On Saturday, I was privileged to participate in the Gathering of Eagles in our nation’s capital. The gathering was arranged on short notice, mostly via the Internet, as a way for American military veterans to stand and defend our national memorials against any efforts at vandalism by anti-war (and anti-America) protesters from the group ANSWER (Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism). Members of that group had defaced the U.S. Capitol Building with spray-paint in January. The Gathering of Eagles was designed to assist the United States Park Police in defending the Vietnam Wall and other monuments against similar vandalism.
In short, the gathering could be called the “So Brave” versus “So Confused” event.
While this column is simply one man’s opinion, the viewpoints expressed herein seem to have resonated throughout the National Mall on this year’s recent Saint Patrick’s Day. And, it is significant to note that the established “lamestream” news media have either ignored or minimized the presence of America’s military veterans and their families at the event. Any of those media stories, however, can be easily countered by the information in this column, and by this Michelle Malkin video.
The ANSWER protesters carried pre-printed signs. What the left-tilting news media do not tell the public is that the Socialist Workers Party provided the signs. And, the news media (which did not have a single satellite news truck on the Eagles side of the events) also did not show the fact that the anti-America protesters tried repeatedly to incite confrontations with the Eagles and their supporters. Park police had designated gathering areas for both groups. The areas were separated by snow fences and by a street between the two main “camps.” But the anti-America protesters tried several times to get past both the Park Police and the Eagles posted at various “choke points” approaching the speakers’ stage. On one occasion, several elderly women from the group Gray Panthers did get past one Park Police post – but they did not get past the Eagles posted a little farther inside the Mall grounds.
After arriving back home in Tennessee, I had an opportunity to speak by telephone with Kristinn Taylor, spokesman and D.C. coordinator for the Gathering of Eagles.
He said, “The day exceeded everyone’s expectations … but our own. The media already had their minds made up that Saturday would be a big day for the anti-war movement. Even after witnessing with their own eyes the thousands upon thousands of veterans and military families at the Gathering of Eagles, the media still chose to downplay the success of the gathering.
“We accomplished many historic things that day. We got a leader of the anti-war group ANSWER to back down from holding their rally at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. They actually changed their advertised rally location, and held it across the street from The Wall. The outrage that occurred on Jan. 27 was not repeated on March 17. We sent a loud message of support to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we also sent a strong message to the so-called anti-war movement and the weak-kneed politicians in Washington that we will not let them do to the veterans of this generation what was done to the Vietnam veterans. Most importantly, we accomplished our number one goal: to protect The Wall and the other war memorials.”
My attendance at the Gathering of Eagles was made possible by Tennessee Chapter 1 of the pro-military group Rolling Thunder. That group, started in 1995 by Vietnam War veteran Artie Muller (one of the GOE speakers), uses motorcycle rallies to call attention to certain issues. Their main issue is to maintain citizen pressure upon our government to account for, rescue and repatriate all American prisoners of war and missing in action. To avoid retaliations by employers that might sympathize with the anti-war moonbats, Rolling Thunder participants will be identified only by their biker nicknames. The organizer of the Middle Tennessee bus trip was Bulldog, a former enlisted Green Beret who later became an Army helicopter pilot and retired from a Special Operations aviation unit as a major. Similar charter bus trips came from all across America.
Tennessee Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder (Bulldog is at top right, in gray leathers and beret. Thom, center, in wheelchair, can’t feel the cold upon his legs.)
In addition to a desire to show unity and defend our national monuments against vandals, it was also my desire to hear a live performance of the song “So Brave” by military mom Angela Lashley. Her appearance at the Gathering of Eagles was a result of this WND article. Although the sound quality is not good (due largely to strong winds), the audience reaction can be seen in this video, posted on You Tube. Another goal of my attendance at the gathering was to provide American Sign Language interpretation of the speakers and singers for any deaf audience members. (Writing is not yet my full-time job. To buy groceries, I work as a Sign Language interpreter for the Nashville public schools.)
