Thursday, August 30, 2012

American Legion Convention 2012 - Spirit of Service Award Recipients

From the American Legion 94th National Convention Program:

The Spirit of Service Award, now in its 13th year, is given to outstanding military professionals in each of the five service branches who are actively committed to volunteer community service during their off-duty hours.

Each service member is selected by his or her command office.

NOTE:  Information below in italics was taken from literature from the American Legion.  All other information was gleaned from my own interviews with the award recipients.

It was a pleasure and a privilege to be able to meet and interview each of these great Americans.  Each of them was equally engaging, easily approachable and excited to be able to talk about the various charities and organizations with which they volunteer.  This "assignment" was definitely one of the highlights of my time at the American Legion convention.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Tyler J. Arrowood is active both at his installation at Kings Bay, GA, and in the surrounding community. He has been a vital part of the Kings Bay Drug Education for Youth program and camp since its inception, helping elementary school children get active and live responsibly; and was selected to be the director of this year's camp. Arrowood also assists an area high school's NJROTC unit and participates in parades and military ceremonies.

Petty Officer Arrowood told me that Drug Education for Youth program is a worldwide program for military children.  He has been involved in the program since it's inaugural year at his installation.  One day he was walking into the Base Exchange and saw people recruiting children for the program.  He stopped to inquire about the program and offered to be a volunteer.  Since then Petty Officer Arrowood has been an assistant camp director as well as camp director for the program.

The Drug Education for Youth program is a one year commitment by each of the youth who join.  One of the many positive features of the program is that if a youth joins at one Navy or Marine installation and their parent(s) is assigned to a new duty station, the youth is transferred into the program at the new duty station. 

Each of the youth attends a one week camp in the summer.  Each month for the remainder of the twelve months until the next camp the youth attends a workshop one Saturday of each month. 

Petty Officer Arrowood is also actively involved with the Sea Cadet program.

Coast Guard Petty Officer Tyler J. Arrowood in Sunday's Parade

American Legion National Commander Wong, Coast Guard Petty Officer Arrowood, LG John F Kelly and J R Martinez

Navy Petty Officer Alving G. Balthazar was described as "very seldom asked to volunteer since his is usually the command lead or co-lead for each and every volunteer project" around his posting at Pearl Harbor, HI. he serves as base coordinator with the Ronald McDonald House; is active with the local Kahiki Elementary School, coordinating its back-to-school drive and honoring students of the month; and has spoken at Black History Month and Juneteenth events.

Petty Officer Balthazar is the President of the Junior Enlisted Association for the U S Pacific Fleet Command in Hawaii.  The association is comprised of E-5 and below and currently has approximately 200 Sailor and Marine members.  One of the many projects the association organizes is an annual drive to raise back to school items for the Kahiki Elementary School.  The Junior Enlisted Association matches any funds or items raised for the children of this school each year.

Petty Officer Balthazar also donates his time once a month at the Ronald McDonald House.  He is the base coordinator for this project.  He told me he (and others who join him for this project) may do anything from cleaning bathrooms to painting to landscaping - whatever needs to be done they do.

In addition to his participation in Black History Month and Juneteenth events, Petty Officer Balthazar has become involved in multi cultural events.  I asked Petty Officer Balthazar if there was any one thing he would like for me to share with you all.  He asked me to share the following quote.

"One small act of random kindness can lead to a more loving world where selflessness will run in abundance." Petty Officer Balthazar

Navy Petty Officer Balthazar in Sunday's parade

American Legion National Commander Wong, Navy Petty Officer Balthzar, LG John F Kelly and J R Martinez

Army Sgt. Joshua J. Boudreaux committed many hours from 2010 - 2012 in the Aberdeen Proving Ground (MD) League of Dreams program for special-needs children, coaching a baseball team.  He is active in Habitat for Humanity, repairing older homes as well as building new ones.  Boudreaux also spends a significant amount of time supporting special military and civilian events from Special Olympics to a Morale, Welfare, Recreation chess tournament; and has served on several honor guard missions.

Even before his military career SGT Boudreaux was making a difference in his community.  He has a cousin who is a few months younger than he is who has been wheelchair bound most of his life. SGT Boudreaux grew up aware that those with disabilities can, often, do anything those without disabilities can do; they just may need a little extra encouragement or assistance. SGT Boudreaux was diagnosed with dyslexia at a young age. With the help and encouragement of others he has overcome the obstacles of dyslexia. SGT Boudreaux started volunteering at his church long before he decided to join the Army.  As a senior in high school he volunteered to teach children how to play chess.

