Fun in D.C.

I’m sitting on a plane, 36,000 feet above the Rocky Mountains on my way back from Washington, D.C. and the 2006 Milblogging conference. What a truly incredible weekend. Not only was I able to spend time with family and friends that I already knew, I was able to meet dozens of people I admire in the milblogging world. Off the top of my head (forgive me if I forget to list you…I’m working on no more than 20 hours of sleep over the past 5 days so my brain’s a little fuzzy), I had the privilege of meeting:
• Matt from Blackfive
• Fuzzybear Lioness
• John of Castle Argghhh!
• Beth of SWWBO fame
• Kat from A Swift Kick and a Band-Aid
• Kit and Heidi from Euphoric Reality
• Rachelle from ArmyWifeToddlerMom
• Chuck and Carren Ziegenfuss
• Carla from Some Soldier's Mom
• Citizen Smash and his beautiful wife
• Captain B and Taco Bell
• Uncle Jimbo
• Sgt. B
• Maggie

I’ll give you a run down of the events as well as my thoughts on some things…

FRIDAY: I made it down to BWI to pick up FbL on time but managed to get lost on my way to the hotel in Arlington and we wound up getting stuck in Friday rush hour traffic in Georgetown. NOT a good thing and this proved to be the theme for the weekend. Luckily, it was a minor inconvenience and we got to the hotel in one piece. Unfortunately we missed out on the opportunity to support the troops over at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and counter the Code Pink knuckleheads who feel the need to protest out front. But we got cleaned up and headed over to Fran O’Brien’s for dinner. The atmosphere there is incredible. Fran’s (for those of you who don’t know) hosts a free dinner for service members recovering from wounds at Walter Reed each Friday night. It is an incredible thing for owners Hal and Marty to do and it is a blessing for those service members who are able to partake. After spending time with several bloggers and taking a few interesting photos (hey Kit! How smooth WAS that skin, anyway???), I headed back to the hotel to supposedly get some rest. Didn’t happen. My damn body is still on Hawaii time so I stayed up until about 3:30am and was up again in the morning at 6:30am. Blech.

SATURDAY: We got another late start Saturday morning and made it into the conference a few minutes after things had started. The first panel was Milblogs: Past, Present, and Future and included panelists Matt from Blackfive, Citizen Smash, John from OpFor, CJ Grisham from A Soldiers’ Perspective, and Steve from ThreatsWatch With Buzz Patterson moderating.. What an amazing panel. Steve blew me away with his insights and his thoughts on milblogging, national security, and coverage of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Smash was as humble as usual. Even though Milblogging (and blogging in general) is a relatively new medium, it is fascinating to see how far it has come in such a short time as well as getting a glimpse of where things are headed.

The second panel was Milblogging: A Family Affair and included Chuck and Carren Ziegenfuss, Carla of Some Soldier’s Mom, and Deb from Marine Corps Moms. To listen to them relate their stories and their thoughts on how the mainstream media has handled the news from Iraq and Afghanistan was interesting. They talked about the deficiencies in the MSM coverage – the presenting of facts thought to be important by the MSM and not ALL of the facts, the unattributed assertations, and the lack of balance overall in the coverage. Chuck and Carren had their own thoughts (as usual) on the coverage by the MSM as well.

The third panel was moderated by COL David Hunt (he’s appeared on FoxNews, CNN as a military adviser and has the trademark gravelly voice reminiscent of a bulldog) and he pushed them hard. A lot of people were put off by his approach to this panel and felt that he was being unnecessarily harsh on the panelists which included Bill Roggio of the Fourth Rail, CPT B from One Marine’s View, Michael Fay of Fire and Ice, Jeff from Dadmanly, and Fred from In Iraq for 365. I didn’t see it that way. At first, I was taken aback by his aggressive questions. He pushed them to clarify what certain acronyms were. He pushed them to clarify their answers to certain questions. He pushed them pretty hard and it threw some people for a loop.