Author, interpreting in Sign Language for the Gathering of Eagles
It was a cold, windy day, but that did not stop veterans from all over the country – including sunny California and the South – from making the trek to defend The Wall and other monuments. It was so cold that I took off my beret and put on a watch cap. The wind was so strong that it caused chunks of ice to fall from the tent that protected the stage. In knocking the ice off my head, I actually moved my watch cap over to one side. (That’s why it looks crooked in the photo.)
To properly interpret, I could not wear the gloves in my pocket. The wristovers were helpful; but, by the end of all the speakers and singers – lasting more than two hours – my fingers were quite cold and partially swollen. Because I’ve known veterans that had lost their hearing due to explosions of enemy fire near their positions, I could not abandon the task for the sake of personal comfort. (However, I did occasionally stop signing to grab the metal tent pole next to me. The wind was so strong that the pole was yanked out of place many times during the presentations. If it had come completely loose, it would have hit someone in the front row right in the face. The sudden changes of “tasking” can be seen in the documentary video by Roger Aronoff. That video will soon be available on the Gathering of Eagles website.)
Veterans showed up on crutches, in wheelchairs, and despite the cold – many arriving before dawn. (Quite unlike the moonbats. Getting up early to go to work is not necessarily part of the moonbat daily routine.) The veterans were mostly men, but there were some women veterans and some wives of veterans. One member of our Tennessee group, Sandy, showed her respect for our veterans – and for our national memorials – by polishing the brass base of the flagpole near the Three Servicemen statue. The photo above shows Sandy at the start of her project. (Her act is quintessential of the entire event.) Behind her is part of the line to get through the security checkpoint for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There were already several hundred people in line by 0800. (That’s 8 a.m., for civilians.)
At that time of day, the Eagles outnumbered the moonbats by a ratio of more than a 20 to 1. At the peak of activity (around noon), my personal estimate is that there were about 5,000 to 6,000 moonbats, and between 21,000 to 25,000 Eagles. The reason for the “flexible” number is that both sides moved from the Wall to the Arlington Bridge as the moonbats prepared to march upon the Pentagon. Regardless of the precise numbers, it was obvious to anyone in attendance that the Eagles outnumbered the moonbats by a margin of at least 3 to 1 at the peak of activity.
Patriotism was on display everywhere at the Gathering of Eagles. Although there were certainly thousands of American flags – on stationary poles, being carried on poles, hung from horizontal wires, and miniature flags being carried by individuals – the type of patriotism on display was real patriotism: the kind that stands in the cold mud all day to defend a national monument. Some of us have stood in mud and/or cold before. Some of us have stood lonely posts before. Some of us have been in close proximity to protesters before. (All of the above tasks are common for Air Force Security policemen.) Few of us have done it in such a prominent setting before. None of us would’ve missed this opportunity.
Just one of several lines of flags on display at GOE.
The veterans paid out of their own pockets for transportation, meals, flags, signs, etc., to defend the monuments and show a patriotic presence. Angela Lashley, the military mother and singer-songwriter from Nashville, paid out of her pocket to be there. (Copies of her song, “So Brave”, are available via Soldiers’ Angels. Purchases from Soldiers’ Angels support care packages to troops in war zones.) “So Brave” brought tears to the eyes of nearly every attendee and has evolved into an “unofficial anthem” of the Gathering of Eagles. (The song is featured in almost every amateur video about the event.) The Eagles, for the most part, remained dignified throughout the event. One speaker did say that Jane Fonda should “go to hell,” but, that speaker was a former prisoner of war in North Vietnam. Most of the crowd understood his position, and many agreed with his assessment. Other than that, the closest thing to an up-close provocation by the Eagles was when a small handful said to moonbats walking by on the sidewalk, “Thank you for coming today. Thank you for exercising your right to free speech. Of course, your freedom was paid for in blood by us, and some of our brothers that couldn’t be here.”
Putting on such an event does take time, money, effort, teamwork and coordination. Kristinn Taylor made it a point to say that the Gathering of Eagles would not have been possible without support and promotion by certain groups. Chief among those groups were the Military Order of the Purple Heart and Rolling Thunder. Also helpful were the U.S. Army Ranger Association, Free Republic, and talk-radio host Melanie Morgan – among many others. Citizens may help to offset the costs of the Gathering of Eagles by purchasing memorabilia from their online store. (NOTE: “So Brave” is not available from the GOE site. See the link above for Soldiers’ Angels.)
