Commentary by R.T. Fitch
My intent was to write a timely message in honor of those who have fallen for our freedom and to encourage those who still serve to defend us. I sat before the computer and typed out the commentary below, only to fall asleep at my desk and miss the conclusion of Memorial Day. None the less, I post it now albeit a few hours late and bow my head to those who care enough about us to offer up their lives in defense of our homeland.
My gratitude knows no bounds – R.T.
Wild Horse advocates before White House - Photo by Terry Fitch
I was both honored and moved when I was asked to speak at the March for Mustangs held in Washington D.C. last March 25th. The thought of standing at a microphone with the White House in the background made my knees quiver and my bald spot sweat. It was a weird sensation as Terry calls me a man of few words and it is rare for me to ever find myself without something to say. But the importance of the subject matter and the powerful, dramatic venue threw me a bit of a curve as I tasted a bout of performance anxiety and fretted over what I might say.
So for one of the first times in my life I prepared a formal speech, one that I felt had political impact and would give a different perspective on yet another driver for a dedicated equine advocate. I was going to speak on the issue of a government gone berserk viewed through the eyes of a veteran of two armed conflicts. Different; to the point and hopefully packed with sincere meaning.
But as Terry and I stood and listened to Ginger Kathrens and as I gazed out into the listening crowd my speech switch turned off and I decided that what I had planned to say would not touch the hearts of these good people, it just wouldn’t work. What I had planned to say was too single minded and narrow in focus. The topic centered around what I thought, how I perceived the issue and in the big scheme of things, who cares as it is about the collective consciousness, not the singular viewpoint?
Ginger Kathrens at White House
Seconds before Ginger gave me a gracious introduction I leaned over and whispered to Terry,
“It isn’t going to fly, I can’t do it, it isn’t right.” If I remember correctly there was just a hint of panic in my voice.
Terry remained quiet with her eyes focused on Ginger and simply nodded her head.
“Did you hear me?” I asked, in a rush of escaped air.
Slowly she raised her head, smiled and said, “You know what to say.”
And as I stepped up on that small stage and looked out onto that crowd of caring souls who had traveled from across our country, at their own expense, something touched me and the prepared speech faded into the background as we renewed old friendships, established new ones and finally put names to faces, it was a day of magic and binding faith.
But, you knew there would be a but coming, that speech never left me and has only simmered and bubbled just below the surface waiting to get out and today, Memorial Day, is the day to give it wings.
I won’t give you the real deal as it is too difficult to impart passion and emphasis in text, but I hope you get the point.
My speech was on the ride the wild horses have given my military soul, just as battles have been fought and won on the back of the horse my soul and spirit have traveled far and wide upon the wings of the horse with a few skirmishes of their own on the way.
The beginning of my spiritual ride was comprised of a very painful and hurtful stretch trail. All my life I never doubted the word of our government or our honorable elected officials but the path that the horse took me down was dark, twisted, cold and damp.
Many young people, just as I once did, trust in their government to such an extent that they pledge to die for their country and then swear allegiance to a supreme commander who has never made such a commitment nor worn the uniform. These, our young Americans, who to this day defend you, me, our country, it’s laws and all of the icons that represent this great land of ours. From sea to shining sea, the plains, the mountains and all the creatures that make our country so special. One of those great and powerful icons is the horse, both domestic and wild as their ancestors carried the likes of Paul Revere, George Washington at the birth of this land to set us free from former oppressors. Without the horse, the United States of America would never be.
These young Americans have laid down their lives to protect all of the above and do you think for a moment that they realize that the very government that they defend, the leaders that they have promised their lives to are currently pro-actively engaged in cruelly destroying the very icon that they are dying for AGAINST the will of the American people? I think not.
The virtual ride on the spirit of the horse has opened up my eyes, late in life, to the reality that our government breaks it’s own rules, lies to the very people who pay their salary, actively steals public land for special interest groups, ignores the wishes of the voting public and will totally destroy entire herds and either run them to death or imprison the once free wild horse for life simply because they “can”. That portion of the ride hurt more than just my backside, it reached right down and jerked on my soul as all that I believed in crumbled around me. I shiver, even now, when I think of that stretch of trail.