But I realized that he wasn’t doing so to emasculate them or embarrass them. He was playing devil’s advocate. He was pushing them to not only clarify their thoughts and ideas (and complaints specifically about the way the MSM has handled the news out of Iraq and Afghanistan) but to go beyond the complaints and offer solutions. He wanted them to be able to step beyond the role of military member and bridge the gap that exists between the military and the civilian world. Because less than 2% of our population serves in the military, there is a HUGE chasm between the civilian and military world. The MSM is not bridging that gap adequately for the most part. So it is up to US as milbloggers, as military members, and as military family members to bridge that gap. Otherwise public support for the military will wane and we, as a country cannot afford that.

COL Hunt wanted those panelists to step up and not just complain about the poor coverage of the War on Terror by the MSM. He wanted them to clarify their ideas and offer solutions. Otherwise, we become what it is we dislike so much about “The Left” – the incessant whining and lack of plausible solutions being offered. Unfortunately, no one on the panel really understood what it was COL Hunt was trying to do and he caught them off guard. Rather than rise to the challenge, it seems as though they had trouble regaining their footing and I don’t know that the COL got was he was looking for.

HOWEVER, I thought it was the best panel of the conference. The questions were pointed and direct. The answers, though not quite what the COL seemed to be digging for, were thoughtful, insightful, and encouraging in that they show that there ARE people within the military who have the ability to make themselves assets.

At the end of the conference, they re-ran a video called Hidden Heroes that had been played at the beginning of the conference. In a way, I am glad I missed the beginning and that video – it is one about the sacrifices military families make during times of deployment. I had a hard enough time watching it at the end of the conference. I can only imagine how tough the day would have been if I had watched it at the beginning. This deployment is coming entirely too fast.

After the conference ended, there was a pub crawl set up in Georgetown. Despite the rain, many of the bloggers came out though there were several key players missing – Captain B and Taco Bell flaked on us. You guys were missed!

But the rest of us soldiered on (pun intended) though we never made it to all of the pubs listed. I learned many interesting things about my fellow bloggers that night. I learned that Kit is hilarious and that we should probably never been in the same city at the same time from now on or we will get into serious trouble.. I learned that Maggie thinks she doesn’t have an accent and has no problems with full moons. I learned firsthand that Chuck Ziegenfuss is even funnier in person than on his blog and that his wife Carren is a SAINT. I learned that FbL is a lightweight just like me (see, we are twins!) and that Matty from Blackfive is a sweet and funny drunk. I learned that Rachelle from ArmyWifeToddlerMom should live closer to me though it’s probably wise that she doesn’t because we would get into lots of trouble.

Personally I think the pub crawl ended entirely too damn early and I’m SHOCKED that these people – WARRIORS – wussed out so early in the evening. Then again, it might have been because not only was I not drinking, my body is still on Hawaii time.

There were some moments over the past weekend that stick out in my mind and that I will never forget.

1. The atmosphere at Fran O’Brien’s. There was electricity in the air that was palpable. Between the excitements of meeting friends we had never seen in person before and the energy coming from the situation surrounding the closure of Fran’s, the evening was incredible.
2. The Iraqi man standing up and, in broken English, telling us that the day Americans liberated Iraq from Saddam’s control was the first day they became truly human. He begged us to stick with them.
3. Listening to Chuck and Carren Ziegenfuss recount that fateful day back in June 2005. I don’t know that there was a dry eye in the house…well, except Uncle Jimbo because, according to him, he has no feelings.
4. The shenanigans in the chat room and watching Heidi of Euphoric Reality try her best to imitate a pig while Capt. B sits up on stage gawking at her.
5. The pub crawl. ‘Nuff said.

I am sure I will have more once my jet-lagged brain has time to process everything. I want to thank Andi of Andi’s World for putting this all together. I cannot tell you how much this meant to me to be able to attend and I am SO looking forward to the next one!

Fuzzy…thanks for being my roomie and yes, you do snore! But that’s ok – I was tired and I’m used to snoring. Made me feel like I was home!

NOTE : it's late and I'm exhausted. I will come back tomorrow and insert links when I get a chance. I apologize. What are you going to do? Fire me? heh.


- hfs

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