Saturday, August 25, 2012

American Legion Convention - Day 2 (Friday)

The convention doesn't officially open until Sunday yet there are many events going on already.  I think most of the expected 10,000 Legionnaires are already here and spirits are high.

I met Mark and Caroline for lunch then we headed off to the convention center.  Mark introduced me to his boss, Jeff.  What a great guy!  He also introduced me to several other people.  Everyone was exceptionally welcoming.

Mark Seavey talking to one of the Legionnaires in the exhibit hall

Part of the exhibit hall

USAA sponsored an event at the War Memorial building.  We thought we were going to a screening of Brothers at War, Produced and Directed by Jake Rademacher.  Instead of screening the entire documentary we were shown clips that didn't make it into the final cut of the movie. Each clip was introduced by Jake.  But before any of the clips were shown Jake gave us a little insight as to why he made the documentary.  He need to know why it was so important for two of his brothers to serve in the military - both are Army.  Jake definitely found his answer after traveling to Iraq to embed with his brother's units as well as others.

Part of the crowd prior to the Brothers at War presentation

The theater in the War Memorial building.  It was gorgeous.

As a result of his documentary Jake was approached to find a way to use the documentary to help military families understand just as it helped him.  While the documentary may not have answered all of Jake's questions it appeared to me that it answered many of them.  Jake and his team have created two workbooks.  One for the returning Veteran and one for the family of the returning Veteran.  The purpose of the workbooks is to help the families and Veterans begin dialogue or have better dialogue during the re-integration period.

Workbooks for reintegration program

Jake would introduce a clip.  All of the clips we saw were those that didn't actually make it to the documentary but were very poignant in their own right.  After each clip was shown Jake would tell us to which page we should turn in our journal and would invite us to write any thoughts or experiences we might have had either as Veterans or family members of Veterans during the post deployment re-integration process.   Jake then opened the floor up for those who wished to do so to share what they had written - just as they do in the re-integration workshops he is currently involved with. 

I can definitely see how this workshop can be extremely helpful for those returning from war and their families.

Jake and me with Caroline pulling security in the background

USAA held a very nice reception afterwards.  I appreciate that they hosted this event and am grateful that I was allowed to be a part of it.  I met several employees of USAA.  Each of them was equally as welcoming, warm and engaging as the next.  It was apparent that all of them were incredibly supportive of the documentary and Jake's continued work.

Refreshments - the liquid kind

We returned to the convention center.  A quick dash to the room to change into more comfortable clothes then a short walk to the ballpark for the Indianapolis Indians versus the Louisville Bats minor league baseball game.

There seemed to be a substantial number of Legionnaires at the game.  I loved watching them shout across the way at an old friend or raise their beer to someone who, obviously, they hadn't seen in a while.

The current National Commander of the American Legion, Fang A Wong made quite an entrance at the game.  I encourage you to read about Mr. Wong.  I find his story to be captivating.

The National Commander, Fang A Wong, inbound via helicopter to throw out the first pitch of the game.  Pretty darn impressive

Here he comes!!!

Nice, soft landing

Getting the "official" photos

Walking to the mound to throw the first pitch

Beautiful ballpark!

As if the day hadn't been packed full of fantastic opportunities and events, after the game was over Coors sponsored a fireworks show. 

Mark and Caroline left around the sixth inning; Mark to go back to his hotel room, take an Ambien cocktail and attempt to sleep.  Caroline to their home to remind their 4 legged kiddos that they are still loved.  Aside from the Ambien cocktail of Mark's I'm not sure this day could have been more American - hanging out with amazing Veterans, learning about brothers who have gone to war and are still deploying and their brother who found a powerful way to figure out why they do what they so, a baseball game and fireworks.  A great day.

Tomorrow (Saturday) promises more good events.  First up, Mark speaking about Stolen Valor.  Can't wait!

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