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Red Dragonfly Veteran Health Mission: Dodging Raindrops in TennesseeTim King Salem-News.com
Weather has impacted the trip but I have been very fortunate for the most part.
(NASHVILLE, Tennessee) - Operation Red Dragonfly has been successful and long for a solo motorcycle ride, and it is far from over, which is a mixed bag. I decided to do this national tour to raise awareness of veteran health issues which are claiming lives left and right. It has been a whirlwind trip, some days have seen nearly 500 miles covered in a single day. Others were busy with speaking engagements and interviews. Overall, I am very happy with it and the team and I see it happening next year as well.
I am currently in Tennessee, waiting for the rain to pass. Weather has impacted the trip but I have been very fortunate for the most part. There are the frustrations that accompany forays to campgrounds in the backwoods that are closed upon arrival - that happened last night. When I finally found my way back to Midway, Tennessee I considered renting a motel room, but the motel operator was fast asleep inside the lobby and not responsive. I learned that pitching your bag on the pavement in a truck stop is not the worst thing, though I fully expected to be disturbed by a cop with a flashlight before sunrise. , which did not happen, thankfully
Rest stops are limited to two-hour stops here, however car operators can stay all night; same goes for semi-trucks, but if you are on a motorcycle, and need to utilize a covered area to rest for a few hours, you meet strong discrimination, and this needs to change. So far Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee have this "two hour limit" rules which only apply to those of us on two-wheels. They call these facilities "safety" rest areas and there is nothing safe about a person telling you two hours into your visit that you must head into the dark, wind and rain because you overstayed your welcome. This is the reality of what I have been dealing with. I plan to raise Cain over this, long distance motorcycle riders have a hard existence and they should be allowed to rest at rest stops.
Gestapo in Virginia
Californians know police are supposed to leave their lights on at night when they monitor traffic, and they aren't supposed to hide behind billboards. In New Market, Virginia several days ago, I watched two city police literally hide their car behind a tree and wait for speeders to pass. At least once the cops exited the parking lot without their headlights, naturally any police who utilize this deceptive practice will forget from time to time. It is an example of how things have changed over the years. I also observed police using this no lights at night approach in the state of Ohio.
All along this trip I have encountered Veterans. Much of it has been casual; motorcycle rider interaction leads to much of it, though all forms of contact lead to the discovery of past military service. When I tell people that I am giving talks about contaminated military bases, at least half have a horror story to share.
The number of Veterans who have suffered or died from cancer is astronomical. Most if not all were contaminated during their military service. Some served in places like Vietnam and others simply served their country here in the USA where bases are rampantly contaminated with chemicals. My former base, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, is obscenely chemical-ridden, with volatile organic compounds (VOC's) like trichloroethylene (TCE) and benzene, and many, many more.
Our reporter/singer/songwriter Agron Belica, better known musically as "Ace," made the trip down from Boston to meet me in New Jersey, and it began with me being lost for two hours plus in East Rutherford.
Agron enlisted the help of the hotel's Assistant General Manager, who went on a recovery mission aided by a GPS. They caught up with me when they were on the freeway and I was on a frontage road. I had to ride my heavily laden Suzuki up and over the curbs to jump onto the freeway and it worked perfectly.
This is the second time I have been able to visit Agron on the east coast, it was an awesome visit and we connected with a number of area Vets in New Jersey, as has happened all over this country for me.
Agron Belica is the person behind the Salem-News.com "Newsic Revolution" album which features songs about human rights and our intrepid band of writers who power out the articles that matter. We're all about fairness and equity, we believe in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which outlines the treatment that governments can employ toward citizens.
Our songs are about Palestine/Israel, Sri Lanka, Burma, anti-circumcision, and general decency. Many of us served in the military but we are decidedly anti-war, as the world keeps showing us over and over that wars do not solve problems, they only add to the madness and harm and it branches out in so many directions. We learned from Agent Orange and the EPA Superfund sites like Camp Lejeune and MCAS El Toro, that there are few protections in place to control or regulate the damage the government causes to its bravest men and women who serve in uniform.