Since joining the Army he became actively involved with volunteer work. He joined B O S S and, eventually, became the Secretary for his chapter.  From their website, "The BOSS committee may elect to participate in community programs or projects that make a difference in the lives of others, in the community, and ultimately, in themselves."

SGT Boudreaux is also very active in both The League of Dreams and Habitat for Humanity.  When I asked why he was involved in Habitat for Humanity he replied, "because I love to build things and it interested me."

Army SGT Boudreaux in Sunday's parade

American Legion National Commander Wong, Army SGT Boudreaux, LG John F Kelly and J R Martinez

Air Force Staff Sgt. Chris T Pearson has donated 1,500 hours in the last year at and around Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington. Many of his activities center on children - he has served as head coach of the Pop Warner football team and as a TAPS Good Grief Camp counselor, working with the children of deceased service members. Pearson has also devoted a significant amount of time to cleaning and restoring areas war memorials including those for Vietnam, Korea and World War II.

Staff Sgt Pearson became actively involved in volunteer work at his first duty station, Tinker Air Force Base.  He and several of his buddies worked together to build a playground at a local elementary school.  After working on that project there was no stopping Staff Sgt Pearson. 

When he was assigned to his current duty station in the Washington, DC area he learned that our nation's national monuments and war memorials are often in need of cleaning.  I was personally shocked to learn that the National Park Service doesn't do this.  Volunteers do this.  Staff Sgt Pearson and his fellow Airmen volunteer on a regular basis to clean the monuments and memorials.  They most often accomplish their work by pressure washing the monuments and memorials but their work may require any manner of tasks.

Staff Sgt Pearson is also actively involved in coaching Pop Warner football.  He coaches ages six through eight.

He has participated in the Wreaths Across America by helping to lay the wreaths and assisting in removing them.  Staff Sgt Pearson and a fellow Airman, Staff Sgt Chaquila Brown, are in the process of starting a new project at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling to collect toys and stuffed animals for children's hospitals.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Pearson in Sunday's parade

American Legion National Commander Wong, Air Force Staff Sgt. Pearson,  LG John F Kelly and J R Martinez 
Marine Corps Sgt. Juan M. Vallejomunoz was born in Ecuador and moved to the United States in 2002. Currently based at Okinawa, Japan, Vallejomunoz takes his role as an ambassador very seriously. He conducts tennis classes for children both on and off base; volunteers at a local orphanage, providing developmental care and playing games; is an active participant in color guard ceremonies; and conducts a weekly radio show that helps to bring the Japanese and Hispanic communities together.

Sgt. Vallejomunoz's mother moved to the United States from Ecuador in 1999.  She chose to make this move in hopes that her children would be able to follow her for better educational opportunities.  In 2002, Sgt. Vallejomunoz started classes at Crystal Lake, Illinois High School.  After graduation he chose to join the Marine Corps.

Sgt. Vallejomunoz has been active in volunteer work most all of his life.  He told me that he doesn't really think what he is doing is "volunteer work" - that it is just being kind to others.  Sgt. Vallejomunoz says that an act of kindness such as simply helping someone across a street can mean more to the person you helped than you might think.  As a young lad Sgt. Vallejomunoz observed his mother assisting in a local orphanage.  He, too, began spending time at the orphanage to help out.

It was a natural progression for Sgt. Vallejomunoz to begin volunteering at a local orphanage on Okinawa when he was assigned there.  He spends his time playing games of all sorts with this children but tries to focus more on games that will encourage and assist in their development.  I asked him for an example and he said any type of game that might involve math is one he often engages them in.  Sgt. Vallejomunoz has been successful in getting other members of his unit to join him at the orphanage.

Sgt. Vallejomunoz also participates each week as a guest on a radio show.  The premise of the show is to encourage interaction between the Hispanic and Japanese communities on Okinawa.

Sgt. Vallejomunoz wanted me to be sure to share with all of you that we all have the capabilities to do great things for others.

