Friday, March 21, 2008

Vets for Freedom National Heroes Tour stops in Austin

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 (I can't recall his name) Mark Strama [ed. - thanks, again, Rejenia!], along with two of his staff, for their work in improving Texas veteran benefits, so that if the GI Bill will not cover all the costs of higher education, Texas veterans can access support from the state concurrently with the federal GI Bill funds. Next was General (ret) Leroy Sisco of the Military Warriors Support Foundation, an organization that helps wounded warriors through educational scholarships, job re-training and job placement, financial assistance and recreational programs (he noted he had 4 donated front row tickets to Friday night's Spurs game, tickets that cost $900 each, and those seats would be filled with 4 wounded warriors). I'm not sure who the last recipient was. Again, I can't recall the name, but I think she may be a Gold Star Mother. We'll see if UJ put up video of that presentation... The final recipient was Rejenia Anderson, a civilian member of VFF who assisted with the San Antonio and Austin stops of the National Heroes Tour. (Thanks, Rejenia, for the email!)

Another gentleman who had not previously spoken James Crabtree, Texas VFF Central Texas Vice Captain [ed. - again, thanks, Rejenia], offered short closing remarks. I suppose I could have joined in for the tour of the Capitol that was to follow, and maybe tried to speak with Pete, David or Marcus, but I would have felt like I was intruding. So, I hung back by the video riser and spoke to Jimbo a little more.

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


Uncle Jimbo said...

It was great meeting you ML.

I wish we had more time to hang out, but they have us on a pretty tight schedule.

I gace a copy of the whole evnt to the Texas VFF chapter and they will likely post the whole show. I have to keep my vids under 10 or 15 minutes. The Governor's web guy also asked for it so it might go up on the TX website.


Uncle J

Miss Ladybug said...

Ditto, UJ. I tell you, if I hadn't been having to work last night, I would likely have followed the tour up to the Cemetery, at least. Since I'm not a military dependent anymore (since graduating college almost 16 years ago), I couldn't have done the book signing at the Fort Hood PX (although I know exactly where it is located - Daddy retired from there in '91). Plus, having prior experience in the past year needing to get onto Hood for teaching job interviews, I likely would not have had sufficient time to get my day pass to get on base - one time I had 100 people in front of me in line at the visitor center at the main gate. Needless to say, arriving at the gate 45 minutes prior to my appointment was not early enough...

Knowing that the last event for the day was scheduled to begin at 5pm, I kind figured y'all would be late getting back to Austin. The book-signing took at least an hour, right? Then time to pack up, and then at least an hour driving back. Takes me about 90 minutes, so long as I'm not having to deal with rush hour traffic through Austin...

Anyhow, I'm glad you seemed to have enjoyed Texas. I'm also glad we had such great weather. Too bad it's a little too early for the bluebonnets, though. They can be gorgeous blankets of blue along the sides of the highways around here.

Haole Wahine said...

Thanks for the great coverage ML.

What a priviledge to have been a part of the two days in TEXAS.

Your site has been the most comprehensive. Made my job a lot easier. Just send your link, and take a few quick breaths. God bless you.

Really, thanks for the great work and the great support you give for our wonderful warriors.

Let's see I'm sure Pappadeux's is exactly half way, and the best place for us to celebrate. ;-)

Miss Ladybug said...


I'll check my schedule (it's pretty erratic), see what might work and shoot you an email...

Terri said...

Miss Ladybug, If you need to get on Fort Hood at any time, just let me know and I'll meet you at the front gates and get you onto post. I work there and am a dependant as well, so I can get you on base fairly easily.

Miss Ladybug said...

Thanks, Terri. I'll remember that if there's a next time!