Monday, August 29, 2005

Blogumentary: Camp Casey II, August 27, 2005

My alarm went off at 5am, and I leapt out of bed. After a quick shower I packed a light bag, kissed the wife and kids, and headed out of Austin toward Crawford. It took an hour and forty minutes to get to the Crawford city limit sign. Just a few miles past that on the right is Crawford Peace House...




I arrived at 7:40am, they were getting the house ready to open at 8am with the first shuttle to Camp Casey II leaving at 9am...





I was on the first shuttle out!




If you leave the house, take a right, and walk twenty feet, you see this...




I'm not sure what it is, but it looks "country" so I took a picture of it.





On the other side of the house is a camp site, where I was greeted with complementary coffee and many smiles. The campers there constructed this maze for visitors to walk through...



When I finally got to Camp Casey II the first thing I did was walk through the cross memorial reading the names. Anger swelled up in me fast but I was able to get a hold of myself.



As I was reading names of heroes, there were two women on the side of the road in front of the crosses being barraged by the press. I could hardly see them through the people holding video cameras and boon mics. All but a lone photographer had gone by the time I got to the first row of crosses the women were sitting in front of. I sat down and broke the ice with a joke..."I'm really not a journalist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night." The photographer and the two women laughed, after which I introduced myself. Then they introduced themselves and I went into total awe!



Amy Branham and Jane Bright, Gold Star Moms. My hand started shaking so much I could barely write. Amy commented "Kyle"...uhh err..."Elmo, are you OK?." "Ya" I replied, "I just had too much coffee this morning." It was a weak excuse, truthfully, I was stuck in some kind of surreal existence with no possibility of understanding their pain. When they told me about their sons Jeremy and Evan, my heart wanted to stop, but their smiles' saved me. So I asked my question..."With all the Bush supporters saying we against the war are also against the troops, I wanted to get some positive comments to send to the troops. Jane jumped in first. "We love 'em." "We want them to come home Safe, whole and healthy." Then Amy added, "You are all heroes to us!" "Come back home to jobs and school, not in caskets and wheelchairs."



From both Amy and Jane, "Everyone of them are our sons."(From left to right, Elmo, Amy and Jane)




After exchanging email addresses and hugs, I left them with their solace. I walked up to the main tent to find a meeting going on preparing volunteers for the days events.




Ann Wright, camp coordinator, led the meeting. She spent 29 years in the Army, and was a former diplomat who quit over the Iraq War. Ann offered me this quote...




"This was a war that should not have happened." "Bring them out of harms way now."







While breakfast was being served there were several interviews going on. I got a couple of questions in...


This is Frank "Chito" Greer. Frank is a 16 year Navy Vet and the camp handyman. He has worked just about every job the camp offers. He says to the Bush Administration, "there can be a dishonorable war and honorable troops." "Maybe they just don't want to flip flop", he added. And for the troops he says "we love you and want you to come home."

This is Sean O'Neill. Sean did two tours of duty in Iraq with the 1st marine division. He received the Purple Heart, Navy Achievement Medal (with Combat "V") and Combat Action Ribbon. Sean is a member of Iraq War Veteran against the War and said of the rally, "this is the single largest gathering of patriots!" His message for the troops..."I love you!"

Next I decided to secure a seat in front of the stage where Cindy and others were to speak. I got a great seat, center stage third row, next to this lovely young lady...



This is Dr. Jane Stallings. In 1990 she became the first female Dean of Education at Texas A&M University. The Jane Stallings Student Service Award is given by the university each year to the student with the most outstanding volunteer efforts. Jane volunteered in the kitchen at Camp Casey II, the food was delicious! She received a congratulation letter from then Governor Ann Richards for her historic achievements that I would love to read one day! Jane's message to the troops was the most beautiful..."The light of life within you is precious! God gave you the gift of life. What you do with it is your gift to God." And she gives a great hug!


Then Cindy came out for some breakfast. The press immediately swarmed around her. She refused to do any interviews but she did take pictures with her supporters. When I was finally able to muster enough intestinal fortitude to engage her I shouted, "Cindy, you mind if I get a picture?" She smiled and waved me over. I put my arm around her, told her I was a Gulf War I Vet and thanked her for what she was doing. She reached behind her back and squeezed my arm and said, "thank you!" Unfortunately, she was in the middle of thanking me when the picture was taken, but at least I got one with her...



Then the population of Camp Casey II started to grow dramatically.

When bus...



After bus...






After bus arrived at the event.






Cindy went out to greet them when she could.




And they all brought signs...















This is little Mia with her "kitties for peace" poster. What a cutie!