Signs carried by Eagles showed a certain cleverness and creativity. One large sign featured a photograph of the rubble of the World Trade Center, still smoking after the 9-11 attacks. The caption said, “This is how terrorists negotiate.” A short, catchy sign carried by a Ranger near the speakers’ stage said, “Fight jihad, not GIs.” My award for creativity, however, goes to a sign carried by a thin woman in civilian clothing. At first glance, it appeared to be a pro-moonbat sign. It featured a large, so-called “peace symbol.” As the woman got closer, the handwritten caption said, “Footprint of the American chicken.” Apparently, chickens and moonbats have the same footprint.
In contrast to the self-reliant veterans, the moonbats carried signs printed for them by outside interests. They carried signs that had nothing to do with their stated purpose. (For example: “Housing is a human right.” What does that have to do with stopping a war? Other moonbat signs promoted homosexuality and illegal aliens.) One group of high school students approached numerous Eagles on the sidewalk to sell copies of their “school newspaper,” purportedly to pay for their “school trip.” The “newspaper” was a handful of photocopied sheets of rantings about the need for “affordable” housing (read: “free,” at taxpayer expense) and other welfare benefits. If those students had as much entrepreneurial drive on the other days of the year, then they wouldn’t need to worry about welfare benefits at all.
Speaking of schooling, some of the moonbats’ signs contained spelling and grammar errors. I did not see any such errors on the Eagle side.
In a telling example of moonbat mentality, there was a second reason why they were frequently seen on the Eagle portion of the National Mall. Organizers of the Gathering of Eagles had spent significant amounts of money to “do it right,” which included providing “porta-potty” facilities for Eagle participants. There were no such facilities visible on the moonbat side. So, in a quirky example of the “redistribution of wealth,” the moonbats came to the Eagle side to use the outdoor toilets. Of course, when this trend was noticed, some clever Eagle posted a hand-written sign on the first unit closest to the moonbat side. The sign read: “Jane Fonda’s field office.”
Communist members of Code Pink lined up at Eagles’ toilets
Another telling example of the moonbat mentality was their treatment of military mothers. The moonbats virtually worship Cindy Sheehan, who uses her dead son as a steppingstone to fame via anti-America protests with fellow socialists such as Jesse Jackson. But the moonbats were rude and threatening toward two military mothers that followed the marchers along the Arlington Bridge.
Angela Lashley of Nashville and Beverly Perlson of Chicago decided to see for themselves what the moonbats were up to and what they were really saying. When the moonbat marchers realized that these two were mothers of troops that are fighting in Iraq right now, a verbal confrontation ensued. One woman kept pressing in close to Beverly. Angela reported that she put her arm around Beverly to protect her, and that the other woman was eventually pulled back by other people on her own side that saw she was out of control. The Park Police also saw that and came between the two groups. They escorted Angela and Beverly back to safety, but not out of range of vile profanity shouted toward them by moonbat marchers.
“Not only were we fearful of that out-of-control woman,” Angela explained, “but we were so fearful of what our sons could come home to for the sake of political influence, with no real concern for the soldiers and what the protesters’ words and conduct would do to the soldiers. Beverly and I saw clearly that there was little concern for mothers whose hearts are breaking.”
For the most part, the Eagles had one harmonious message: “Stand your ground.” In contrast, the moonbats had discordant – even conflicting – multiple messages. While one group of women chanted, “Ain’t gonna learn war no more,” another group banged drums and talked about throwing Bush and Cheney into the Potomac River from the historic Arlington Bridge as they marched across it. (Oh, the “violence.” If someone from our side had talked about tossing Hillary Clinton into the river, would the Secret Service have been deployed to “protect” her from the vast, right-wing “threat”?)
Another group of moonbats on the bridge chanted, “What do we want? Revolution! When do we want it? Now!” (Are the moonbats aware that revolution is a form of war?) They banged their drums with religious fervor, rocking and dancing to many different beats. The moonbats had a speaker system that was at least four times the size of the system used by the Eagles. They played obnoxious “thump and bump” music, while the Eagles played the Star-Spangled Banner to start their ceremony. The Eagles presented a scene of unity, while the moonbats presented a scene of disruption. (They can’t even agree on what they want, but they all demand it “now!”)
