When I found out the Heroes Tour would be passing through, I made myself unavailable to sub so I could go down to the Capitol to see the event. I would have liked to stay in bed this morning - technically yesterday morning; it's Good Friday and there's no school ;-), so I was just a smidge late walking up to the Capitol steps, but they hadn't gotten started yet, so I hadn't missed anything. It's a good thing I decided to take surface streets instead of messing with 35 or Mopac - then I'd have been late for sure! Anyhow, I wanted to introduce myself to Uncle Jimbo, and I knew he was going to be running a video camera. I found him easily enough. Guess it's a good thing he posts all those videos, else I would have had to ask all the different camera people "Are you Uncle Jimbo??" We didn't get to talk much, but it was nice to meet someone I read regularly in the blogosphere. Since I had a decent view standing behind the riser set up for all the video equipment, and it was in the shade, I stayed put during the event. I took a few pictures with my digital camera as each new speaker took to the podium, but I didn't take notes. I don't have specifics about what everyone said, and I'm just going from memory. Uncle Jimbo will be posting video as soon as he is able, but he might not include everything (one is linked below). It started with Pete Hegspeth.
He introduced David Bellavia, author of House to House: An Epic Memoir of War and nominee for the Medal of Honor. David speaks with passion and conviction about why we need to win The Long War.
One thing I hadn't known about Marcus Luttrell was that he is a Texan. He kept his remarks brief, knowing, he said, how Texans like it better that way. If you notice how he is standing in the photos above, he pretty much stood that way throughout, except for one instance I will discuss later...
One detail about Marcus I couldn't see until I was looking at my pictures: Take a look at the pin he is wearing on his jacket:
After Marcus Luttrell spoke, Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson spoke. Mr. Patterson talked about Texas' history of taking care of her veterans, long before Texas was even a state, referring to a document granting land to Davy Crockett and/or his descendents, owing to his service to the Republic of Texas in the Texas Revolution, Davy Crockett's service having ended with his death at The Alamo on March 6, 1836. That tradition apparently continues, without the use of taxpayer dollars, allowing Texas veterans to access low interest loans for homes or land. Mr. Patterson also served in the Marine Corps during Vietnam.
The person who spoke next was Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas' 10th Congressional District. He is an ardent supporter of our troops and their mission. Towards the end of his remarks, he wanted to read something to the crowd. He wanted to read a passage from Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. As soon as he said that, I could see Marcus starting to fidget, as if he would prefer to be anywhere else at that moment instead of having to stand there as his own words were read aloud to a group of strangers. My thoughts on that? He is a little uncomfortable with people calling him a hero and he would just as soon not have special attention called to himself. After the event concluded, I mentioned this to Uncle Jimbo, and he'd noticed Marcus' reaction as well.
Governor Rick Perry spoke next. I also learned something new about him: he had served in the Air Force. He is also a strong supporter of our troops, but tends to do so out of the spotlight.
Once the Governor had concluded his remarks, the Texas VFF chairman Nunnally (I am not sure of his exact title) presented three Vets for Freedom Guardian Angel Awards to persons who do much in support of our troops. The first was a Texas State Representative
Blackfive commenter DeltaBravo came up to introduce herself once the event had concluded. We commented about the moonbat tendencies of Travis County, and I noted I was surprised no anti-war protesters had shown up. She said they probably didn't know about it... I'll have to find out if Jimbo got that lawn chair to sit out and enjoy the gorgeous spring day we had today or if he changed his mind about going home for the Easter break from the Heroes Tour. Then, it was back to the car and on to the Blanton Museum (it's free on Thursdays). I think that deserves a separate post, as I am hoping to get a bit of information on a particular piece that raised my blood pressure a little...
I cannot more highly recommend attending one of the public Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour events if they are coming to your area: the speakers are inspiring. Unfortunately, I was unable to take the time to drive up to Pfluggerville for the dedication of the Sgt. Norwood Memorial Post Office [ed. - Rejenia Anderson reports that the ceremony was very, very nice], or on to Killeen for the wreath-laying at the Central Texas State Veterans' Cemetery where 1LT Kile G. West is buried. I am glad I was able to hear for myself the words of Pete Hegspeth, David Bellavia and Marcus Luttrell.
Uncle Jimbo's video of Governor Rick Perry's remarks
Uncle Jimbo's YouTube channel: watch videos from stops along the Heroes Tour
Update 3/21/08 - Local news coverage:
Austin American-Statesman video report
Austin American-Statesman print report
Austin American-Statesman photo essay
Fox 7 News report
KVUE News report
So, far I've found nothing for KEYE (CBS affiliate), KXAN (NBC affiliate) or News 8 Austin (local cable news channel). And, I can't say the KVUE report was completely objective, refering to "growing anti-war sentiment" when in fact polls indicate anti-war sentiment is actually dropping...
Update 3/24/08 - A Soldier's Mind's reporting on the Fort Hood book signing event