join us on September 10th by either going to Washington DC or sending a letter or make a phone call urging Congress to give our troops the funding, resources, and support they need.

You can also join us on September 15th in Washington DC by telling the anti war crowd that they don’t speak for us.

The Principles of Gathering of Eagles

1. Gathering of Eagles is non-partisan. While each member has his or her own political beliefs, our common love and respect for America and her heroes is what brings us together.

2. We are a non-violent, non-confrontational group. We look to defend, not attack. Our focus is guarding our memorials and their grounds.

3. We believe that the war memorials are sacred ground; as such, we will not allow them to be desecrated, used as props for political statements, or treated with anything less than the solemn and heartfelt respect they–and the heroes they honor–deserve.

4. We are wholly and forever committed to our brothers and sisters in uniform. As veterans, we understand their incredible and noble sacrifices, made of their own accord for a nation they love more than life itself. As family members, we stand by them, and as Americans, we thank God for them.

5. We believe in and would give our lives for the precious freedoms found in our Constitution. We believe that our freedom of speech is one of the greatest things our country espouses, and we absolutely hold that any American citizen has the right to express his or her approval or disapproval with any policy, law, or action of our nation and her government in a peaceful manner as afforded by the laws of our land.

6. However, we are adamantly opposed to the use of violence, vandalism, physical or verbal assaults on our veterans, and the destruction or desecration of our memorials. By defending and honoring these sacred places, we defend and honor those whose blood gave all of us the right to speak as freely as our minds think.

7. We vehemently oppose the notion that it is possible to “support the troops but not the war.” We are opposed to those groups who would claim support for the troops yet engage in behavior that is demeaning and abusive to the men and women who wear our nation’s uniform.

8. We believe in freedom at all costs, including our own lives. We served to protect the freedoms Americans enjoy, and we agree with Thomas Jefferson’s assertion that “From time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

9. We will accept nothing less than total, unqualified victory in the current conflict. Surrender is not an option, nor is defeat.

10. We stand to challenge any group that seeks the destruction of our nation, its founding precepts of liberty and freedom, or those who have given of themselves to secure those things for another generation. We will be silent no more.