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Sunday, September 24, 2006
While I was having breakfast (a pizza, Gatorade, and ice cream… the breakfast of champions) I talked to one of the guests who does medical data studies for the government. He said he would talk to some people in the VA for me. He thought the same kind of program we want should also be offered to the corporate patriot as well. I agreed, but I said I have to keep it simple and take one step at a time. First we have to get it well established, then we may be able to expand or modify.
Leaving here I talked to some day hikers that support the cause; a few read about me locally. I have gotten some e-mails my son has sent me. They give me reason to continue. Out here I have no idea if what I’m doing matters since I mostly see rocks and trees. When I read of the impact I have, the difference I make, the hope I give to those people who have lost their children, to soldiers who have served, who have suffered, I am overwhelmed. I am just one man alone in the woods doing penance. Imagine what others could do if I am able to do this. Now is the time I ask that hard question: what else can I do? How else, what else can I do to show up in a way that inspires others to say, “I can do that”? While I walk in the woods, I work, I pray that I (my ego) get out of the way and I come from my heart. When I am my ego, my issues come up like I am not good enough or sabotaging myself. When I come from my heart, it is like none of that matters, just the others who my happiness is linked to, like they are extensions of me. May I be totally out of the way on the 27th for the informal congressional hearing.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Last night I pushed doing 19+ miles, walked till I could go no longer see. Got up and pushed to get to Front Royal where my sister is picking me up to take me to Washington DC. This is the same sister that would practice flying as a child; now she is the wind beneath my wings. She just got out of the hospital (degenerative arthritis) where they put in an elbow because hers disintegrated. There are others that are the wind beneath my wings that hold me up, that cause me to aspire to be what they show me I can be.
While waiting at the motel for my sister I called the father who lost his son to suicide (decorated green beret). I told him I was sorry for his loss and how strong he was to be able to carry on looking at positive things his son had brought into this world. He told me that I was healing for him, to know there was someone who made a stand. After talking to him, knowing I made a difference to a family that had lost so much, how could I stop?
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Got up, talked to my sister who is on her way to pick me up at Front Royal to take me to Washington, DC. They got me around 1:30, got me into the hotel by 3 PM, and called Mike (Congressman McDermott’s PR man) who came over at 4:30 to fill me in on what to expect and match names to faces. He told me security was crazy since some guy got deep into the White House with a gun, so we would go through a few check points and go through a few tunnels under the White House, and meet him at the office by 8:30 AM at the latest for the 9 AM informal hearing. He told me several times not to worry and not to be intimidated. I told him not to worry; I was fine. He also told me to show up the way I am on the trail.
Went up to the room which I shared with my sister Deb and her two friends that brought her (she is physically handicapped and had just had an elbow put in. She has degenerative arthritis and is more active than most people). We went to dinner after contacting Ernie (my father’s eyes and ears) who would meet us in the AM at the hearing. My sister was more excited than me. I guess I was still adjusting from being in the woods rather than in a city. I woke up at 3 AM (my feet hurt), took a bath, then rolled around in bed till I got up. (You think I would be exhausted sleeping with 3 women.)
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
We took a cab to eliminate stress (and so we could leave at 7:45 AM instead of 6 AM to allow for getting lost and parking). Getting there, going through security with my gear took a beating, then I was told I couldn’t take in my walking sticks because I posed a threat (being the ninja that I am, would you believe my whole body is a weapon). So I went outside (my sister and her friends kept their distance from me; so much for support), hid them in the bushes, put my gear through the mill again and finally got in. Barefoot, paper gear on, hadn’t shaved, and the only person wearing a hat, I think I blended right in like a chameleon. We got lost in the tunnels and finally called Mike at 8:30 AM who gave us directions and sent out a search party. We got to his door as the search party was leaving. We walked to the hearing room with Garrett (Veterans for Vets) who was to speak also.
By the way, the protocol for these things is that whoever is invited or any congressman that comes gets to talk. Mike had worked to keep the number down so we would get 7 minutes each to talk. I was fine until we came around the corner and I saw the door and tables. Instantly my feet began to sweat and my heart pounded. I calmed myself down and mingled, listened, and talked to others that came up to me. I felt like I was in over my head with real big fish (heads of departments, etc). Funny thing is that they would come up to me and say it was an honor to meet me or be in my presence. At the head table was Max Cleland (retired senator and triple amputee), and the congressman from Maine (in charge of Veterans Affairs). John Kerry had endorsed it but was unable to come. What happened next is all on tape and you can find it on www.politicstv.com/blog/?p=1155.
The Readers Digest version is that Jim spoke first, then Max, then me. I had no notes, stood up, and spoke from the heart (while in the woods and hotel I prayed, “God help me get out of the way and speak from my heart). People cried. Then the congressman from Maine spoke and said how can you follow what Ron said? (But he did anyway.) Then Garrett and Patrick talked, telling their stories. After we were done we mingled and I was overwhelmed that Max, Garrett, and Patrick embraced me knowing what I had done. An older gentleman came over and shook my hand and said keep up the good work. Next it was the news conference where I was at the front table with Max and Jim. Jim started, then me, then Max, and a few questions and it was over.
I mingled (as much as a walking billboard for Tyvek can mingle) and went to the older gentleman and said, “You shook my hand earlier. Who are you?” He said he was Jim McDermott’s commanding officer and was like a father to him. He said, “You were the type of person I wouldn’t have liked. I understand now. You taught me something. Thank You”. I asked how old he was. He said 81; I said my father is 80. He replied, “I am your father”. I was moved.
I had Eric (one of Jim’s aides) guide me to the cafeteria to meet my sister and her friends. We couldn’t find them so we went to the office. They sent out search parties for them: no luck. Called on the cell phone: no answer. After awhile they called and were guided to the office. While waiting, I had roamed around the office and got a glimpse of the man Jim is: he is like the last line of defense for the underdog and stands up for what he believes, that one person can make a difference (it’s nice to know there are people in Washington like that).
They (sis and co.) arrived, we left, I got my walking sticks out of the bushes, and we were on our way to bring me to the trail. Did a paper interview in Front Royal after we checked in at a motel.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
I spent last night enjoying my sister’s company, then after errands I got back into the woods by about 1 PM. Just before I got in the woods, the girls did a reiki session on me and people stopped to see if I was OK (finally someone stopped). Went about 10 miles, slept on the ground, and it rained. I got cold and wet (not a good thing).
Friday, September 29, 2006
9/29 Made it to a shelter and met a few day hikers. Still wet and cold.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
9/30 Talked to some day hikers; they are going to write. Made it to a lodge that was full and no washer or dryer so I pushed on and slept at a shelter where I told my story to two guys there. I wore all my clothes to sleep because stuff was still wet.