But the lesson of the horse does not end there nor did the trail. We broke out of the dark, smelly forest and entered a sun drenched clearing where the lush green grass waved in the wind and a small creek gurgled its way through the middle. The air was clean, clear and invigorating and both the horse and I knelt at the stream to partake of the cool, refreshing water.
As I climbed back up on my phantom mount I looked into the reflection of the moving water and saw hope and strength, my mind flashed to the vision of Cloud: Stallion of the Rockies. Cloud has a lesson to teach and it is a simple one to understand, indeed.
When Cloud and his family were needlessly harassed and abused by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) late last year, Cloud set an example that any military person, be they active duty or veteran, could respect and understand. Cloud is a fighter.
Cloud and his family were recklessly stampeded down a mountainside and run over ten miles in 95+ degree heat by a hired gun helicopter. Cloud’s herd was not the first one to be abused in this fashion, in sheer panic many band stallions had run ahead of the destructive chopper in an effort to escape its death threat only to run straight into a trap. A trap that meant some would be released, after being chemically sterilized, and the remainder to be kept against their will. Families torn apart, blood lines destroyed, grief on all sides and the entire, needless operation was labeled “management” by a government agency that has no solid science, numbers or a clue on how to properly ensure the safety and well being of our native wild horses.
But Cloud’s ultimate capture was different; he didn’t give in, not for a second. Instead of running straight down the valley like the other bands had done Cloud made the contract helicopter work for its bloated day rate. Up one side of the valley wall and then down, across and up the other side like a giant equine centipede running back and forth with multiple legs in the dust. Cloud and his herd did not give in.
Cloud Turning to Face the Helicopter - Photo by Terry Fitch
And when the valley began to narrow and bottleneck the master BLM horse handlers released a “Judas” horse, trained to run into the trap and lead the panicked wild horses inside; Cloud actually slowed down. He ignored the BLM stooge, stopped and his family gathered around him. He knew what was going on, he had figured it out and so he turned and faced the assaulting helicopter, something never seen before. Cloud stared down at the senseless torture device and when he had made his point, knowing that he was going into a trap, he did it his way and his way alone. He calmly turned and trotted at a slow pace, measured and sure, with no sign of panic to alarm his family and with dignity and grace they allowed themselves to be taken as prisoners.
That, my friends, was fortitude, confidence, pride and love of family that was displayed for all to see. I recognized his power.
I continued to gaze into the streaming water and watched the reflection of Cloud and the remnants of his family’s release. His loyalty and determination was not diminished. Only seconds before his release his daughter was pulled from him so that when the gates swung open and the remaining herd members were driven from the pen Cloud did not want to leave, not without his daughter. His, now, sterilized mares were ready to run and be rid of their human tormentors and Cloud did his best to keep them from running and attempted to make them stay while he searched for his daughter. But the fleeing mares persisted until Cloud had no choice but to leave his young one and protect the remaining members of his herd. The needs of the many had won out over the needs of a few but he gave it his best shot and proved that he was more than just strong, proud and intelligent, he was a good parent and wanted to keep his family together, too.
And with that the reflective image faded and my wispy mount and I continued on our journey, a journey that we are continuing to this very day. A ride that I don’t believe will be over anytime soon as there is much to learn but the lessons of the ride have come home to roost on this very day.
The horse has shown me how corrupt, cold and callous our government can be. How that on this day when we honor our fallen and those who have given their lives for our freedom we can still feel a sliver of hope and pride that their sacrifice has not been in vain.
The horse has shown us that the sacrifice of the few has been for the benefit of the most and that by being strong, disciplined, and honorable we can turn this thing around. We don’t need to bow our heads and accept the inevitable; we can give only our name, rank and serial number while we move at our pace, in our desired direction while staring down the lifeless eyes of our enemy. Cloud has done this, we can do it and to this day the spirit of Cloud and his dedication to the sanctity of his countryside and the defense of his family from aggressors reminds me to give thanks to those who have protected my herd and who are standing out in the cold of night, watching over the herds of America while we sleep.
I pray that with God’s speed our dedicated young people can return to their homeland and join us in our fight to save our national icons from the total destruction our government is raining down upon the innocent.
Thank you, to all who wear the uniform and carry the spirit of Cloud in your hearts. We need you home, we need you safe and we need your help to save our country from within.
May the Force of the Horse be with you.