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.

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