Michelle Malkin ran an article on her blog the other day about the National Park Police hassling a Vietnam veteran for handing out Buddy Poppies on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
The veteran, John Miska, served in Vietnam and is active to say the least in his Veterans of Foreign Wars Post in Arlington, VA. But the park police say that because he accepts donations from some people who take a poppy, even if he doesn’t ask for them, he is thus a panhandler, and that makes him a lawbreaker.
You can read the entire article at Michelle’s blog here: http://michellemalkin.com/2008/11/25/disabled-vet-branded-panhandler-for-handing-out-memorial-poppies/
I’m certain I met John on one of my many trips to DC in the past few years and there is a good reason why I remember the encounter.
John was distributing the Buddy Poppies, which are little paper imitation flowers that that VFW uses to remind people of the blood shed in war. On that particular day I was looking to see how many people were wearing VFW or American Legion garb. We were standing up to the pro-terrorist coalition ANSWER, and there were damn few representatives from the major veterans organizations standing with the thousands of veterans who took it personally that the pro-terrorism crowd wanted to deface our memorials.
So when I saw a guy wearing a VFW hat and offering the poppies I took note. I also am the Buddy Poppy chairman for my local VFW post and organize our annual vigils in my town on the weekend before Memorial Day. My community, unlike the National Park Police, has an abundance of generous people who appreciate and support veterans and we thus are able to help the less fortunate among us – which is the sole purpose of the Buddy Poppy program in the first place.
The poppies harken back to World War I and specifically the poem On Flanders Fields, which talks of the horror of war and the need to remember veterans who fought in those far off battles.
I guess all that is lost in the government bureaucracies that are running our country right down the sewer.
But, John has friends like Michelle Malkin and she isn’t one to let an issue like this go unchallenged.
From her blog: Now the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute has stepped in and filed a First Amendment lawsuit against the National Park Police.
John Miska enjoys volunteering and spends most of his time helping injured veterans and distributing “Buddy Poppies.”
“They’re handed out as a remembrance of veterans’ sacrifice. The poppies are red, representing the blood the soldiers shed and it’s a reminder and it gives people pause to think,” said Miska.
“People see me standing there and they approach me and ask ‘may I have a Poppy’ and I give them a Poppy. If people are moved to offer a donation we accept the donations,” said Miska.
According to president of the Rutherford Institute Miska hasn’t done anything wrong, he has only expressed his First Amendment rights.
“People occasionally give him money. There’s a statute, it’s a D.C. law, that says you can’t aggressively solicit money, but he doesn’t do any of that. We feel it’s a violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution which guarantees you the right to assemble or guarantees you the right to free speech to hand out Buddy Poppies,” said John Whitehead, President, Rutherford Institute.
Miska says this experience isn’t going to stop him from his mission and that it will only encourage him to do more.
“I took an oath to the constitution to preserve, protect and defend and I feel if you don’t stand up for you rights you will lose those rights,” said Miska.
I took the same oath as John and I feel the same way. And as I normally do on Thanksgiving I would like to call your attention to the fact that millions of American servicemen and women are not at home today. Many are in combat zones, facing enemies who not only don’t celebrate our national holiday, they would spit on it if they had the chance.
These defenders of our country, our freedoms and our way of life are not here to speak out for themselves so it is up to people like John Miska to do it for them.
Think for a moment if you will, that right now there is a soldier standing a lonely watch in a desert outpost. He might be thinking of turkey, but even if he gets it, he won’t really be able to enjoy it as he would at home.
Elsewhere a Marine is pulling his field jacket closer as he braces against a bitter mountain wind, looking for signs that terrorists are about to launch an attack. He is keeping one eye on the sky, hoping a resupply helicopter will be coming to his area, possibly loaded with hot meals for the grunts.
Across the world American sailors are standing watch on vast oceans, while airmen are refueling patrol aircraft in distant and lonely airfields, and coast guardsmen are intercepting drug runners, terrorists, or saving the lives of those in peril.
Right here in America, veterans who have served their country honorably are hoping for a crumb, or a warm place to spend the night, not even daring to think of sitting down to a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner. Except those who have found John Miska or been found by him.
He helps organize dinners at his VFW post, and makes certain that wounded hospitalized vets are not forgotten. That’s a big, big job but Miska does it, and only asks that he not be hassled.
I don’t think that’s too much to ask. Somewhere today a veteran will go hungry because there aren’t enough John Miska’s in this world. But somewhere else a veteran will have an opportunity for a meal and a few hours away from the cares and woes of daily life, thanks to people like John.
Do you think the Park Police bureaucrats who don’t understand the meaning of Buddy Poppies could take a few minutes to look them up on the Internet and for just once try to lighten up? Maybe at the same time, if it isn’t too taxing mentally, they could reflect on the fact that 93 percent of all living Americans are free to live their lives because a mere 7 percent have served in the military – going all the way back to WWII and earlier.
If that 7 percent hadn’t sacrificed, and continue to sacrifice to this very minute, the bureaucrats who are stuffing themselves today just might understand the true meaning of hunger and want.
Maybe, for a change, they could go to John Miska’s VFW post and help serve meals to deserving veterans this holiday season. Maybe they could accompany him to a hospital when he visits the wounded and disabled.
Maybe then they would get an idea of the real meaning of Thanksgiving.