One spinoff of the highly successful Gathering of Eagles in Washington D.C. on March 17, where some 30,000 veterans turned out to stand vigil over the national war memorials and show support for our troops, is a system of regional organizations that are carrying on the work of the original gathering.
Veterans and our supporters have already organized vigils and counter-demonstrations in places where the far-left, pro-terrorist, pro-communist, pro-socialists have previously gathered with impunity to spew their messages of hatred and opposition to democracy.
This Wednesday, May 23, veterans from through New England and further will be gathering at the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, to cheer on the graduating cadets, and to give their friends and relatives a vision of support when they arrive for the ceremonies.
The pro-communist group A.N.S.W.E.R (you can look them up on the Internet if you wish, I'm not giving them any more space here) has also taken out a permit to demonstrate at the academy. It isn't by chance that President George W. Bush is the commencement speaker, of course, but the pro-terrorist groups are making a huge tactical error by using a graduation ceremony at one of the country's service academies to voice their hatred of the president and democracy.
Many of the protesters claim that they support the troops, but oppose the war and the president, but their decision to stage a demonstration at the Academy shows the hypocrisy of those statements. There is no way they can stand outside the academy gate spewing anti-American hatred and claim that they aren't attempting to disrupt troop morale.
It never ceases to amaze me that people who live their lives under the sheltering umbrella of democracy, and owe the very freedoms they abuse to the troops who defend them, are the loudest in their denunciations of the military.
I don't care if someone has differences of opinion with George Bush. I have my own differences of opinion with some of his decisions, not all, but some, and that is one of the beauties of democracy. I can say so, I can write it here, I can email my friends, I can go stand on a street corner and spout off if I want.
But I don't have to infringe on others to make my voice and my opinions known. I wouldn't take my ideas, however mild or extreme they might be, to the doorstep of a service academy on graduation day, which is no more than an obvious attempt to smear what should otherwise be a proud moment for the grads and their families.
There is a special place in the hearts of many in New England, with its seafaring tradition, for the Coast Guard, and I have a personal reason for sharing that feeling. Two decades ago, when I was a journalist, I spent a couple of days out on the North Atlantic on an 80-foot Coast Guard boat, during a patrol that was participating in Operation Grunion, intercepting boats smuggling drugs into New England.
The captain's chair in the wheelhouse was 17 feet above the waterline, and the reason I remember this is that the seas were at 18 feet and rising, meaning every time we went down in the trough between waves, we couldn't see over their tops. I had ridden out two typhoons during my time in the Marines, one in the Pacific and one in the South China Sea, both times on LPHs, helicopter carriers, so I wasn't exactly unfamiliar with rough seas.
But riding the roller coaster of a North Atlantic storm in an 80-foot Coast Guard cutter on patrol is an experience all its own.
LPHs aren't huge ships, but they were a hell of a lot bigger than the patrol boats and cutters the Coast Guard calls home. I didn't get seasick on that ride, but I still came away at the end of the patrol with a wider and deeper appreciation for the "Coasties" and their capabilities.
So when I heard that New England veterans associated with the GOE were going down to New London to stick up for our newest generation of soon-to-be veterans, I didn't hesitate to sign on.
I don't care that people want to voice their disagreements with the President, and I also don't believe we should be showing up every place they do to counter them. That kind of thing gets old pretty quickly and this isn't about silencing free speech.
But just as we had good reason, based on their own comments, to believe that ANSWER and its affiliates intended to deface our memorials in DC, and would have if they could have gotten through the police and the veterans, I also believe that protesting a graduation at a service academy is shameful and boorish.
Parents who have supported their children through college, and most certainly also are dealing with their own private fears and concerns over the next duty station their grads will attend, should not have their day besmirched by a bunch of people who do an awful lot of talking, but very little in the way of real performance. By that I mean, when was the last time you saw an American leftist pulling up stakes to permanently relocate to a communist country?
Yeah, me too. Right around the never mark on the American history timeline. Lots of talk in those groups, but very little direct action. Maybe they do study their own history and are acutely aware of how many people like themselves end up in labor camps or in front of a firing squad in countries the communists control. But obviously, aside from talking and showing that their upbringings were lacking, they never seem to want to experience the communist Utopias in person.
So the pro-communists, pro-terrorist people will shout their slogans, and carry their signs, but as in DC, there will plenty of evidence that another point of view exists as well. I don't expect to see 30,000 veterans at the academy Wednesday, but the major veterans organizations, including the Connecticut American Legion department and Veterans of Foreign Wars have been active in publicizing the gathering, as has the Marine Corps League, and the American Legion Riders.
It should be an interesting event. I'll be the guy with the sign that says USMC Salutes USCG - Semper Peratus, Semper Fidelis.
Sunday, May 20, 2007