Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Gallup, New Mexico to Angel Fire, New Mexico

"You should not think of it as a fight for certain nations against others...It is a struggle for an ideal that has to establish itself on earth in the life of humanity, for a Truth that has yet to realize itself fully and against a darkness and falsehood that are trying to overwhelm the earth and mankind....." Sri Aurobindo

My bike is the blue green Beemer.

This is Brother Gary and wife and two grandchildren. To right is the inimitable "Top". He drove a pickup pulling a trailer to rescue broken bikes. He was very outgoing and boisterous and I had the audacity to ask him whether he was called "Top" because he was a former First Sergeant or because he always spoke at the "top" of his voice. That took him back and I am lucky to have gotten away with my head intact.

Your humble author and brother and Chaplain Arnie.


Healing. In the background is another chaplain. The bearded guy. He is talking to an active duty Army Chaplain, who, in fact, was the Chaplain in chief for the run. His son is to his left. As far as I can tell they made the whole ride. The boy will not soon forget the "bonding" with dad.

On to the post for today.

It's Friday. Today's trek from Gallup,NM to Angel Fire, NM is 285 miles. I woke up in the middle of the night my mind going over the events of the preceding days, my body vying for attention to its own set of troubles, doubt overriding the whole picture. I remember, in my mind, quitting the ride. I will just leave, I thought. A few minutes later after yet again revisiting the experience so far I resolved to continue another day. Maybe after awhile the body would develop the correct response to the physical demands, build a little more muscle in the necessary places, and it would get a little easier. Gary, when I mentioned this to him, told me I was getting old. Most encouraging, just what I wanted to hear.
We convened the formation back at Red Rock as mentioned earlier and shortly afterwards got the five minute warning and mounted up and began the day's ride. By the luck of the draw I ended up in one of the trailing platoons. I don't recall which but it was back in the pack. Maybe I could get lucky at the gas stop and get closer to the front. Again, we had a police escort today. The authorities basically shut down the interstate for us. No one was allowed to pass us, and every ramp was blocked by either a New Mexico trooper or one of our own road guards, or both. This did ease the way and the miles dropped steadily away behind us in a blur of heat mirage.
Before long we were joined by a military Blackhawk helicopter, our escort in the sky. This pilot would go up and down the formation, which I determined was about two miles long, and would in a sense, it seemed, be flying his shadow. He would keep it on us and the way the sun was, if he was coming from behind, you would first get the shadow on you then see him off to the right a ways. He kept his bird at about 250 feet altitude would be my guess. Well, this took your mind off the hurt between the shoulders, the heat, the terrible noise of all the Harley's. My recollection is that it was as we made our approach to Sante Fe that he took his leave of our formation. He did this by making one last pass, rear to front, then he circled and came to a hover perpendicular to the highway and maintained position so that we would all ride under him. This threw dirt up in the air and when you hit his prop wash you knew it but to a man we were thrilled by his "salute". Everyone returned his gesture with a hand salute, a pumping fist in the air, a thumbs up, or a wave of the arm.
Before Santa Fe there was a brief stop in Grants where we attended the dedication of a new Vietnam Memorial. There were several speakers topped off by New Mexico Governor Richardson. I recall thinking that I could have written better words, but, truly, their hearts were in the right place, even if they did not articulate the spirit of my personal aspirations for a national resolve appropriate to our current place in history. Later, as we were breaking up I found myself face to face with the Governor, he was shaking hands and I joined in thanking him for his sentiments. Today, especially this morning, I had ruminated in my mind while riding what it meant for mankind, for the divine being with whom we have this reciprocal exchange called evolution, that in the service of a country not seeking world wide hegemony but seeking to spread the message of our founding fathers, the message of freedom, liberty, and justice, men and women give their lives and make sacrifices in a thousand other ways for this ideal, this paradigm in the fundament, this liberty. And these men and women with whom I am journeying across this great land, many, many of them bearing deep scars in their bodies and psyches, wounds bearing witness to that sacrifice of which I write. I was sitting in a bar in Saigon, Tu Do street, sipping gin and tonics wondering if one of the ubiquitous geckos would fall in my drink, or maybe chasing a skirt, I remember one Chung Le Hoa, Chinese girl, while my brothers bled their lives away in the jungles and rice paddies. At night, in my bunk, I would hear the "thrump" of mortars, see the flares, see the tracers in the sky, safe in my compound near the front gate of Ton Sohn Nhut air terminal. The Viet Cong were always probing the jungle side perimeter of the air base but I was on the city side, the safe side. Later in life I would read, several times, books like Marine Sniper, the story of Gunny Carlos Hathcock, and Five Years to Freedom, the autobiography of Lt. James Rowe who was a POW held captive by the Viet Cong. This is how I learned about the other side of the Vietnam experience.
Of course, as things in the Army go, I had been originally assigned to some small outpost on the coast Southeast of Saigon when my orders came down moving me from Ft. Benning, GA to Viet Nam. But when I arrived, for the good of the service, I was reassigned to HHD, 1st Logistical Command, USARPAC. That was in May, 1966. I served as a personnel specialist, the company clerk, which is a sort of a gopher for the first sergeant and the CO. I was glad I wasn't humping hills in the boondocks, that is for sure. I had it made in the shade, as they say. The biggest danger I faced was catching VD. But I digress. Back to the present.
On top of these thoughts I am having add the fact that when we do our frequent parades, when we participate in a public function along the way such as today's dedication of the memorial in Grant's, when we just pass near a town on the way, we are greeted by Americans waving flags, saluting, yelling encouragement. There are old people, obviously veterans themselves, there are young people, there are children with their families. Truckers honk for us, people stop in their cars on the interstate and stand and salute as we pass by, people come to the overpasses and wave flags and salute or wave to us as we pass under them. This is a rich panoply