Marine Corps Sgt. Vallejomunoz in Sunday's parade

American Legion National Commander Wong, Marine Corps Sgt. Vallejomunoz, LG John F Kelly and J R Martinez

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

American Legion Convention 2012 - LTG Kelly's Speech (Linked from Ace of Spades)

DrewM, a blogger at Ace of Spades wrote this excellent blog post about LTG John Kelly's (USMC) speech to the American Legion yesterday.  Ace of Spades is an incredible blog.  They get more hits in ten minutes than I get in a year.  If you don't have them bookmarked you should.

I STRONGLY encourage each of you to go read Drew's post.  More so I encourage you to listen to LTG Kelly's speech regarding the 1% who serve our nation in our Armed Forces.  Drew has excerpts and the entire speech posted but I'm going to post the entire speech below.

Drew reminds us that LTG Kelly son, 1st Lt. Robert Michael Kelly, was killed in action in Afghanistan on November 9, 2010.

I implore you to listen to LTG Kelly's poignant and heartfelt speech and to pass it on for others to hear.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mark Seavey "Does" the American Legion Parade

Mark doesn't make any bones about the fact that he LOVES the American Legion Parade.  After attending my first one this past Sunday, I understand why he does.  I know I've already posted about the parade but while going through my photos and the ones that Donna Cranston took I felt like it was appropriate that Mark have his own post.

American Legion Convention 2012 - Day 4 (Sunday) PARADE DAY!!!

Today's big event was the annual American Legion parade.  Indianapolis could not have done a better job of staging the parade.  The local police, emergency services, etc. are to be commended on a job well done.  Another group deserves a huge pat on the back for their stellar efforts as well - the American Legion members who were in charge of the parade.  It went off without a hitch.  WELL DONE!!!

I was fortunate enough to view the parade as a guest of a great group of people.  Mark and Caroline Seavey provided comfy chairs, a tent from the sun and awesome adult beverages.  We had the best seats in the house just a few feet down from where the parade stepped off.

The parade began at 4:00 PM but we were in place and ready by 2:30 PM.  This allowed us to watch the parade form up - including the arrival and hitching up of the Clydesdales.  WIN!!!

The Budweiser Clydesdales
Since it was a parade, I'm just going to post pics.  Some are mine.  Most were taken by Donna Cranston of Defenders of Freedom.  Each state, or as the American Legion calls them, Department, walked in the parade.  There were also high school bands and bands from a few of the Departments.  I'm not going to post pics of each Department (state).
It was a FANTASTIC parade.  Lasted about three hours.  I HIGHLY recommend this parade if the convention is ever in your town.  Houston, TX, your city is hosting next year.
American Legion Riders
Indianapolis Policy Department
Indiana Cassion Color Guard
American Legion National Commander Fang A Wong and his wife on front of float.
Budweiser Clydesdale Dalmatian
More photos after the jump

Monday, August 27, 2012

American Legion Convention 2012 - Feature Blog Post

R to L - Ida, Peggy, Marie, Pat and Barbara from the American Legion Auxiliary of New York

One of the many opportunities I have enjoyed while being here at the American Legion Convention is hanging out with different folks outside my hotel.  Tonight I ran into the ladies pictured above.  They are all members of the American Legion Auxiliary and are all from New York state.  Ida is both a Veteran (Navy) and the wife of a Veteran.  All of the other lady's husbands are Veterans.

I was drawn to this group of ladies for many reasons.  One was listening to their playful banter and laughter.  Another was that they were instantly approachable.  When I asked if I might interview them for a story for my blog one of them mentioned that there really was no story.  I told her she might be surprised.  As it turns out there really were some great stories from these ladies.

Ida served in the Navy until she was in an accident and her eardrum was burst.  She's been deaf in that ear since.  She told me she tried to convince the Navy to let her stay in but they wouldn't let her.  I think the Navy might have made a bad call there.  Ida, like each of the other ladies, was delightful and full of spunk.

I asked the ladies how many American Legion Conventions they've been to.  It was the first convention for one of the ladies.  The fourth convention for two of the ladies.  The fifth convention for one of the ladies and the sixth convention for one of the ladies.  This is my first convention (and probably my last one) but I know I'd love to attend more of them.

I then asked the ladies what one of their favorite parts of attending the convention is.  The consensus, hands down, was meeting folks from the other states.  Each of the ladies either commented or agreed that everyone they have met is so nice and enjoyable to be around.  I, too, have found that to be the case without question.  Another comment that was made by one of the ladies is that this convention location is much more centrally located making it easier to attend more events and for the auxiliary members to be geographically closer to all of the delegates and guests.

