Continuing with Dottie’s rediscovered journal of our Freedom Beat trip across America in search of America’s heartbeat (again, any errors in transcription are mine):
August 5, 2011
Today we hoped to make it to Oklahoma City and meet up with Don “Pappy” Papin, Oklahoma Captain of the Patriot Guard.
He was busy with other members of the Guard, meeting a disabled veteran at the airport. Instead, we met up with Ride Captain Pam Tate. Pam came to our hotel and despite her very busy schedule and her having to get up very early the next day, we went out for a late dinner to get to know one another.
The Patriot Guard is careful who they talk to. Their whole mission is to provide service to veterans in any way that is needed. They shy away from any recognition that takes the focus away from those that serve their country and often make the ultimate sacrifice.
August 6, 2011
This morning (Saturday) we went to the YMCA-sponsored welcome center at Will Rogers Airport. We were greeted by Millie, a kind of house-mom.
The USO usually sponsors the airport Welcome Centers. Will Rogers and the Anchorage, Alaska, airports are both too small for the USO to sponsor, so the YMCA sponsors them both. It is set up as a place where the military men and women can relax in between flights and in some cases, when they first get home and can meet their family.
I was saddened to be told by Millie that thieves had broken in two times during the previous week and stole two flat-screen TV’s, one a 50″, and an Xbox with all the games and controller. There was also an amplifier for the guitars that lined up against the wall. I think to do something like that is the lowest of the low.
While sitting in the Welcome Home Center, I looked around at the people in the two large rooms. Mothers and fathers, girlfriends and wives. The center provides a place to visit with their families during flight layovers, or prior to deployment flights. One young soldier was sound asleep, laying on a couch with a blanket pulled over him. A sleep so serene, one without the worry. He was comfortable knowing he could sleep without worrying he would be killed in his sleep. Another young man stretched out with his head in a young woman’s lap. A young wife waiting for her young man to be deployed. Worried if this would be the last time they would see each other.
I got to meet with Zorro, a two-year-old registered rough collie. Zorro’s assistant and agent is Renee Leach. As a certified therapy dog, Zorro works with autistic children, visits with Alzheimers patients. He has been coming into the Welcome Center for several months to visit with the young men and women that often are missing their own loving companions. Zorro has a whole repertoire of tricks as well as being friendly and spending some quiet time with an aching heart. Renee said it is just one way to let the troops know that they are appreciated, and it is so very little to give when compared to what the troops have given. Renee and Zorro work with HALO, Humans Animal Link Oklahoma.