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Sunday, March 18, 2007

After Action Report

Greetings and Salutations to All my Kith and Kin and All the Ships in Outer Space:

Yesterday, I went downtown to celebrate Saint Patrick's Day by participating in a massive counter protest demonstration near the Viet Nam Memorial.

I teamed up with John Smith, another resident here at the Old Soldiers' Home, a retired Marine, who is also a retired deputy sheriff, and we took a taxi down to Constitution Park.

It was colder and windier than we expected, but wow, you should have seen the crowd!

Veterans and supporters had gathered from all over the country, most of them appearing to be bikers, many of them appearing to be Marines, and of course, the Cavalry and Airborne were well represented.

There were also plenty of Air Force and Navy veterans.

John Smith was especially pleased to see so many Marines, as it is the smallest of the military services, but possibly was the most represented at this event.

There were thousands and thousands of us, scattered all over everywhere!

There were zillions of United States flags planted or hung up, but many of the flags had to be taken down because the wind was fouling things up and scattering flags everywhere.

One blonde lady was walking around carrying a large Australian banner.

She said she wasn't Australian, but was carrying the flag for a friend, or something like that.

I wondered if she were part of the International War Veterans Poetry Archives on the Internet, and she said she knew about the group, but wasn't a member.

For the benefit of readers, I have many of my own original song lyrics, stories, and poems, with photographs, posted on the Internet at the International War Veterans Poetry Archives.

The web site was created and is maintained by Anthony Pahl, an Australian veteran of Viet Nam, and a good friend who has visited here at the Old Soldiers' Home.

I was surprised at how muddy the ground was, like walking around in a corral back at the ranch.

I wore my jump boots, with my trousers tucked in, so I did okay, but my partner had worn shoes, which he regretted.

I was concerned that a disabled veteran on a battery powered vehicle would get stuck in that mud or flip over on the hillside, but he seemed to have no trouble.

It was pretty neat meeting veterans of obscure units I had served with, such as Combat Developments Experimentation Command (CDEC) or Phu Lam Signal Battalion.

Nobody ever heard of those outfits unless they were assigned there, and this was the first time I'd run into anyone else who had been in either unit.

I also enjoyed the camaraderie of fellow Airborne and Cavalry troopers, as we recognized each other by our wings or stetsons.

I wore my Army field jacket and nomex flight gloves to protect me from the cold, with my air assault wings pinned on my chest, and Seventh Cavalry insignia and combat team leader tabs on my epaulets.

On my head, was my Cavalry stetson, and Prince of Wales spurs were strapped to my jump boots.

Few of us had really dressed up, because we were mostly prepared for a fight, as the anti-war protestors had threatened to vandalize war memorials and attack war veterans.

John Smith spent most of his time chatting with fellow Marines, one of whom, like himself, was also a retired deputy sheriff.

I had taken my guitar, but it was much too cold, so I never took it out of the case.

I also brought my canteen, and that came in handy.

John had brought sandwiches, and handing them out to me and his old friend, the three of us enjoyed a lunch.

One lady gave us American flags and another lady gave us FDNY - NYPD commemorative pins.

I was appreciative of their generosity, but I really wanted to keep my hands free, so I eventually stuck the flag in the ground among all the other flags.

Apparently, the Viet Nam Memorial was being VERY closely guarded by the National Park Service, with everyone being compelled to go through metal detectors and being subjected to body scans.

War protestors began gathering over at one of the entrances to the park, some of them merging in among the war veterans to instigate confrontations.

I didn't see everything that went on, but I did see the Park Police come running up in riot gear to order the anti-war crowd to stay away from our area.

Some of the anti-war protestors who had gone in among the war veterans had their signs seized and smashed, and properly terrified, they fled the area, yelling for police.

But, of course, the police were rather unsympathetic, since the anti-war radicals had been asking for trouble.

I noticed the old war veterans were making friends with the police, for many of them were bikers, and they were engaged in enthusiastic discussion with the motorcycle cops, comparing the qualities of different machines.

Also, John Smith and his friend, both retired lawmen, talked shop with one of the officers, comparing notes about working conditions and retirement plans.

As the anti-war crowd began walking over to their staging area, the veterans lined the route, yelling, "U S A !!! U S A !!!", and taunting or admonishing the anti-war crowd, some of whom carried obscene signs that couldn't be shown on television or in newspapers, or gestured and yelled vulgarities and profanities.

One fellow carried a photograph of his son who had been killed in battle, and war veterans politely expressed condolences.

Another anti-war protestor was wearing the new battle fatigue uniform, and was covered with fake blood, with a massive head wound, which really angered the war veterans.

The anti-war crowd was very theatrical, with lots of costumes and huge paper-mache heads (if I'm saying that correctly).

Obviously, they were well funded and highly organized.

I didn't notice any Hollywood celebrities, but I probably wouldn't have recognized them if I had seen them.

Still, most of the war veterans were well-behaved, and there didn't seem to be an immediate threat to any memorial, not with the obvious tight police presence.

So, after a few hours, with no assigned duties and no perceived threat, John Smith and I decided we'd had enough of being cold, and we went searching for a nice Irish pub.

I'm not familiar with the pubs, but he was, so we first attempted to go to "THE IRISH TIMES", and then to "THE DUBLINER".

But because it was Saint Patrick's Day, both establishments required ten bucks just to go in the door, which infuriated John.

Finally, we found a place near Union Station, the "CAPITOL CITY BREWERY".

We sat down at the bar, and while John Smith enjoyed his pints, Sean the bartender, served me bottles of "BUCKLER", a non-alcoholic beer from Holland.

It was pleasant seeing everyone having a grand day, and yes, I did love looking at the comely colleens.

After three rounds, one of which was on the house, we walked over to Union Station and took a taxi back to the Soldiers' Home.

Back in my room, I turned on my computer and the television to see what news there was of our activities downtown.

There was very little mention, if any, of the war veterans and the Gathering of Eagles.

Almost all the pictures I saw and virtually all the detailed news coverage was focused on the anti-war protestors, not only in Washington, D.C., but in foreign lands such as Spain, Greece, Turkey, Australia, and Korea.

Currently, you can watch a brief "YOU TUBE" video of the Gathering of Eagles event at the Gathering of Eagles web site.

Actually, even the news of the anti-war protests seemed to have been preempted by news about airliners grounded by winter storms.

I hope you all had as much fun as I did yesterday.

Maybe I'll go back down there when the weather is warm, and I can be alone.

Thank You.

John Robert "SAIGON" Mallernee, KB3KWS
Official Bard of Clan Henderson
Armed Forces Retirement Home
Washington, D.C. 20011-8400

NOTE: "My unpopular and controversial personal opinions are independent of my Scottish clan."

1 comment:

Gull said...

Wonderful post .... Thanks for your courageous efforts yesterday.

I watched from the warmth of my home, but blogged the audios and cable shows all day --

Welcome home and thanks for standing with the Eagles!