Monday, July 23, 2007

Over the Weekend: Soldiers' Angels Around Kansas City

Soldiers' Angels Kansas City was busy this past week continuing to spread the word about Soldiers' Angels and show our support for our troops.

On Thursday, we were invited to a small town "Music in the Park" in Bonner Springs, KS. The City Band played old time favorites, well known pieces from musicals and famous marches. The evening started out with the National Anthem being sung by a local man who had a fantastic baritone. Everyone stood, the men removed their hats, the veterans saluted and the rest of the people placed their hands over their hearts. That's something that you just don't see at urban events. True respect and appreciation for our nation's freedoms and struggles to maintain them seem to come more easily to those who enjoy them at their simplest level. Or, maybe it is because, in small communities, everyone knows someone who has sacrificed to maintain that way of life. People know the names, the families and often the people whose names are carved in the monument in the square. They were never strangers to them. They feel the price more keenly.

People bought ice cream sundae's provided by the local Luthern Church to raise money for their local charity project. Pastor Borroughs from Emaus Luthern Church in Bonner Springs spoke to Mayor Clausie of Bonner Springs and asked him if we could have a few moments. Mayor Clausie agreed and introduced us after a rousing rendition of a medley of songs from "The Music Man". We told the audience of about 100 how much our troops needed their support and how they could help by adopting a service member and writing or sending care packages. I told them about the 3000 marines who has asked for this support. As usual, whenever I read a letter from one of our troops, the people are very quiet and then there was wild applause as hands went up all over the audience for our flyers and business cards.

The letter that always seems to inspire people the most is the one from a young man who wrote that he was excited to receive letters and care packages from home because he knew it came from great Americans. He said he did not mind the fight knowing he was defending such wonderful people. One young school teacher asked for contact information directly so that she could arrange a project with our organization. We are looking forward to hearing from her. I think it is wonderful that teachers are showing children about civic pride and honoring those who defend. There has certainly not been such efforts to honor the soldiers' since World War II.

Friday morning we got up bright and early to send off the 35 ID Kansas Army National Guard. This event was truly inspiring. The reserve band played some great music and we met many wonderful people. Soldiers' Angels and the Patriot Guard formed a flag line into the auditorium for the ceremonies. As we waited several soldiers thanked us for the efforts. Then, the ranking two star general came up and shook the hand of everyone in the line along with a captain from the unit. As he thanked everyone for being there, I heard the people on the flag line continue to tell him and the captain, "No. Thank you for your service." It was definitely mutual appreciation.

Several soldiers took pictures of the event for mementos. We were unexpectedly asked to go into the auditorium as part of the ceremony. We lined up behind the podium as the guest speakers were presented. The ride captain presented a flag signed by all of the PGR and Soldiers' Angels attendees that read "We Support Our Troops!" After a few moments of applause, the commanding officer thanked us for "standing behind the soldiers, no matter what the mission." Then the officers and dignitaries on the podium and the audience of soldiers and their families turned around and gave us a standing ovation. It was very heartening to know that your support is appreciated.

Finally, Saturday morning, we got up early once again to Welcome Home Sgt Van Ness from Iraq. Sgt Van Ness drove up from Louisiana where he landed with his unit two days before. His uncle is in the PGR down in Louisiana and asked the Kansas Guard to welcome him home. After a few moments of chatting with him in the parking lot of a local park, Sgt. Van Ness said what many have said on return: it is great to come home and see the green, green grass and trees. In fact, Sgt Van Ness was so impressed with it, the first thing he did when he got home was get out the lawnmower and cut the grass.

His family put out a tent in the front with chairs and provided water, soda and snacks. Everyone stood around for awhile and talked. Sgt Van Ness' cousin had recently returned from AIT (technical school) where he was learning to be an electrician to work on the electronics of jets. I had a few moments to talk to his grandfather who was wearing a hat indicating he was a World War II vet who had served with the 20th Army Air Corp which was now the 20th Air Force. Sgt Van Ness was carrying on the family tradition and was serving in that unit. We gave his grandfather a "Thank You for Your Service" card and an angel pin.

Sgt. Van Ness' step-mom asked for information about Soldiers' Angels. She really wanted to get involved so we gave her some information and a business card. We hope to hear from her soon.

It was a wonderful weekend showing our support for our troops. We are looking forward to continuing with these events and spreading the word about Soldiers' Angels. We want to tell everyone about these activities and the joy that it brings to the soldiers, their families and to those who support them. You can't beat it.

- May no soldier go unloved