When the idea came to me about having a Pledge of NEVER AGAIN on Parliament Hill, I asked the incomparable Joyce Kaufman of WFTL Radio in Florida, on my Live Internet Broadcast, if she would consider Riding her Motorcycle to the event on Parliament Hill and Toronto, where in Ottawa she would be the MC and keynote speaker on Parliament Hill, and then speak at the Toronto R2R Banquet as warm-up for the keynote speaker David Soloway.
Her answer – YES . . . rolled off her tongue before I even finished asking.
And more than that, Joyce had volunteered to promote the event on her very popular radio show, which has a significant Canadian audience of people who winter (snowbirds) in Florida, and then listen to her show live over the Internet when they’re back in Canada.
As it turned out, even though Joyce had volunteered to make the long ride on her Bike, I thought this was far too much to ask and expect of her, so I offered to have her flown into Ottawa, and then for her to ride back to Toronto on a rented Bike.
And even though at the time . . . that seemed to be a great option, it was actually an awful lot more difficult than it seemed, since there is no direct flight that I could find from Fort Lauderdale to Ottawa; and between the stopovers and transfers, she would be on planes and in transit for as long as half a day.
So, I had to deal with several issues that involved getting Joyce Kaufman to Ottawa in time for her to be at the HILL on time, and then getting her to Toronto for all the other events.
And as if things were not sufficiently complicated by now, MP Peter Goldring added to the event by suggesting we do a stopover at CFB Trenton on our way from Parliament Hill, to pay our respects to Canada’s Heroes who fell in Afghanistan – to which I agreed.
AND THEN CAME GRAEME HUME OF THE HHR (HEROES HIGHWAY RIDE).
Graeme wanted me to arrange a Tribute at CFB Trenton that would include some kind of ceremony just OFF-BASE, where we would commemorate the building of a Permanent Memorial for Canada’s Fallen HEROES.
THE AFGHANISTAN REPATRIATION MEMORIAL:
As usual, I shot my mouth off suggesting that what we really should do is have a solemn ceremony at the planned site of the Memorial, where we could include all the JMA Riders and M25 Riders, where the JMA group from Montreal and Toronto would make a donation of $1000 to the building of this Memorial.
From there . . . it just took-off as if the countdown reached ZERO and the rockets engaged.
This event at CFB Trenton is a very key element of this multi-part editorial that cannot be overlooked or understated, which will be forthcoming.
THE NATIONAL MEMORIAL RIDE:
As this event was growing by leaps and bounds in directions no one could have foreseen, as I had told Steve Stein (chairman of the Toronto R2R organizing committee) it would at the very beginning of my involvement, I also saw that the magnitude of the REAL message was more or less lost on the R2R committee.
I was all about NEVER AGAIN, while they were all about making this the biggest R2R. And in Stein’s case, it was all about him sticking it to the JMA, to which I told him repeatedly, if you want to take the JMA apart, do it AFTER the R2R. Right now we have far more important issues to deal with.
But, that’s another story that will be included in a different part of this narrative, which is important to how all of this came to an end.
As I was trying to figure out how to get all of this done – from the arrangements on the Hill, the police in Ottawa and Toronto, the City permits and meetings, the sound system, the arrangements for the Toronto hotels and other hotels which I’ll soon write about, how to organize the M25 Riders, how to get Joyce Kaufman to the events, and how we were going to fund all of this, I received a communication from Major (retired) Greg Shepherd, who flew F18 combat planes before retiring and becoming the current CEO and one of the founders of the National Memorial Ride.
Greg had heard about this event, and like Lou DeVuono, he too wanted to know how he could become a part of this. And as I told Lou, I told Greg, YOU’RE IN. Now let’s just figure out how.
THE MISSION OF HOPE RIDERS – M25:
Let me describe the M25 Riders the best way that I can . . . I have never had a better privilege or honor to meet such an exceptional group of people in my life.
The M25 Riders were polite to a fault. They were as disciplined as you would expect from the best-trained military. They were honest-to-goodness tough guys (and women) who didn’t flinch or complain in the face of real adversity. And they were absolutely committed to the task at hand and their devotion to Israel.
Pastor Gary Burd and his wonderful wife Caroline are the kind of people who just exude honor, goodness and hope. And if meeting and riding with all of them was the only thing that happened in this event, I would have considered that a huge success all within its own.
The M25 Riders who came from all parts of the USA were concluding their Ride For The Wall and ROLLING THUNDER (900,000 bikes) in Washington, which was but a few days before the Parliament Hill Pledge; so, I made the decision to meet the M25 group in the USA in the Pocono Mountains (Pennsylvania) to escort them into Canada.
But riding back was more than just heading north. We needed hotels in the Pocono’s, Kingston Ontario, Ottawa, and then onto Toronto where arrangements had already been made.
We also needed hotel arrangements in Ottawa for the JMA Riders coming from Montreal, Toronto, the USA, England, Australia and Israel. So – this became another issue with which I had to deal.
