September 20, 2007
Dear Friends and Family,
I have just returned to Colorado from a quick trip to
Washington DC with a group of over five hundred Gold Star family members who
have lost loved ones in either Iraq or Afghanistan. We were gathering together in our nation’s capitol as
part of an organization Bill and I support called “Families United for Our
Troops and Their Mission.”
My traveling companion was Cleo Allgood who lost her son,
Colonel Brian Allgood, in Iraq this past January when his helicopter was shot
down. Like Bill, Brian was a West
Point graduate and dedicated soldier.
He was an orthopedic surgeon and one of the most senior officers killed
to date. Cleo lives in
Springs and when we moved here in April we were connected through mutual
Cleo and I and the other Gold Star family members in
attendance were joined in DC by a number of “Blue Star” families who have loved
ones currently serving in the military, and also by a group called “Vets for
Freedom.” The “Vets”
former military members who had served in Iraq and want to get the word out
about the good things that are happening over there.
We all share a deep appreciation for our men and women in
uniform. We understand
seriousness of the long-term ideological struggle that our nation is engaged
in, and we support our troops in their efforts to make America safer. We feel it is imperative that
they be allowed to complete their mission and come home with honor, so that our
children and grandchildren do not have to face even more threatening challenges
to our freedoms in the years to come.
We came together for these few days in Washington because it
was time for our voices to be heard in the halls of Congress. Not surprisingly, we did not get much
press coverage. That seems to
reserved for the anti-war protestors like Cindy Sheehan and Moveon.org. We did make a difference, however, and
I want to share with you some of our experiences.
Family members came from across the United States. We were a cross section of America, and
from all walks of life. The
“gold star” on our nametag was the common bond….not one that we had wanted or
expected to share, but one that was thrust upon us as part of the consequences
of war. The immediate
upon meeting was to reach out and give each other a heartfelt hug, for no one
else can fully comprehend both the incredible pain and intense pride we feel as
we grieve the loss of our fallen heroes!
As we shared the stories of our loved ones….sons or
daughters, husbands or wives, fathers or mothers, brothers or sisters…..there
was a common thread that seemed to run throughout! Whether a Corporal or a Private, a Major or a Colonel, a
Marine, or a sailor, soldier or airman, these men and women believed in what they
were doing. They were dedicated
service to our country, many from an early age. They not only lived the values of “duty, honor and country,”
they died for them. Upon
getting to know the families they left behind, it was clear where those strong values
came from. These families
loved ones had made the ultimate sacrifice, were the most patriotic American’s
I have ever met! Whether from
Montana, Mississippi, Missouri or Minnesota or any other state from coast to
coast, we were proud to be standing together in support of our troops and their
During the few days we were together, we toured the
Pentagon, participated in a “wreath laying ceremony” at the Tomb of the Unknown
Soldier at Arlington Cemetery, and worshipped together in the outdoor
amphi-theater at a service led by General Peter Pace, Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs. A visit to section
the cemetery, where many of the fallen are buried, followed. Plenty of time was allowed for the
families to spend there with their loved ones. I spent some time at the grave of CPT Chris Petty, who was
killed in the humvee along with Bill in January of 2006.
On Tuesday morning, all five hundred plus family members
donned red polo shirts with the Families United logo, and headed to the White
House for breakfast on the lawn as honored guests of President Bush. The Vets for Freedom attended as well,
all wearing tan shirts. The Marine
band played spirited tunes by John Phillip Sousa, and looked smashing up on the
portico of the White House in their dress uniforms with red jacket and gold
trim! The sky was blue and the sun
was shining brightly! It was a
very colorful event, made even more so by those in attendance who came to honor
and thank us! After the President
spoke, mingling on the lawn with us were the President and Mrs. Bush, Vice
President and Mrs. Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Ambassador Negrepointe, the
Secretaries of the Navy and Army, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, Jim
Nicholson, head of the Veterans Administration, Karen Hughes, and many
others. They stayed for
of hours, chatting with the families and having pictures taken.
I had the opportunity to meet and get my picture taken again
with President Bush. When I met
him back in April, I was overcome with tears, had trouble speaking and had to
settle for sharing a hug. This time I was fine and we enjoyed a nice chat. He’s very compassionate, committed and
easy to talk to. It was clear how much he and his administration respect and
honor the military and how grateful they all were to us for the sacrifices our
families were called upon to make.
I was glad to have the opportunity to meet Vice President
Cheney, because Bill had graduated from McLean High School with his daughter,
Mary. Most fun was meeting Karen
Hughes, however. Richelle had
given me Karen’s book “Ten Minutes to Normal” several years ago, and told me
that I should read it because she thought Karen and I were so much alike! Karen’s dad was a West Pointer, Class
of 1946, I believe. She grew up as an Army brat, and was a really good
athlete. After being a
confidant of President Bush since back when he ran for governor of Texas, she
is now with the State Department, serving as Under Secretary and Ambassador for
Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs.
I did, indeed, like her a lot.
Richelle was right! She was
After the event at the White House, we headed up to the hill
to meet with our various representatives.
Cleo and I had appointments with our two Senators (Salazar – D, and
Allard – R) and with our Congressman, Doug Lamborn - R. On the way to their offices, we passed
other Families United members in their red shirts, headed to visit
representatives from whatever state they hailed. The message was simple.
Support our troops and give them a chance to win. Defeat should not be an
option! Senator Salazar
respectful and we appreciated his time, even if we didn’t agree with his
politics. Congressman Lamborn
treated us to lunch in the Congressional Dining Room, and was quite
supportive. He has Ft. Carson,
Air Force Academy, and Peterson Air Force Base in his district, so that was not
surprising! We enjoyed Senator
Allard, as he was very warm and open.
I was sorry to learn that Colorado has term limits, and he would not be
After our meetings, we all gathered on the lawn across from
the Capitol for a Press Conference.
The Vets for Freedom stood on a platform in front of us, with the
Capitol dome as their backdrop.
They were joined by Senator Corzyn, Senator McCain, Senator Graham,
Senator Lieberman, Congressman Hunter, and several others. Their message to us
was “thank you for your incredible sacrifices, and thank you for coming.” It
was so important for them to hear our voices, for they don’t often hear from
the silent majority!
We gave them a real boost to continue their efforts on
behalf of our troops and for the good of our country! I encourage all of you who feel the same way to speak
out as well!