of characters and I only wish the sanctimonious politicians, and especially the blame America first and always moonbats could appreciate this for what it surely is. I mentioned to brother that evening that politicians have a rule of thumb that for every letter or call they receive on a given subject there are ten thousand other citizens who share that sentiment but who do not take the time to write or call. It occurs to me, I said, that for every person waving a flag and thereby voicing their support for our effort, that person represents ten thousand others who could not be there. Pretty soon you are talking about millions of people, the vast majority of the people taking a strong position in support of the nation's military. And that is a loaded thing, for in supporting the military you also support the mission, the dedication to the principles embodied in our constitution, the securing and increasing of liberty for all people everywhere. That is my thought on the matter. Later at the Angel Fire Viet Nam memorial I would give full voice to this while having a quiet talk with Chaplain Arnie.
After Sante Fe we soon found our way to a narrow two lane road that began our climb to higher and gratefully cooler elevation. The desert again gave way to pine forest which scented the air and lifted my spirits. The weather changed too and by the time we arrived in Angel Fire and the nearby Vietnam Memorial there were a few sprinkles. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Gary's wife and son and his wife and two children were there to meet Gary. We had a nice visit and shared a meal at in nearby Eagles Nest, NM.
At the memorial people were going through the display. For many it was an emotional journey back in time to unresolved issues with their experience in the war. I saw many tears and in fact the whole atmosphere became as leaden as the skies that greeted us on our arrival. A catharsis was taking place. Groups stood in silent prayer, I looked in a few faces that had that "thousand yard stare" of the battle worn soldier. My own "brainstorm" of the day continued and after Gary introduced me to Chaplain Arnie just outside the memorial I had an opportunity to give voice to my personal thoughts. He was kind to hear me but I had difficulty getting the words out and spoke very quietly. It was the essence of my ruminations of the day. I said that in so far as God can be said to have attributes I thought that liberty was an eternal paradigm of his, like a facet of a diamond, that there were other facets, of course, beauty, understanding, and love, for instance, but that liberty was on my mind now because of the nature of our mission. I said that it occurred to me that this "liberty" was a kind of luminous being which luminosity was increased by the sacrifices of those acting in its service and that our founders understood this and it was that they enshrined in our constitution. I didn't go farther but obviously these attributes are attractors for the nascent spirit embedded in existential mass and of creatures and act as a drawing force in conjunction with others that under the right evolutionary circumstances participate in the awakening in matter of life, consciousness, conscience, and eventually Godliness. This echoes a more detailed philosophy that I have come to hold in the past year as well as the quote at the top of this post, which quote I happened to run across this on (Robert Godwin) Gagdad Bob's blog, One Cosmos.
Giving voice to this I felt deeply the timid yearning of my soul as it approaches and dares to join fully in holy union with "that same primal spirit whence issued forth of old the whole cosmic activity*". I tremble as at the approach of a longed for lover. The blossom of this sacred union of the dew drop in the ocean of the abyss is my eternal hope and joy for all men and women everywhere. Rejoice in the luminous being that is liberty, blood bought and sustained against the darkness of tyranny. Our nation is, by virtue of this alone, the one true shining hope of mankind and fits hand in glove with the divine plan. To abandon this hope is to open the door to the re-primitivization of the planet by the powers of darkness. Over the course of the rest of the journey I would continue to dwell on these thoughts and would give voice to them when it seemed appropriate. I always found a sympathetic ear. I was not always so "deep" with my exposition, tailoring it to the individual at hand, and I promise to not delve more into the abyss, for awhile at least. As I have already said it was my experience that people shared with me the feelings that we do not have the leadership we deserve and that boils down to failure to aggressively identifying for the public the true nature of the conflict in which we currently find ourselves embroiled, who our enemies are, where they come from, and a response capable of defeating this implacable enemy. To the rank and file American, to put it more succinctly, it appears that the policy of this government is somewhere in between Eurabia style appeasement and the prosecution of an all out war on the enemies of freedom. Americans by and large want the latter and that is why President Bush's numbers are down. We are on a path to failure because one hand is tied behind our back. That makes the President a loser and nobody likes a loser. He has shown he can win. I wish that "facet" of his person would come back to the front. That is my opinion informed by hundreds of anecdotal contacts with my countrymen as I made this journey to honor my fallen comrades. But, back to Angel Fire.
Chaplain Arnie quoted me a bible verse that we should go and spread the light of the Christ throughout the world. He maintained perfect equanimity during our exchange and we walked towards the chapel where he went in to offer a candle. I went up the hill to where a Huey helicopter was poised as if coming in for a landing. Gary was there and I had Pastor Dan take a picture of us. The camera obliged and we were able to shoot a couple more shots.
*Bhagavad Gita

Another Chaplain. Dan, from Pennsylvania whom I met in Williams, AZ one day out from Ontario. He almost daily checked me out, looked me in the eye real hard and said, "how are you doing". Much appreciated Dan. When I took this picture Gary quipped that he learned how to fly in one of these birds. Noting that it was a slick (nomenclature for an unarmed Huey) I retorted that he was attracted to the craft because he too, back then, was a pretty "slick" dude.

Me and Gary at the Huey. You can just make out the manikens in the cockpit.

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