Time was not on my side. I filled out the Veterans Stand roster and marked I was going to attend on the Facebook event page. That was pretty optimistic. I looked up prices for a flight. I could almost do a round trip to Europe or the British Isles for what it cost to fly in and out of Bismarck, North Dakota. Not to mention it takes many connections and hours to get there. If I fly, I would have to leave Saturday to get there on time. How could I get out of work on Saturday? And, if I got off work on Saturday, I could leave Friday night or Saturday morning and drive. Much cheaper that way.

Veterans Stand for Standing Rock Event

I said I was going. I guess I knew, deep down, it was going to happen

My conscience just wouldn’t let me do that at work, I had given my word I would be there Saturday. I continued to be excited and participate in discussions. I volunteered to help with organizing the operation. No one really seemed to be in charge and this went nowhere. It was a pattern. On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, they closed the roster to new participants, they were at capacity, 2000 veterans, and there was no end in sight. Closing the roster was a good idea, but didn’t stop extra thousands from showing up. The gofundme kept climbing.

Now I had one of the coveted slots and there was no realistic way I was going to be able to go. Talk about a greedy bastard. Major guilt trip. Hope springs eternal, though, and I wasn’t giving up yet. I tend to do impractical things on a regular basis. Prices for flights were going up daily from expensive to being out of the question expensive. Then, there were no flights available at all, everything was booked. Not a lot of traffic into and out of Bismarck, North Dakota. The staging area then changed from Fort Yates, North Dakota, to Eagle Butte, South Dakota, another small town on this huge reservation, 125 miles to the south. This change was the result of the authorities hassling people heading to the camps from Bismarck and it was felt entrance onto the reservation from South Dakota would be safer. Rapid City, SD, was a closer airport, but there were only the original plans to shuttle people from Bismarck.

Eagle Butte South Dakota

This is a reservation bigger than many countries and states. For safety reasons, the staging area for Veterans Stand was moved away from the Bismarck, North Dakota, side.

Part of the organizing process was us being contacted by our state Regional Travel Leader (RTL) to make sure people could get there cost effectively and on time. Rental vans, and, from some places, charter buses, were being funded. This was not a fight being fought by rich folks who could just rent cars and buy plane tickets on a whim. No one had contacted me, in fact, no one commenting on the Facebook page or who I was otherwise in contact with knew who any of the RTLs were. One would think they could publish an organizational chart and contact information.

One of the people I was talking to seemed plugged into whatever the secret organizational structure was. I told her I would be happy to be the RTL for South Carolina. She sent me the roster with names and contact info and the email address of the head RTL. The head RTL never responded to my emails and it seems I never got plugged into whatever RTL chain of command there was. I did make contact with the guy acting as the Operations Officer for Veterans Stand, but he was slammed.

People were working their butts off, but it was chaos and I had no idea who the travel contacts were who could make things actually happen. No one was expecting this many veterans to drop what was going on in their lives to stand with the water protectors. I got that, it was a beast. There was the rostered group and there were all the others who came anyway, roster or not, because they, too, had to do it. Military people are used to making things happen with no resources. We adapt and overcome obstacles.

I was now in touch with some of the people in South Carolina and was supposed to figure out how to get them to Standing Rock. It was a fiasco on my end as no one that could do anything knew who I was and my wheels were spinning. I couldn’t even find out who the RTLs were for North Carolina and Georgia, as I had people right on the borders of each and was trying to hook them up with folks in adjacent states for rides.

It was frustrating. On Tuesday, I found out from one of the SC people that someone else had been made the SC RTL and I wasn’t on their list. Hmmm. This RTL was a very nice person from Nebraska who had been asked to do it. OK, if she could do it, more power to her. She was plugged into the chain and got rental vehicles arranged for some in the small SC contingent. I was pretty much resigned to not going as everyone was leaving long before I could. Then came an email from that wonderful Nebraska RTL. This was on Friday. I still hadn’t mentioned to my boss that I needed to be off after the next day.

