Let me start by saying that the Gathering of Eagles vigil on Saturday March 17, 2007, to protect the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and show support for our troops fighting terrorism,was an overwhelming success on every possible front.
We had massive crowds, despite frigid weather and a snowstorm that made travel in the Northeast a virtual nightmare for many who made the trip anyway. (Our bus to DC got stuck when we pulled off the highway on a scheduled stop to pick up some veterans in Waterbury, CT. But we got out, and pushed it out of the show drift, and away we went. We are veterans, mind you, we are in the habit of overcoming adversity.)
We made a major statement to America, and to the pro-terrorism forces in our midst, and we did it without any major incidents or violence.
My group arrived at the GOE site at about 9 a.m, under sunny skies but with temps hovering around 40 degrees and a brutally cold wind blowing. I checked in with the organizers, was given my speaker's badge and proceeded to wait out the two hours until it was my turn to address the gathering.
Just before 10 a.m. when the crowd gathered before the speakers' platform was at its largest and mostly densely packed, I took it upon myself to do a little leg work to get an idea how many people were there. I noted the group's boundaries, and twice walked the perimeter's length and width, once then, once later when most people were gone.
It came to approximately 200 feet across by 600 feet deep. I stress here, these are approximate numbers. That gives a total of about 120,000 square feet. I assigned an area 3 feet by 3 feet (9 square feet) per person, which is a lot more room than many people were taking up, but nonetheless means that in that area, at that time, there were approximately 13,000 people gathered.
The GOE website says the Park Service is putting our numbers at 30,000 compared to 4,000 or so for the pro-terrorists.
I don't have access to all their figures, but I do know that in one place at one time we had close to 13,000 people. My methods were general, not scientific, but reasonable.
The media gave conflicting numbers all day, and ended up trying to say that the vets were outnumbered by the pro-terrorism forces, as if that matters. Fact is, just about everyone agrees that all the Fonda/Sheehan forces could muster was about 4,000 demonstrators and terrorists.
If I am wrong by fully half in my estimates, which I'm not, but let's just say if, then we still outnumbered the terrorists by double. Did you hear that, politicians who didn't bother to attend or support us?
Did you hear that National VFW and American Legion officers, who never once made a formal statement or news release supporting our gathering? Both politicians and veterans organizations get their power from the same place, veterans joining and veterans voting.
America's politicians and main veterans organizations failed miserably in this endeavor. But we didn't.
I am not trying to be an expert at crowd estimates here, but the fact is, the media has been downplaying the veterans' presence at the gathering, and overstating our conduct, which we all pretty much expected, and which we got. But the crowd estimates that have come out are pure nonsense, and what surprises me the most is that FOX News is right out there with the Associated Press in handing out this tripe.
FOX apparently did assign a reporter to stop by the GOE site, but the network's remote broadcast truck was stationed on Henry Bacon Drive adjacent to the pro-terrorist rally headlined by Cindy Sheehan that started this whole thing in the first place, and the stand up reporting was done from there all day. One of my fellow veterans listened to one of the live reports in which the lady doing the reporting said that the two camps had equal numbers of people. How do you make that claim when you are hundreds of yards away from the GOE site?
How do you account for all the people on the sidewalks along Constitution Avenue who were protecting our rally site from the pro-terrorism forces who were trying to force their way in, or our members who stationed themselves along the pro-terrorists' march route to the Pentagon, or those who went over to Arlington, or those who stayed at The Wall? How do you? I'd love to hear the answer.
Fox spent precious little time at the GOE, and grossly underestimated the numbers of veterans there, as did the Associated Press, which always intentionally inflates the numbers of anti-American demonstrators and exaggerates the conduct of anyone who opposes them.
For instance, did Fox show any of the foul-mouthed middle aged women who repeatedly passed through the veterans' rally area, three blocks away from the pro-terrorists permitted rally site, trying to incite violence with the vets? Did Fox, the AP, Washington Post or any other news organization quote these vicious foul-mouthed middle-aged freak show candidates when they were deliberately trying to create confrontations with the veterans?
What does the Main Stream, American Terrorist Media, which in this case, includes Fox News have to show for their efforts to promote pro-terrorism? A couple of idiots who tried to inflame the veterans got their stupid signs taken away from them, and a couple others got their feelings hurt in shouting matches.
Oh, the humanity. Too freakin' bad. Bummer. Sorry 'bout that. If you can't take the heat, go live at the North Pole.
FOX has a lot of support in the American military and veteran community because it is the only network that has even made an effort to report that we exist anywhere except in old Rambo movies and anti-war propaganda. But Fair and Balanced seemed to take a tilt over to the Unfair and Unbalanced side on Saturday. I would strongly recommend that the bean counters at FOX take a hard look at the balance sheets of the New York Times and other media outlets that are paying the price for supporting communism and other terrorists.
If it comes down to it, America's veterans can turn on the Internet and turn off the Cable TV just as we started cancelling our subscriptions to the print media and turning off the nightly evening news. Just a suggestion.
A few other notes from the gathering:
Late Saturday afternoon, at about 4 p.m., the pro-terrorism forces came back to DC, in the area of the Vietnam and Lincoln Memorials, after their rally at the Pentagon.
The vast majority of veterans from the Gathering of Eagles had long since departed, but some of us were still there. Our group couldn't start the bus ride back to CT until 5 p.m. due to regulations about how long the driver had to be off the road.
Leading the pro-terrorist returnees was a military-style group of about 100 (police agree with this assessment) carrying a Palestine Authority flag, and marching in a manner reminiscent of the Hezbollah style that we often see on the evening news.
They were chanting in a foreign language, that sounded Arabic, but I am no expert here. The chants sounded very much like those you hear in extremist, anti-American, anti-Israel demonstrations.
The group turned toward Constitution Ave., then suddenly veered toward Henry Bacon Drive, and tried to go over the fences that had been erected to keep their demonstration contained there earlier in the day.
Police later said their intent was to break down three rows of fences and overwhelm the few remaining guards at The Wall and then deface it. In addition to their first strike at the fencing, members of the terrorist group also started heaving bottles at the police.
At this point cops from all over converged on the scene (several hundred, not thousands.) As I said, this was witnessed by dozens of veterans.
The terrorists never got past the first row of fencing. The cops were on them in a matter of minutes, and some of their group ran up side streets with the cops hot after them.
A solid row of cruisers and motorcycle police was formed going down Henry Bacon Drive between the returning marchers and The Wall. The police were unbelievably supportive of the vets, and chatted freely with us.
The rank and file welcomed us back any time and said they would a million times rather have us in DC than the so-called anti-war crowd.
At 5 p.m. my group walked two blocks up to 21st and Constitution, boarded our bus and headed home, one of the last contingents to leave. At that point the wall was secure, but have no doubts, an attempt was made on it, and had we not raised such a ruckus through the GOE efforts, it very well may have succeeded.
In an earlier post I quoted a line from the Magnum P.I. television show in which he was asked, after a return trip to Vietnam and all the problems it caused him and his friends, what would have happened if they hadn't gone.
Considering that I am dead tired, physically and emotionally, the end of my driveway is a solid block of frozen snow, sleet and slush that accumulated while I was gone, my family missed our traditional St. Paddy's Day corned beef dinner, which is a BIG deal in this house, the journey itself through snow, sleet, rain and gloom of night was arduous, and we now have to deal with the lying, manipulating media yet again, I'll borrow Tom Selleck's reply in that episode to answer the question, "What if we hadn't joined the Gathering of Eagles to support our troops and protect The Wall?"
Sunday, March 18, 2007