Knowing that there is a real cost to all of this for many of the Riders, I went out of my way to secure the BEST rates that I could for everyone, including special packaged breakfasts. None of each issue was terribly difficult in itself, but it did take a lot of time and effort to get them all done while doing everything else.
GOD SAVE US FROM THE POLITICIANS:
I asked MP Peter Goldring, who is one of the good guys, if it would be possible to get a Cabinet Minister, or even the Prime Minister to speak on the HILL during the event. AND THEN IT STARTED.
The politicians loved the whole idea, but could not really commit. Maybe they would be there, maybe they wouldn’t be there.
After this dragged-on for quite a while, including other politicians (back-benchers) who wanted in without bringing anything to the table, I informed Peter to let all of them know to just screw-off, since no one will be coming to Parliament Hill to make the Pledge of NEVER AGAIN because politicians would be there.
That started a war with the politicians, whom I eventually contacted directly by email to tell them that they are either in or out, and that they have one week to make that decision. And if I didn’t receive a response, THEY WERE OUT.
This generated an even bigger battle over protocol. That one does not address the politicians in such a manner, especially Cabinet Ministers, which to me is like waving a red flag in front of an already pissed-off bull.
And then came the phone calls from the Toronto organizing committee, especially from the club president Gadi Prager, who whined like a two year old that we NEEDED to have a Cabinet Minister on the Hill to make it important. And that he had a rich well-connected friend who insisted upon it.
Having Prager and Stein nattering about the need to have politicians at the event, and their relationship with their well-connected rich friend was not what I needed to deal with as I was doing everything else single-handed, while going head to head with the politicians.
And then came the emails from the well-connected rich friend who wrote to me: “I should feel privileged that the Cabinet Minster (Jason Kenney) would even consider attending this event.”
“OH YEAH” – I wrote back. “You’ve got it all wrong and backwards. And that’s why we have such a useless government. It is not us who should feel privileged and honored for Kenney to “think” about attending, IT IS KENNEY WHO SHOULD FEEL PRIVILEGED AND HONORED TO HAVE BEEN ASKED.”
“And furthermore, not only do you and the politicians have all of this ass-backwards; they’ve forgotten who it is who serves whom.”
Not only did the rich well-connected guy never write back, I wanted to know from Stein and Prager where the rich well-connected guy’s money was to help us out since we were broke.
In the midst of all of this, I still needed the sound system, the police escorts, the permits and an agenda for what was going to be done and said on Parliament Hill, not to forget Joyce Kaufman etc.
Graeme Hume of the HHR came to me with an offer I could not refuse from CFB Trenton, which he and his wife helped organize.
It turned out that the BASE was so grateful for my willingness to bring the Riders to the Memorial and make a donation of $1000, that they offered to put-up the M25 Riders, especially since most of them were veterans, in their Barracks for just $5.50 per night.
And MORE than that, in honor of the JMA and the M25, CFB Trenton offered to host a terrific MEET & GREET Bar B Q in the Junior Officer’s Mess on Thursday night, directly after the Afghanistan Repatriation Ceremony.
And on Friday night, the off-base legion offered to do the same.
I NEED TO END THIS PART OF THE STORY WITH SEVERAL IMPORTANT ISSUES.
When I started to put together the speakers’ list for the NEVER AGAIN Pledge, one of the first people who came to mind was Lou DeVuono for a variety of reasons, which included his dedication to task, his willingness to participate at any level, his incredible efforts to pay homage to our fallen HEROES with his HEROES HIGHWAY RIDE, and his in-your-face support for Israel and the Jewish People.
I don’t remember what came first; whether I asked Lou to speak on the HILL, or whether he invited all Jewish Riders and the M25 to ride at the head of his incredible 3000 Bike procession flying our Canadian, Israeli and America Flags just behind the VIP’s?
I also felt so honored that Major Greg Shepherd of the National Memorial Riders came forward to offer whatever he could to support the Pledge, Israel and the Jewish People, that I asked him to speak as well.
In return, Major Shepherd asked if I would lay a Wreath in the name of Jewish Riders (JMA), along with Gary Burd of the M25 and Lou DeVuono of the HHR at a special Sunday ceremony at the Canadian National Military Cemetery, just to the East of Ottawa, paying tribute to all of Canada’s fallen HEROES from the beginning of Confederation.
And for CFB Trenton, which I became tasked with arranging, I set the ceremony up to include amongst other speakers . . . the Base Padre, Pastor Gary Burd and a Chabad Rabbi who would end the ceremony with a prayer (Kaddish) for the dead.
What made all of this incredible beyond belief was the respect and inclusion for the Jewish People and Israel from Christians representing all walks of life.
NOTHING . . . could be MORE meaningful from a Pledge of NEVER AGAIN starting at of all places on Parliament Hill, that grew into a series of connected events along a common theme like none other.
The pressure really starts to build, as you will read in PART FIVE of – And The Truth Shall Set You Free to be published shortly.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov