Nancy Hecker - Travel Consultant/Travel Writer
MY VISIT TO THE WHITE HOUSE
Home
Contact Information
The Art of Planning Travel
Tours with a Theme
My Favorite Tours
Exploring Colorado
Intergenerational Travel
My Personal Journey


nancyandpresident.jpg

cleonancywhitehouse.jpg

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 Colorado Springs and when we moved here in April we were connected through mutual friends.

 

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” consist of 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 the 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 be 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 reaction 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 to 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 whose 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 mission!

 

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 60 at 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 a couple 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 close 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 cool!

 

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 was 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, The 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 returning.

 

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!

 

 

Love,

Nancy


karenhughes.jpg

condirice.jpg


It's all about the journey and the friends you make along the way!  
This website is dedicated to my best friends who have traveled with me on my many tours, and more importantly on my journey through life!  Each one of you is a treasure to me!