Tuesday, April 25, 2006


This weekend was full of impressions. It's hard to describe what it was like to physically meet bloggers and commenters I've "known" for years but never met in real life. People like John and Beth Donovan, FbL, ArmyWifeToddlerMom, LL, Matt, Uncle Jimbo, Smash & the Mrs., Maggie, SK, Sgt. Allen, Sgt. B, Capt. B, Dadmanly, Chuck & Carren Ziegenfuss, Taco and Taco's Mom to name a few. Yep. That's right- "to name a few". There were SO many people there it's hard to remember exactly who I met.

Everyone was simply wonderful, just as I expected them to be. AWTM made an interesting observation Friday night at Fran O'Brien's: bloggers tend to end conversations abruptly, just like in comments. "Well, I said my peace, and I'm off to the next post" kind of attitude. It was pretty funny to see that happen!

FbL wrote a beautiful post on Fran O'Brien's detailing the speech given by a Walter Reed patient. He stood behind the bar, beer bottle waving in the air, and thanked Marty and Hal for giving him a place to recover outside of the hospital. A place to feel welcomed, like family, and treated like brothers. A place to recoup and gather the strength to go on. It was SO true. You could feel the energy in that place, and you could see how comfortable the patients were there. For a few hours on Friday nights, Marty and Hal gives these guys (and gals too) a place to socialize and be normal and appreciated. It really is "family" there. I'm sick about Fran's closing, and am determined not to stay at any Hilton owned hotels for the rest of my days.

I got to explore DC on Friday before heading to Fran O'Brien's. First stop: Arlington. First experience at Arlington? A 21-gun salute...and silence. I was only there for about 2 hours, but within those two hours I heard not one, not two, but THREE 21-gun salutes. Hearing those shots ring out was more emotional than the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknown. I'd post pictures, but my ding-dong-dangle battery was dead in my camera and there wasn't anywhere around I could buy a new one that day. *sigh* Most visitors to Arlington will explore the grounds, go see JFK's Eternal Flame, Iwo Jima, and witness the changing of the guard. However, my favorite stop at Arlington was the Women's Memorial. It's off to the right, behind the visitor's center. It's been open since 1997, and it's absolutely gorgeous. It's also the host of the "Faces of the Fallen" exhibit.

"Faces of the Fallen" is a display of 6" X 8" portraits of each soldier killed in the GWOT from October, 2003 until November, 2004. There are 1,319 portraits, each one made by a small group of artists who brought their own interpretation to the project. Some used clay to sculpt busts. Most used either charcoal or oil paints. Some were a bit abstract, and some were very artistic. ALL made me cry. As people who know these fallen soldiers visit the display, they have left notes, pictures, and other mementos.

I saw Laurie Piestewa's portrait- Jessica Lynch's best friend. I saw both my KIA soldier and my Mom's- we both have GWOT KIA bracelets. I even saw Pat Tillman's image, which was dotted with newspaper articles about the former NFL player. I saw notes like "I miss you, my darling son", and "Dad and I are so proud of you", and "I love you, Daddy". One had a picture of a young girl, perhaps 3 or 4 years old, hugging her Daddy's headstone. One had a tire gauge laid in front of it- I have no idea why. Someone put Airborne pins on each of the 101st's fallen. One had a picture of the soldier's golden retriever laying on the ground quite forlorn. Each one was special, not only because of the artist's work, but because of the mementos left behind by loved ones. I was struck by the overwhelming amount of respect people showed for the display- no one touched it, and no one took pictures.

I knew Arlington would be memorable, I just didn't know why. Now, when I think about our National Cemetery, I will always think about "Faces of the Fallen", and it will be a very long time before I can get the crack of rifles firing off a 21-gun salute out of my head.

I was also able to visit The Wall, which was different than I expected it to be. It was smaller than I imagined it, and is sunk into the ground. Approaching it from the corner, you can't see the memorial. The top of the wall is level with the ground at the corner of the road, then you turn the corner, go down a short sidewalk.. and BAM! There it is. You were only 10 feet away just a minute ago, and didn't even realize it. Schoolchildren left notes at the base of the wall. Some were addressed to specific soldiers and had personal notes; some were generic "thank you, Sir" notes; all were meaningful and written with care.

Next up: the new World War II Memorial. That was so cool. I love the meanings behind the memorial, like the 56 columns which represented each state and province which participated in the War. There were some fantastic quote engraved into the walls near each end of the memorial. It was so peaceful and scenic.

After that, I saw the Korean War Memorial. Man, oh man.... It's a collection of incredibly life-like bronze statues trudging through the muck in Korea. I could have stayed and studied each statue for quite a while- each one is unique, and extremely detailed. Of the memorials I saw, this one was my favorite.

Saturday meant the Conference, which deserves a post of its own. Sunday meant a quick trip to the National Air and Space Museum to get souvenirs for the boys. Those at Fran's Friday night will remember me telling you that Kevin asked for "A spaceship with those three rocket fings on the back (translation: a space shuttle), three astronauts, and a space station if they have it"... and instructions to get Thomas the same thing so that they wouldn't fight over who got the kewler toy. Well, Kev got his wish. I was SO excited- they had this really cool set of Matchbox-sized space shuttles, astronauts, satellites and a shuttle launching pad. It was WAY cool, and the boys thought so too when they finally got to open them Monday night.

Yes. Monday night. I was supposed to get home around 5pm on Sunday, but due to a little mishap, I ended up at the wrong airport and couldn't get a flight back to Cinci until 6am Monday morning. *snore* A crying Kitty is *not* a pretty sight- especially one stuck in an airport due to a simple mistake. Just remember folks, DCA does NOT stand for Dulles. DCA is the airport code for Reagan National. Go figure. Oh well.... I made it home safe and sound Monday.

OK. This has dragged on long enough, and I haven't even gotten to the Conference on Saturday. I'll end this post now, and pick it up again later with Conference and Pub Crawl notes.


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