Perhaps nothing describes the experience quite as well as this You Tube video from inside moonbat territory. (Interestingly, moonbats support the “rights” of illegal aliens to enter America. They seem to have no regard for the fact that some of those illegal aliens will be terrorists.)
Last place in this column is reserved for the rats: the group that WND Editor Joseph Farah calls the “lamestream” news media. Apparently, when they got wind of the strength of the Gathering of Eagles, key editors in the news media (especially television news) made a decision simply to not cover the event at all. The only satellite truck at the National Mall was from Fox News Channel. And, despite their “fair and balanced” motto, their truck-mounted camera was pointed continuously toward the moonbat rally. I never saw one reporter or cameraman from FNC walking around outside anywhere – especially not on the Eagles’ portion of the Mall. A search of the FNC we site showed no stories about the Saturday event, except for a Fox prediction that “up to 30,000” were expected to march against the war “from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial” to the Pentagon. Neither of those two aspects of the prediction came true. Perhaps the editors at Fox News Channel should go back to their famous motto of “We report …” instead of “We predict.” (You decide.)
Shortly before seeing Sandy polishing the brass at the flagpole, I had an extended chat with a cameraman from NBC News. But, I never saw a truck from NBC, nor did I see any other NBC crewmembers. And, despite the fact that we spoke at length, and the fact that I handed him a business card showing that I was a former candidate for Congress, the cameraman never made an offer to interview me. It appeared that he was only standing by the security checkpoint in hopes of taping some confrontation and that he was quite bored at his post.
Another reason the news media can be described as “lamestream” is their reliance upon the Ass-ociated Press. Almost all of the news coverage of the events on the National Mall that day merely echoed the AP wire story. That story was co-written by Larry Margasak. Previous stories by Margasak have covered allegations that the 2004 presidential election was stolen by vote fraud, that Halliburton was profiteering from corrupt contract awards in Iraq, and an essay called “Why War?” posted on a left-wing site. Does anyone else see a pattern here? This is an opinion piece, but it contains more facts about the Gathering of Eagles than many so-called “news” articles about the same event.
The moonbats claim that they want a revolution. But, another revolution was started 10 years ago. That one is called the New Media revolution. WorldNetDaily pioneered the use of the Internet to bypass the established Old Media and report “first, fast and accurate” news directly to the public. At the speed of light, average citizens could now get information just as quickly as the media newsrooms. The difference is that WND provided supporting links to their news stories so that readers could dig in-depth source material for themselves. The result was an informed public that now views the Old Media with as much skepticism as the Old Media viewed the Watergate “plumbers.”
(While this column was still being written on Monday, former Watergate “plumber” and talk-radio giant G. Gordon Liddy interviewed me about the Gathering of Eagles. Liddy uses the phrase “downstream media”, which is equally correct.)
Suppressing the facts of the Gathering of Eagles is simply one more reason why so many citizens eschew the “lamestream” media and rely upon WND, talk radio and a network of independent activists and bloggers. Mistrust of the Old Media is high, and their coverage of this event shows why.
Put another way, “rats look like bats.” (In fact, the Korean word for “bat” is pak-jui, which means “flying rat.” And, interestingly, the Korean word for eagle is kuhn-sori, which literally means “big noise.”) On this occasion, the moonbats discovered that having the left-tilting, lamestream media in their camp (literally) was not enough to overcome the ire of normal citizens from across America. Although there are some legitimate policy disputes about the wars in the Middle East, those disputes should not take away from America’s support of our troops. The military veterans gathered on the National Mall on Saturday made sure that such support was heard – loud and clear, like an eagle’s scream – above the squawking of the chickens and the scurrying of the rats. Hoo-yah!
[Note: All photos are via various members of Tennessee Chapter 1 of Rolling Thunder, unless otherwise noted.]
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Tom Kovach lives near Nashville, is a former USAF Blue Beret, and has written for several online publications. He recently published his first book. Kovach is also an inventor, a horse wrangler, a certified paralegal and a former talk-radio host. To learn more, visit: www.TomKovach.us.