I just remembered there is a gentlemen that is leaving early Sunday morning and is driving up if you want to travel with him. Let me know and I can give you his information.

She hooked me up with an ex-Marine from Beaufort, SC, the home of Parris Island. He had to work Saturday night as a DJ at a Christmas party. I emailed him, then called him. He would pick me up Sunday morning in a rental vehicle that had been authorized for him.

Shit, I wasn’t even packed yet and had to work Saturday. I needed to find lots of gear, most of it in bins in my barn. It was going to be cold. I would be sleeping on my own cot in a sleeping bag. Camping trips always require more gear than a hotel trip. I needed my own cup and plate, for example, and a utensil for food. Soap and toothpaste and towels. Multiple layers of clothes. I mean multiple layers. Lots of socks. I do not do cold well.

Packing to go to Standing Rock

Saturday night was packing time. I was glad I wasn’t flying and had to check all this stuff. Maudie knew something was up and she wasn’t going to be able to go.

Some of the items on the suggested packing list were unusual unless you have been deployed with the US military to a warzone. For example:

  • Water protection against water hoses (Rain Gear, Trash Bags, Ponchos)
  • Body Armor – Note: If you have ever been convicted of a felony, federal law prohibits the possession or wearing of ballistic armor. If arrested this can increase time in jail.
  • Gas Mask with Spare Filters
  • Cold Weather Sleeping Bag & Cot
  • Ear Plugs
  • Shooting Hearing Mufflers
  • Alternative Armor – Hard Motocross armor, Catchers shinguards
  • ABSOLUTELY NO WEAPONS WILL BE PERMITTED. NO EXCEPTIONS. Including – Firearms, Fixed Blade Knives, Batons, Etc.
  • ABSOLUTELY NO AMMO POUCHES ON GEAR. Although we all know that ammo pouches make good containers for other items, we are promoting peace. Please leave ammo pouches at home.

Still, it was an unusual list for a peaceful protest right here in the USA. I didn’t have body armor any longer. I had to turn in my kevlar plates, gas mask (although I think I still have a spare filter somewhere), and helmet when I returned from deployment the last time. I wasn’t buying anything like that. This was a nonviolent action, I wasn’t looking to start any fights and really didn’t want one. Plus, I couldn’t afford it. If they sprayed us with water cannons, I had my waterproof outer jacket and my old Vietnam era cold weather overpants issued to me in the 1970s. The only thing I needed and didn’t have was a decent pair of gloves and inserts. I would have to get those before we got there. I also didn’t realize I needed goggles, but it turns out my new Marine buddy had me covered on that one.

I thought I had boots. Yeah, my desert boots I had worn in Iraq. These babies had canvas uppers designed to breathe in the heat. I didn’t realize until too late that also meant they would do a great job of absorbing cold air and moisture. Not to mention the frigging soles. Vibram soles that were slick as snot on ice. Not recommended. I brought my old metal canteen cup. Along with Army issued long underwear and cold weather gaiter and balaclava, I was going to be in some uniform items. No one would really be able to tell that, but when I was dressed in all that cold weather stuff, no one would be able to recognize me at all.

Desert combat boots I wore in Iraq

Nothing like desert combat boots in minus 0 degree F temperatures

I also brought my old combat lifesaver bag to donate to the medics at the camp (real medics called us combat lifetakers in Iraq as we only had a few days of training, trust me, you did not want me giving you an IV). I threw away all the outdated IV bags, but everything else was good. It wasn’t doing me any good in my barn. I took some extra polypros (Army long underwear) and wool socks to donate that I was never going to use.

Sunday, my new Marine buddy Brent picked me up and I was on the road.

Canteen cup and boot soles

Canteen cup with years of Army memories and the worst soles for walking on ice ever.

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2 Comments on Mni Wiconi – Part Four – Heading to Standing Rock

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