Cancer cases are rampant everywhere, it is entirely unnatural and caused by man, and the worst part is that the govt. refuses accountability, and no place does this manifest more than with our often weary military Veterans, or with our victims who suffer the effects of our depleted uranium (DU) bombs in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan.
Marine Buddy from 30 Years Ago
My friend Greg Brainard and I served as Marines at El Toro in the early 1980's, 30 full years had passed without us seeing one another, that all changed recently in Ohio.
Greg and I had the most amazing time at the Maumee, Ohio Eagle's Lodge where Greg and his brother had just spent the last 24 hours roasting a whole pig, and it was spectacular! Greg and I went over so many things, following up on old friends that each of us had kept up with. Few visits are as rewarding as this one, however it was brief.
Greg or "Maynard" as his friends know him, is a generous and fascinating person just as he was when we were in the Marine Corps, he has a Harley Davidson and never lost the spirit or demeanor of a Marine in any way. I feel very fortunate to have that great opportunity and I know it is not the last time I will see Greg, and I would bet money that our next visit happens soon.
I had the rare opportunity to spend two days with a close friend, Blake Smyle, who works in one of the most challenging environments known to man; she is a nurse in the nation's most intensive trauma center.
Her life is like few others; and I expect her professionalism and intensity, because she is the biological granddaughter of the American author, John Steinbeck. Her mother, Crystal Brown, was married to John Steinbeck IV (son of the famous author) during the Vietnam War, and through Blake, I had the great fortune of meeting Crystal and spending part of an afternoon with her, hearing stories about her amazing past.
Crystal was close with so many people in this time period, when journalists lived on Phoenix Island in Vietnam's Mekong River. Here, a Buddhist holy man called "The Coconut Monk" lived with a mission of ending the Vietnam War.
Steinbeck and Sean Flynn and Dana Stone and Tim Page and many others lived with the knowledge this quiet man shared, his hopes and inspirations were honorable and would have made a difference if only people had listened, but peace and love and honor are undervalued commodities in this day and age to say the least.
I feel like I am just scratching the surface of what I have experienced over the last six weeks. There is much more that will be shown and videos are also under production that show much of what I discuss. The bottom line is that we feel a level of success with Operation Red Dragonfly and we can honestly say that it is reaching people and potentially making a difference.
I am one of the most fortunate former Marines on the face of this earth; most of my friends who served at El Toro suffered cancer, and one of those Marines is the co-author of my book, "Betrayal," Robert O'Dowd. We had an amazing time in New Jersey and I was floored by to see the new cover for our book, it is far more than I anticipated and I knew it was going to look good.
Truth be told, the book would not even start to exist if it were not for Robert, who served in my Marine squadron 20 years before I did, we have much in common for being separated by two generations. 'Betrayal' exposes the gritty truth about the Marine Corp's regard for its Marines.
Anyone with questions can call 916 308-5902.
Many people are already helping, one significant person is Sheree Evans in Missouri, she is the east coast contact person for 'Operation Red Dragonfly'. You can write to Sheree at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in seeing this event come to your city or town.
People and organizations who have contributed include Nicholas Burgin, Tosh Plumlee, Paul Stanford and THCF Clinic, Coral Theill, Charlie Smith, Vic Pittman, Mary Vogel, Joan Vogel, Kevin Saunders, Leonard Lawrence, Dennis Paterka, Karin Rougeau, Charlie Smith, Quiet from the GJ MC Club, Jean James, Bob and Donna Collinsworth, Robert and Grace O'Dowd, Al Hayward, James Frederickson, Michael Rawlings, Gary Bennett, Veterans United for Truth, EnyaDreamz Productions, Bonnie King, the King family, Sacramento Motorcycle Rentals, and several other are already stepping up. It is time to think outside of the box, time to reach out in person. We believe this is a cheap and effective approach that will gain measurable ground in our fight to save lives.
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