Our first Shootout at Artemis Defense Institute went quite well. We had a few glitches and learned a lot about the joys of virtual shooting. In short, when there is no live ammunition there’s a lot more flexibility. We had plenty of time to talk to old friends and meet some new ones and to practice shooting while moving and tracking targets. It turns out that aiming and shooting at a stationary target actually does prepare you for other shooting situations. I was amazed to find out I’m actually comfortable enough with a firearm to handle live scenarios.
The staff at Artemis is very friendly and knowlegable and gave me some great coaching when I had time to shoot.
We were fortunate to host Marines from 1/5, 2/4, and MARSOC and RECON as well as a contingent of Wounded Warrior Wives. Marines won two of the raffles and were thrilled to take home a pistol and a shotgun.
I’d like to thank all of you who took the time to come to the Shootout, it’s always a pleasure to see you. We raised enough cash to continue sending socks and supplies to the Marines in Afghanistan for another couple of months.
On January 28th we were invited by the Orange County Register and the Montage Resort to attend a dinner honoring the 52 Everyday Heroes who were featured in Lifestyle articles throughout the year. It was an interesting crowd, most of us were not the kind of people who normally hang out at a Hotel like the Montage but we were all pleased to be there. While standing in line for photos I offered to hold a lady’s drink and we struck up a conversation. It turns out she was Jim’s High School Councilor and her husband was Jim’s High School Principal. It’s a small world.
Later in the month the 1st Marine Division launched a series of events to Celebrate it’s 73rd Anniversary. Jim was honored to be a part of the Rededication of the Battle Streamers Ceremony at Headquarters. It’s a lovely Ceremony honoring the History of the Division and those that took part in the actions the Streamers represent. Usually the Streamers are presented by Retired Marines from the Division, members of the First Marine Division Association.
Veterans in the Association represent all the Marine’s deployments back to World War II, with many multiwar Warriors. We love the Association and apparently they love us as well. To be asked to participate in a Ceremony like this is a very high honor and Jim participated in remembrance of his Father (a three War Veteran) and Donald. He was more nervous that day than he was at our Wedding. The Vets of the Association are light hearted though, and quick to laugh at their mistakes. They are always busy on base taking care of the younger Marines and their families. They host a monthly barbeque somewhere on base and take the time to meet and speak with young Marines. I enjoy their company and I believe that their mentorship of young Marines is very helpful.
We attended the Birthday Banquet and had the pleasure of spending the evening with Lt. Gen. Toolan who told us stories of his recent adventures in Bridgeport with the Wounded Warriors. It’s gotten to the point with us that these dinners are like family celebrations. A chance to catch up with everyone, share the latest news and tell a few jokes.
We also spoke about Afghanistan, the drawdown of troops and upcoming elections. The Marines and Soldiers still in country are in a very dangerous situation and are living under very harsh conditions. Much of the equipment and infrastructure that has been erected over the last 12 years is being dismantled and shipped home. Areas once occupied by 10,000 Americans is being held by 3,000. And while the US is concerned about the welfare of our troops the conditions they work under are necessarily getting harsher. All this makes Socks for Heroes more important than ever. The guys in the field tell us that they feel as though everyone has forgotten the war they are still fighting, even though at this point they are primarily training their Afghani counterparts Afghanistan is still a very dangerous place.
Later this week we’ll be in San Francisco to attend the Gold Star Reception Memorial. The event is hosted by the Blue Star Mothers of the East Bay. They really go all out for the Gold Star Families and the two day event has really become important to us. We see all the families whose lives have intersected with ours because of our children’s deaths. We are close because of our circumstance even though our lives are all very different. I view the two days as an opportunity to connect with new families who have recently suffered the loss of their children, and to offer them hope that they will survive the terrible grief and find unexpected rewards from their experience. Sometimes I meet parents who lost their child many years ago and never knew Gold Star Mothers, Inc. existed. I’m hoping that the media exposure GSM is recieving now will bring grieving parents to us sooner rather than later. We all seem to benifit from the camaraderie and sharing of experience we find with each other.
The Marine Corps Trials for the 2014 Wounded Warrior Games is coming up on March 4th through the 12th. I’ve been told that the only help needed is attendees to watch the trials and cheer the teams. Please, do yourself a favor by attending one or more of the events. Talk about motivating! Last year Jim and I watched basketball, volleyball, shooting and track and had the opportunity to speak with some of the participants and their families. What amazing young men and women! I’ve attached the schedule. We misses swimming last year so I’m going to make swimming a priority this year. Hope to see you there.
I’ve attached a flyer of Warrior Night VI, coming up on March 21st at On Target. It’s amazing to me that this will be our sixth Warrior Night, and I have to say we’ve gotten pretty good at running these events. I think we’ve come up with a pretty good program, for me it’s a party with shooting. Everyone leaves with something, even if it’s just a full stomach and a laugh. I love seeing all my friends and I hope you can all make it down. We always need Volunteers, and we try to make sure that even if you are working you have some time to shoot. I’m almost convinced the Volunteers have more fun than anyone, and they definately get a chance to meet people. If you have time to help out that night please let me know.
On April 6th 2nd Battalion 4th Marines will be hosting a 10 Year Reunion for the Veterans and Gold Star Families of the Battle of Ramadi, Iraq. We’ve been planning for months. It was the idea of a Gold Star Mother whose son was killed, along with 5 others on that day. Like any good idea not only was it adopted but it continues to morph and grow.
The first battle of Ramadi was historic battle, with many casualties and brutal fighting. The Veterans still suffer terrible memories, many of them have mixed feelings about attending. My job has been to contact the Gold Star Famlies, and many of them have doubts about coming. The 2/4 Association is going to help out. That Association was formed 20 years after another terrible battle, Dai Do in Vietnam. The Veterans in the Association tell me that their friendship with other Veterans of the Battle have helped them heal. They are a close and active group which does so much for Marines current serving in the Battalion. They are family.
I have no doubt that the Reunion will be theraputic for those in attendance. I’m hoping that Gold Star Families will be able to meet and talk with Veterans that served with their sons. I hope that friendships will be revived and new connections made. I hope that the Association will find new members. Perhaps it’s too much to hope for but our friendship with Donald’s friends has brought Jim and I so much solace I can only pray that others find what we have found.
So far the plans include a barbeque at San Onofre Beach on Saturday afternoon, the Reunion Ceremony on Sunday, a lunch following, a hike up Seargants Hill, and a meeting a Big Helen’s. We’re going to need volunteers to help with the Reunion, I’m hoping the Gold Star Families in attendance won’t have to lift a finger to help and I want the Vets to have a great time. Please let me know if you’re interested in helping out. Many of the attendees will be coming in from out of town and I would like for them to feel welcomed. We’ve got hotel rooms and we’re providing air fare for families who can’t afford it. All ideas are welcomed, and any help is appreciated.
1/5 is getting ready to deploy, Advon will leave in a couple of weeks, there is a family day in planning stages and the main body is set to leave in early April. I’m hoping the SCMCSG will be able to serve coffee, hot chocolate and some sort of breakfast treats on the days they leave. If you’d like to help out let me know.
I’m also in the process of planning a Spring Break Surf Camp for Marine Corps Children at San Onofre Beach over Spring Break. This will be the third year of the project. I love it because in many ways it introduces the kids to the joy of the Ocean. Free, fun and close by. I want them to be safe though, so the camp is intended to provide Ocean Safety Awareness as well as an introduction to Surfing. If you’d like to help let me know.
We’re still collecting used boots for Boots on the Ground and the recreation program will continue for the next year.
Thanks for all you do for the Marines and for Socks for Heroes. I hope to see you soon!