When questioned as to what aspect they like most about being in the American Legion Auxiliary all the ladies agreed it was because of how much they are able to help Veterans and children.  New York has recently opened their fourth Homeless Women's Veteran's Shelter.  The new facility is located in Ballston Spa, NY.  It can house twelve homeless women Veterans.  There is another facility in Rochester that houses up to thirty six homeless women Veterans.  Each of the facilities and the other two assist the homeless women Veterans to readjust, re-connect with family, find employment and provides counseling services.  I find that to be an incredible project.  The facilities are funded by the Auxiliary, private donations and federal funding.  Apparently New York is one of the few states to have facilities of this sort.

In 2009, under the auspices of the American Legion Auxiliary, the American Legion Auxiliary College was founded.  The College provides a weekend opportunity for members of the Auxiliary to attend classes in a college setting to learn about each of the committees of the Auxiliary, what it does and how the attendees can contribute to each committee.

The New York American Legion Auxilary's past president, Ann, chose to focus their efforts for children on COTA (Children's Organ Transplant Association).  Through their efforts the children of five Veterans were able to receive life saving organ transplants.  This program does not just pay, or help pay, for the initial transplant but also helps to pay for any additional needs or expenses down the road. 

The ladies continued to tell me more "no story here" stories.  All of them touched my heart and reminded me that our Veterans and their families of the heartbeat of this nation.  Not only have they served (or are currently serving) but even after they have left the military they continue to open their hearts, wallets and their time to helping those in need.  I could not be more honored or proud to be a part of this convention and to meet so many amazing Americans.

Ida talked about how, just last year, she worked to get over 400 stuffed animals donated for children in hospitals.  The ladies shared that another of their past president's focused on helping to raise funds and awareness for Operation Purple Program.  From their website:

"When you hear "Operation Purple camp" you should think: Kids Serve Too! The National Military Family Association's Operation Purple camps are a time for having fun, making friends, and reminding military kids that they are the Nation's youngest heroes.
The Operation Purple program was created in 2004 in response to the call from military parents to "help us help our kids." The mission of the Operation Purple program is to empower military children and their families to develop and maintain healthy and connected relationships, in spite of the current military environment. We do this through a variety of means, including the healing and holistic aspect of the natural world. The program is joint or "purple"— and open to children and families of active duty, National Guard or Reserve service members from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service and NOAA.

Since it's creation in 2004, the Operation Purple program has grown to serve approximately 45,000 military children and teens.  The Operation Purple program also includes family retreats at national parks and specialized family camps geared to address the needs of children and families of our nation's wounded service members."
As I was about finished writing this post I looked up and noticed that my new friends had added a few adult beverages to their table.  As I've been sitting at the table next to them I've been enjoying listening to their banter and laughter.  I'm so thankful I ran into these wonderful ladies.  I couldn't pass up this photo op.

And then, Ann, their past president who championed COTA walked up.  Here are the ladies and Ann:

I know there are many, many more stories like these among the 10,000 attendees of this convention.  I wish I had the time to learn about them all.  It's comforting to know our Veterans and our nation are in such great hands.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

American Legion Convention 2012 - Day 3 (Saturday)

Saturday was a busy day for the commissions and committees.  Mark Seavey spoke about Stolen Valor before the Legislative Commission.  As long as I've known Mark I've never heard him speak.  He more than knocked it out of the park on Saturday morning.

Mark Seavey speaking about Stolen Valor to American Legion Legislative Commission

Mark talked about the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 and why it was struck down by the Supreme Court.  He began by presenting the cases of Xavier Alvarez and Rick Duncan.  In the case of Xavier Alvarez the Ninth Circuit overturned the case.  Mark then discussed the Stolen Valor case of Rick Duncan (also known by many other alias names).  The Tenth Circuit upheld the case against Mr. Duncan. 

Because the two courts disagreed on the Stolen Valor Act the Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments from both sides in order to make a ruling.  In the end the Supreme Court ruled the Act to be unconstitutional.  It takes five judges to "win".  In the case of the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 two of the judges Concurred it was constitutional. 

Information in Italics below is from Mark Seavey's Power Point presentation:

Concurrence: Two Justices, Justice Bryer joined by Justice Kagan, a less restrictive measure might pass Constitutional muster.

