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Monday, March 19 

To Soar With Eagles

Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Saturday, March 17, 2007. A day which will be remembered proudly by veterans and those who support the troops.

This country is built on freedoms granted by our creator and guaranteed by our constitution. Two of these rights are free speech and the freedom to peaceably assemble. Recently some in the anti-war crowd have taken the right to peaceably assemble and turned it into the right to dishonor the memory of our fallen troops. Finally someone said that enough is enough.

On the four year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, ANSWER and a few other anti-war parties organized a march in Washington, DC. When they announced that they would begin their march in front of the Viet Nam memorial, veterans took notice.

We don't want to see the K.K.K. speaking in front of the Lincoln Memorial, neither do we want to see Jane Fonda in front of that hallowed ground. Thus was born The Gathering of the Eagles.

I left work Friday afternoon, and over the course of the next 55 hours I spent more then 20 of them driving. I made the trek to DC on Saturday and stood shoulder to shoulder with veterans from WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. There has never been a prouder moment in my life.

There were veterans stationed at every memorial in DC. They were not confrontational, standing off to the side, displaying American and P.O.W. flags, standing guard over their station. There were veterans in orange with "Marshal" emblazoned across their chest. I witnessed them escorting anti-war protesters through the Eagles to ensure they didn't harass anyone and that no one harassed them. When the day was done, the Eagles policed the A.O., leaving it in better shape then when they had arrived.

The same cannot be said for the anti-war protesters. The area they occupied was littered with discarded pamphlets, signs, and trash. Those caring, compassionate souls left their area looking like it had just hosted Woodstock. If I had been among them, I would have been ashamed.

It is said that you can be judged by the company you keep. If that is so, then the organizers of the "anti-war" protest should do some serious self-examination. When the protest was shown on television, they never showed the conspiracy theorists with their signs claiming that 9-11 was an inside job. They didn't show the hundreds of people carrying signs in support of the Young Socialists, or others waving signs bearing the face of Che Guevara, or planting row after row of Cuban flags. I'm fairly sure that the red-headed college student chanting "Victory for Iraq" never made it on the nightly news.

In contrast, the Eagles featured speakers were WWII vets and military mothers. They spoke of values like "Duty, Honor and Country". These are people who understand the concept of self sacrifice. Who know what it means to put their lives on the line in defense of their country and of liberty.

They also know what it's like to be reviled. To be spit upon and called baby killer. They know what it means when the public doesn't support your cause, and the only media reports are how many were killed, and what atrocities you are alleged to have committed.

They don't want to see that happen to the young men and women currently serving, and so they came. They came by the thousands from all over the country to stand up for our troops.

I was but one small voice among thousands, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything in this world.

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Actually, the KKK has a perfect right to assemble in front of the Lincoln Memorial, whether you want to see it or not. And ANSWER, whether they're admirable or not, has a perfect right to begin its march in front of the Vietnam Memorial, whether you think it's dishonoring the vets or not.

Freedom of speech is not just the right to say what's inoffensive, even if the offended group is one that has paid the serious dues our veterans have paid.

All of that said, the vets and their supporters also have a perfect right to assemble in answer to ANSWER. They have a right to shout and sing and wave flags.

The resulting discord is the music of liberty. In the court of public opinion, I'm guessing it was the vets who came out ahead. That's the beauty of the open market of ideas. Put the KKK in front of the Lincoln Memorial and it's not Lincoln who'd be diminished.

I agree, these groups have the right to assemble and to say any idiotic thing they want. What they don't have the right to do is to deface memorials, which they have been doing all over the country over the past few months. And when they were confronted by a large contingent of vets, these brave warriors for peace wouldn't even look most of the vets in the eye, let alone try any of the mischief they did in other cities.

But the open exchange of ideas is exactly what this country was built upon. That is why I wish my daughters could have attended with me, to witness our country at its best. That every whacko conspiracy theorist has the right to hold up his/her sign and march proudly without the fear of being locked up for their ideas.

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