Americans Standing Together

Posted: October 13, 2012 in General
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I had the privilege of witnessing something great today.  It was not great because of the occasion, the death of someone soldier or otherwise is never a great occasion.  What was great about it was seeing a couple thousand people turn out to say good bye to a soldier who gave her life on the 1st of October.

The Westboro Baptist Church was the original catalyst for this gathering.  Their intended picketing of SGT Donna Johnson’s funeral was the reason my wife began a Facebook event to help put up a human shield between these noxious people and the family of SGT Johnson.  By the time I arrived at the gathering of people, over 1200 had committed to coming and over 8000 across the world had been part of the invite.  This was done in just four days.  This is one of the best uses for social media that I have ever been witness to personally.

The little town of Raeford was not prepared for the number of people that would arrive.  They did not have much to worry about, the word was spread that this was going to be about SGT Johnson and her family.  Blocking the WBC from their view was just a beneficial by-product.  Prior to the family emerging from the church to move on to the cemetery it did get a little interesting as several hundred supporters lined up in front of the small patch of earth that the tiny amount of protestors were allowed to occupy.  They sung patriotic songs and shouted patriotic things as the WBC tried to shout over them, their hateful catch-phrases.  It is rumored that at least one of the WBC was arrested and I know for a fact they were run off earlier than the time their permit was extended to.

The amazing thing about today was the diversity of people who showed up to honor SGT Johnson.  The Patriot Guard Riders had the honor of building the flag wall outside of the church as well as leading the family to the cemetery.  The hearse carrying SGT Johson’s casket was drawn by a motorcycle in much the same way that caskets are moved at Arlington National Cemetery.  There were many motorcycle clubs in attendance, military and their families, old people, young people, every nationality and religious belief as well as many members of the LGBT community, to which SGT Johnson was a member of.  In addition to her parents and other family, SGT Johnson left behind a wife in Raeford.

This has been one of the most satisfying things I have taken part of in a long time.  I was able to help get the word out to aid in bringing a group of diversity like this together.  I was proud to be an American today, I got to witness in a small scale what America is all about.  A couple thousand people came to honor SGT Johnson today, it was pretty amazing.  I hope her wife and parents gained a small measure of pride in their community as they drove down the streets lined with people there to pay their respects.  I hope they feel a great measure of pride in their spouse and daughters because she could stir such an outpouring of gratitude for simply answering the call of the military.  Her last deployment was not her first, she was a professional who simply heard a calling and answered it.

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I walked all over the area that everything would take place in.  I was about three hours early and already there were a couple hundred people beginning to gather.  I went to Mclaughlin Park across from her parents flag lined front yard, to Raeford Presbyterian Church a couple of times, and covered several blocks of Main Street.  As I made my way to the park after I arrived I walked by a shopkeeper who was standing on the sidewalk, the older woman was looking at the procession of vehicles and motorcycles making their way towards Main street with tears in her eyes.  She was unable to answer me when I asked which direction the park was and simply pointed me in the right direction.  I never met SGT Johnson, but I think it speaks very well of her that her death could bring such a swelling of emotion from her community.

This is the America that I know of, the America that I and thousands of my brothers and sisters fight for.

  1. Toucan Jam says:

    Very well said ! It was a great day. Proud to have partisapated.


  2. John Nichols says:

    Ditto Toucan Jam, It was a great day! I am glad the folks shows up for support of the family.


  3. […] Star families when all they wish to do is send off their loved ones.  I have helped organize a counter-protest that resulted in several thousand people showing up in support of a gay service member who lost her […]


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