The caravan arrived on time. The roadies started setting up the stage while the leaders circulated. Deborah Johns and Debbie Lee came by and shook my hand. I have to say a gold star mom thanking me for being there really got to me.
The rally was on Flag Pole Hill, which is exactly what you'd expect from the name. We went up to the top and gathered in a courtyard around the flagpole. Jeff Bolton, a local talk radio guy, gave the opening talk and introduction. Diana Nagy sang the Star Spangled Banner and "Where Freedom Flies." Lt. Col. Buzz Patterson was the first speaker from the tour, focusing on the progress being made and the need to lobby Congress to support the war.
Here's a shot of the stage area while Buzz was talking. He's just to the left of the speaker in the center. Just to the right of the flagpole you can see Deborah Johns, Debbie Lee, and Diana Nagy in the middle. Jeff Bolton, the local talk radio guy is 2nd from the left. Just to the right of the foreground flag is one of the two cops who were present for the event. Not shown are the supporters (about 50-100 people, including a dozen kids) and counter protestors (6-9 Ron Paulites).
Deborah Johns is the mother of a Marine about to head back for his fourth tour in Iraq. She spoke about how proud she is of him, how much the troops have accomplished there, and the need to hold Congress accountable for their decisions.
Debbie Lee began by asking any other gold star family members to come forward. Two fathers did, one of whom had been standing right next to me. The first one (I'm ashamed to say I didn't catch his name) spoke to us about his pride in his son and what he'd done, and that not supporting the mission is also not supporting the troops. The second didn't want to address the crowd--he's the father of Braden Long, killed in Baghdad last month--so Debbie talked to him and then told us. After that she asked for a show of hands from blue star families (big cheers from the Marine t-shirted contingent) and veterans (I raised mine, even if I was a REMF).
Marc Alan Lee was Debbie's son. He died in Ramadi, covering medics as they evacuated another member of his team. She told us the story of that day. She also read to us a letter Marc had written the July 4th before he died, with his thoughts on how far back the mess in Iraq went and the good and bad in the USA. A philosophical young man. I was reminded of the poets lost in WWI and how we never really know how much we're losing with each death.
We closed with another song. After it broke up I offered my condolences to Braden's father (while feeling very useless inside). The MAF crew had a banner for us to sign to be delivered to the troops--that attracted a tight-packed crowd. And there was the obligatory table to t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc. for us to buy. I picked up a shirt and a magnet, the same "Support Victory" design you see in my icon. I've ordered some more of the magnets.
I'm glad I went.