When the rally finally started there had to be more than two thousand people there. Despite the unbearable heat, we all crammed under the main tent. We started off in song with "God Bless America." Then Elliot Adams, a Korean and Vietnam War Vet, asked "How many here support the troops?" The place erupted with the loudest applause I heard all day. Joan Baez came out next. That's right, Joan Baez!



She sang "Amazing Grace." And it was amazing! She sang many more songs, here are Joan and Cindy together...



We heard from Charles Richardson and Nancy Lessin From Military Families for Truth, who along with others, sued George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for starting a war against Iraq, absent a clear declaration of war by the United States Congress. About half a dozen members of Iraq Veterans Against the War gave speeches. Then Russell Means, an indigenous rights/constitutional rights activist, actor, artist and author, spoke. He has been described as "one of the most magnetic speakers of our time." His speech Saturday was testament to that. It was all about motherhood and mothers. He describes mothers as "the only irreplaceable member of a family."



Russell said of the event..."It's filled with love in here!"








And of couse, Cindy spoke.





She really is a remarkable woman. Her courage could be felt by all and her resilience is undeniable. Cindy held back tears at times and clearly inspired all who were there. She said of Camp Casey, "I'm going to miss this place when I have to leave, there is so much love here."

And that's all I found, love. Thousands of people, from all over the country, who came to bring hope and love to our troops. It was very spiritual. As I waited in line for the shuttle, bands played and new friends were met, you could not escape the love that filled this place. I didn't want to leave, but I had to. You see, August 27 is the day Elmo and Mrs. Elmo met, 12 years ago. I had more love waiting for me at home!

Lets hope more people across America can channel Cindy's courageousness so we can get our troops home. There is a lot of love waiting for them here!

Elmo.

Never forget...


15 Comments:

Blogger D.F. Facti said...

Elmo,

It's fantastic. That's all there is to it. Great job. Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this.

Mon Aug 29, 09:33:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Elmo said...

Thank you! It truly was my pleasure!

Mon Aug 29, 09:35:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that was a great read! Thank you for your report.

And thank you for your service to our country.

Mon Aug 29, 10:11:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, those are a bunch of corn cribs. Sorta like a grain elevator for a single farm.

Mon Aug 29, 11:05:00 PM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Elmo,

Thank you so much.

Love from Tilli (Mojave Desert)

Tue Aug 30, 12:50:00 AM CDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS -- I think Cawford Peace House is compiling a list of blogs that covered Cindy. Let them know about your lovely post!

--Tilli

Tue Aug 30, 12:51:00 AM CDT  
Blogger DaliWood said...

Let me add my thanks for the first-hand reporting. Your article reports more facts and human interest than all the US main stream media put together--I guess that's why you probably didn't get invited to the recent barbecue for the press at Bush's ranch.

Tue Aug 30, 05:56:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Richard said...

Congratulations and thank you Elmo, that's a fine piece of work.

Reading it, was almost like being there.

Tue Aug 30, 09:36:00 AM CDT  
Blogger Elmo said...

Thanks for all the love! I wish you all could have come with me.

Tue Aug 30, 11:25:00 AM CDT  
Blogger phinky said...

Thank you for your story and standing up for your First Amendment Rights.

Tue Aug 30, 05:33:00 PM CDT  
Blogger cabearie said...

Elmo,

This report is among the finest I have read about this past weekend's events, and certainly far better than anything we have seen in the mainstream media.

Thanks for going and thanks for reporting so eloquently.

Diane

Tue Aug 30, 06:08:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Elaine Supkis said...

Hey! I am GUEST BLOGGING THIS!

You are great. (You should have told me earlier!!!)

I love your pictures, man, wish I were there, too!

Kisses and all.

Tue Aug 30, 09:37:00 PM CDT  
Blogger Elaine Supkis said...

Here is your guest blog, Elmo!

And I played with your picture of Cindy...(my husband is a professional photographer)...here is the url if you want it:

http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y99/ElaineSupkis/Cindy-and-Elmo.jpg

OK? Hope to see more people read your blog. Spread the word, far and wide!

Tue Aug 30, 10:04:00 PM CDT  
Blogger phinky said...

Elmo, do you know what is going on in Austin as far as Hurricane Relief? I am compiling a list of locally based charities that are helping out like the Houston SPCA, the Houston Chapter of Planned Parenthood. If you know any locally based charities that need our help let me know. I know the big guys like the Red Cross are getting lots of donations but the little guys on the ground need our help too. If you know of any please post a comment on my blog.

Fri Sep 02, 07:37:00 AM CDT  
Blogger fatrobot said...

right on!

Fri Sep 09, 03:11:00 PM CDT  

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