[A] more finely tailored statute might, as other kinds of statues prohibiting false factual statements have done, insist upon a showing that the false statement caused specific harm or at least was material, or focus its coverage on lies most likely to be harmful or on contexts where such lies are most likely to cause harm.
Three dissented that it was not. 

Dissent: Three Justices, Justice Alito writing for Justice Thomas and Justice Scalia, the existing Stolen Valor Act fell within acceptable constitutional parameters.

The statute reaches only knowingly false statements about hard facts directly within a speaker's personal knowledge.  These lies have no value in and of themselves, and proscribing them does not chill any valuable speech.  By holding that the First Amendment nevertheless shields these lies, the Court breaks sharply from a long line of cases recognizing that the right to free speech does not protect false factual statements that inflict real harm and serve no legitimate interest.

The other four judges gave opinions. 

Majority Opinion: Four Justices, Justice Kennedy writing for Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Sotomayor, Justice Ginsburg, all efforts to curtail these lies would likely be unconstitutional.

When content-based speech regulation is in question, however, exacting scrutiny is required.  Statutes suppressing or restricting speech must be judged by the sometimes inconvenient principles of the First Amendment.  By this measure, the statutory provisions under which respondent was convicted must be held invalid, and his conviction must be set aside.

As a result of the Supreme Court ruling against the Stolen Valor Act of 2005 Mark presented to us new bills that are before the House and Senate that have been written based on the ruling and Opinions of the Supreme Court Justices.  Hopefully a new bill will be passed soon and will plug the "holes" from the act of 2005.

Heck Bill in House:  HR 1775, Stolen Valor Act of 2011, 107 Cosponsors.

“I believe that we must defend the valor of those who have served our country, but also that we must protect the very liberties for which our servicemen and women sacrificed. [The bill] would achieve both objectives, and Congress should move quickly to pass this legislation.”

Brown Bill in Senate: S. 1728, Companion to HR 1775, 33 Cosponsors.

“It is wrong and cowardly for people to make fraudulent statements in order to receive distinctions that they have not earned. We need to ensure that no one can benefit from making false claims and steal the true valor of the courageous servicemen and women who selflessly defended our freedom.”

Webb Bill in Senate: S3772, Military Service Integrity Act of 2012, 52 Cosponsors.

 “Profiting from the misrepresentation of military service or the award of a decoration or medal for personal gain undermines the value of service and is offensive to all who have stepped forward to serve our country in uniform.

Mark then discussed the difference between the bills:

Heck & Brown Bills:  (“Anything of Value”)

Whoever, with intent to obtain anything of value, knowingly makes a misrepresentation regarding his or her military service, shall--

`(1) if the misrepresentation is that such individual served in a combat zone, served in a special operations force, or was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both…

Webb Bill:  (“Tangible Benefit”, adds purchase or manufacture language)

Whoever knowingly purchases, attempts to purchase, solicits for purchase, mails, ships, imports, exports, produces blank certificates of receipt for, manufactures, sells, attempts to sell, advertises for sale, trades, barters, or exchanges for anything of value any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States, or any of the service medals or badges awarded to the members of such forces, or the ribbon, button, or rosette of any such badge, decoration, or medal, or any colorable imitation thereof, except when authorized under regulations made pursuant to law, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 6 months, or both.

“Tangible Benefit” defined as:  Fed, State or Local Gov’t Benefit; Employment or professional advancement; financial remuneration; effect the outcome of criminal or civil court proceeding; impact personal credibility in a political campaign.

Before he took questions, Mark presented a Resolution on Stolen Valor that the American Legion will consider adopting this week.  Since it hasn't been adopted yet I won't share it here in this post.

Later in the day I was invited to a reception held for the American Legion Legislative Commission.  Mark introduced me to some great Americans.  I had a very nice time.

Legislative Commission Reception

Legislative Commission Reception

Caroline and Mark Seavey invited one of Mark's co-workers from the American Legion DC office and me to their home for dinner.  It was a wonderful respite from the convention mania. 

Caroline, Mosby and Fenway picked us up at the hotel.  I've been wanting to meet Mosby and Fenway forever!!!

Caroline and Mosby

Mark and Fenway

We enjoyed grilled blue cheese stuffed hamburgers and homemade sweet potato fries.  It was so delicious.  Equally as much, I enjoyed the time we spent relaxing and visiting on their deck.

Caroline, Mark and Ian

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!