Thursday, March 2nd 2017
Operation Awakening II arrives in Fredricksburg VA to attend the MCL Mid Winter Conference. Myself, Chris and Luke arrive at the Fredricksburg Hospitality Suites around 10 am to register for the event. We arrive at the event registration table and get our event packets. I inquire about if we can display Operation Awakening for attendees to view and ask questions. No problem pick your space was what I was told. Perfect! I decided to set up our base camp close to the Ships Store.
Friday, March 3rd 2017
Friday morning 0800 and I’m setting up my display. All of a sudden Steve comes running down the hall way to tell me I’M UP! Ok… I enter the packed room and walk to the podium. I actually had bullet points to speak from. I spoke about the Semper Fi Fund and explained how important their mission is for our returning warriors. How important it is to the families, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, wives and most of all.. The kids! Before I left I looked up one more time to see every eye locked on my next word. Just before stepping off the podiums I give that 1000 yrd stare and say “For I am my brother and sisters keeper!” STANDING OVATION! Every single person stood and clapped until I walked out of the room. As I walked toward the door members came up to me to shake my hand, to thank me to wish me luck. They where all moved. I seem to have hit a nerve and it was apparent as they all came out to see what this Operation Awakening is all about.
As I was speaking with the MCL members I noticed a stoic one sitting by himself observing all that was around him. Like the alpha wolf of the pack this one seemed to hold the most respect as others saluted and referred to him with reverence. I approached and asked him what he thought of my idea.. He loved that I was taking the step to actually do something to help our returning warriors. As we spoke he told me stories of vets coming home with nothing but disrespect. As we traded stories about life he told me that he was a Massachusetts State Trooper for 30yrs. I joked and said “you the guy who caught Whitey Bulger (Famous Boston Gangster). With a serious look he said, I helped out the best I could. Come to find out later on, he was the exact character who ran undercover to catch some of the most wanted men in Massachusetts history. If you’ve ever seen the movie the Departed, think Leonardo Dicapro’s character. The more we spoke I soon realized he was the National Marine Corps League Commandant. I was actually speaking with Richard D Gore Sr. the National Commandant.
What a great Marine, and great american. He made me feel right at home and allowed me to be front and center all week. I cannot thank you enough Commandant Gore.
Saturday, March 4th 2017
Saturday morning 0800 and setting up. This day was a little slower. People came and went. Most folks stopped by to say hello again and wish me luck. Today was a day for OPA to address the MCL National Ladies Auxiliary. 1000 hrs I was walked down the their meeting room to speak with this fine group. I addressed them as the patriarchs of our Marine Corps. Women who rally to help out any worthy cause they deem fit. Operation Awakening supporting the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund was right in their wheelhouse. As I walked from the podium I was once again met by applauds and cheers.. Another group who gets it.
I came back to the OPA display and waited for Chris and Luke to show up. Many of the MCL members enjoyed having Luke and Chris to speak with. During the day I was once again called in and presented 3 checks. The first check was for $1,000 from the New England Division the next was another $1,000 from the Department of Massachusetts MCL . And the final donation came from the Department of New York for $500.00. After that was all said and done we also had a “tip jar” out for folks to help feed me on the trail. We gathered $350.00 in random donations. Final total from fund raising came out to $2,850.00. What a great success! All of these marines and ladies have come out to show that they are here for the Semper Fi Fund and their families.
But the week had one more surprise in store for Operation Awakening. The guest speaker was my old Commanding General (2d Marine Division) Al Gray. General Gray holds many titles within the United States Marine Corps, but the one I like the most is that he is a mustang. To the laymen it means he was once enlisted (Sgt) and in 1952 he was commissioned 2d Lt. This commands respect within the enlisted ranks. The general knows what it means to be an NCO at the tactical level, but commands at the field grade level. That garners a great deal of respect from his marines. But his greatest accomplishment was being appointed Commandant of the United States Marine Corps in 1987. General Gray stopped by for a photo op and to ask about OPA 2 and to thank me for what I am doing.