Walter Reed Vigil Report No. 12
November 4, 2005
The weather continues to be kind. It's autumn in Washington DC. Temperatures have been dropping but we still get these unexpected mild days. There's a perceptible wind but not enough to keep us from lighting candles. Vigilers arrive and quietly take up a sign or banner. We position ourselves on our corners. There is an atmosphere of unaffected simplicity. We're not here to draw attention to our selves but to the hospital grounds and those inside. Being here, we remind those passing by that there is a war going on and that war has a cost, a terrible cost. We should stop to think about why we are asking our men and women in uniform to pay that price. How much longer must they go on paying it? When can they come home?
We had hardly arrived this evening when the mother of an injured soldier stopped to thank us for being here. Drivers on Georgia Avenue honk their horns in support. Soldiers driving out of Walter Reed slow down to give us a smile and a thumbs up.
To be fair, the Freepers across the street get their share of drivers honking at them. They have their giant US flags and their huge "Liberating the World of One Tyrant at a Time" banner. They have their lawn chairs. They cluster together for warmth. In a somewhat robotic fashion they shout their chants. It has become remarkably easy to ignore their presence. Perhaps if they had a message other than hate and intolerance, the freepers could be more effective.
Perry brings his guitar and initiates some singing on one corner of the vigil. The steady thrum of his guitar and the good-natured style he brings adds to the easy, humble style of the vigil.
During the evening we speak with soldiers and hear their stories.
A very large family arrived on motorcycles that they parked in the church parking lot across the street behind the freepers. It would appear that they remembered being asked to park there by the DC 4th Division police. Then quietly, without their former intimidating machismo, these folks, male and female, came over to one of our corners with their own modest signs and stood with the vigil, no doubt thinking to broaden our message. There were quite a lot of them and because of past experience this was a bit unnerving. However, we did try a different tack. Vigilers simply surrounded our strange friends with our own banners. This actually increased our numbers by quite a lot. There was some good conversation going on as well.
This infuriated the freepers who ordered the fraternizers back to their side of the street, and soon after, these folks with their throw back sartorial tastes departed entirely.
The vigil remained.