Monday, May 25, 2009

Rolling Thunder and the Interesting People I meet at the Museum

There is no place I would rather be than the Washington, DC area during one of our national holidays such as Memorial Day, July 4th or Veterans Day. Memorial Day is especially neat as there is this phenomenon called Rolling Thunder.

We are talking a Bike Rally like no other. Originally organized by Vietnam Veterans to raise awareness of their fallen brothers and sisters as well those held as Prisoners of War, it has become so much more. While still a tribute to our fallen Vietnam era Soldiers, Seamen, Airmen and Marines, it is an outlet to honor all our fallen, including those killed in the War on Terror.

Last year I was able to head on down for the rally and took some pretty cool pictures. Here is the link to those blog posts:

I didn't get a chance to "show" you what it sounds like. I found this short video from this year's rally:

This year, I spent my weekend painting my front porch, digging up 200 tulip bulbs, planting the last 7 of my 30 plants in the garden, planting the hanging baskets and deck planters, oh, and mulching. Lots of mulching. It was exhausting. I actually had to leave church early yesterday - - not to attend Rolling Thunder, but to go home and take a nap. I could barely keep my eyes open. The keeping them open on the drive home was an exercise of will. After my nap, I went out and transplanted three plants and mulched some more, cleaned my house and did laundry.

Needless to say, it was very difficult getting up this morning. My back has been killing me, to the point where I am walking around like an 80 year old woman. I considered calling the Museum to tell them I couldn't come. I'm just a volunteer, they can't fire me (at least I don't think they can). Well, I pulled myself up by my boot straps and took 1000mg of Ibuprofen (that would be 5 Advil) and by the time I got to the museum, I was feeling o.k. I knew I would just have to keep moving and I'd make it.

As you know, those of you who have read my museum journal entries in the past, I always have a wonderful experience. Spending the day is 110% worth it.

Most of our docents are retired or formerly active duty Marines (you can't say 'former' Marine, because once a Marine Always a Marine). All of them have such wonderful stories. I hope to bring you some of those stories in future blogs. I will introduce you to one of our Marine veterans of World War 2. Frank is an Iwo Jima veteran. When he volunteers, you can find him back at the Iwo gallery talking about his experience. When I walked past the gallery today, I saw him talking to a group of people that were sitting there, mouths agape, listening intently. I ran back to grab my camera to take a few photos.


Frank was 18 when he landed on Iwo. When his platoon's flamethrower was killed, his sergeant handed him the flame thrower. Frank says he was more afraid of his platoon sergeant than the Japanese. I brought a tour back to listen to Frank as he told about his experiences. The museum guests where thrilled. A few minutes into Frank's narrative, another docent interrupted to introduce Frank to another Iwo Jima veteran who was there with his son, a Korean war veteran and his great-grandson, an active duty Marine decked out in his dress blues. Applause erupted from everyone and Frank shook hands with his fellow Iwo Jima survivor.

One of the interesting things about Frank is that he is an accomplished pianist. When he joined the Marine Corps and his commanders found out he could play, he was often asked to play for the chaplains during the various religious services they held. After the war, he became a composer and music instructor. Saturdays at the museum, Frank plays during lunch from the balcony outside the Mess Hall. In addition to these free concerts, he is the piano man at the Globe and Laurel, Saturday nights. There is more, on top of his volunteering at the museum and playing at the Globe and Laurel, he still trains a full load of music students. Can I just say, I want to be like that.

Besides our interesting docents. We often have very interesting guests. As I was exiting the Vietnam Gallery, a Marine was resting on the bench in the hallway. We had eye contact and as I always do, I said, "Hi". He asked me, "How many of the docents here are Marines?"

Well most of them are. Most have some connection to the Marine Corps by either a spouse or other family member. Then there are a handful of us, like myself, who have no connection to th Marine Corps but love the history and what the Marine Corps stands for. He was telling me how he is really interested in telling the history of the Marine Corps so people won't forget. I was just getting ready to give him my docent recruiting line when he opens the bag he was carrying and was saying that every year he was down in DC talking to people about Marine Corps history and that a few years ago he started to do this:

My reaction was, "You are THAT Marine?!"

I've heard about him and have wanted to find him standing saluting to get some pictures to share with everyone here on my blog. I've not been successful at that. He had pictures so I asked him if he could sign one. So here it is:


Yes, he did make it out to my real name, so I had to block that out in keeping with my "infosec" policy of keeping my electronic footprint small. It says, after my name, "We honor their sacrifice every night with Taps! You take it one step further every day educating here at the museum. They live forever because of your efforts!"

For those of you that may not know already, service members such as SSGT Chambers, are equivalent to movie stars, rock stars and professional athletes, in my book. So after this makes the round of being posted next the the photo of me with General Mattis on my bulletin board at work, it will be going in my scrapbook.

He holds that salute for over 4 hours, or however long the motorcycle parade is. I asked if he ever gets tired, how can he stand at attention saluting for that long. He says he thinks about the pain that others have gone through for his freedoms that he enjoys and that gives him the ability to do this. To give them the honor and respect. He does this on his own, it is not a Marine Corps sanctioned activity. A contributor to the "Road Warriors" at wrote about his attempts to identify and interview this Marine, its entitled "The Lone Marine".

You can check The Lone Marine out at his MySpace blog:

Knowing there are people like him seving in our military, wow, its humbling, its amazing, it makes me so proud to be an American. It makes me wish more of us, including myself where made out of the "stuff" they were/are made out of.

In utter humbleness, I am so glad that I sucked up my own muscle pain and made it in to the Museum. Today, a day to honor the fallen of the United States, there was no better place for me to have been.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Marines are truly brave and committed individuals united in a common cause. I learned more about Marines from reading this book:
"Once a Marine" by Nick Popaditch.
Here is a link with more information:
Signed copies are available.
The author also has a website:

This book is a compelling story that helps us appreciate the sacrifice so many members of our military have made.

Tammy Hall
Sacramento, CA