Sunday, January 15, 2017

Va Flaggers Receive Warm Welcome in Lexington for Lee-JacksonDay 2017

We kicked off the Lee-Jackson Day Weekend in Lexington on Friday with a 10:00 a.m. meeting at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery.  After receiving instructions, schedules, and fliers to distribute, about 50 Flaggers, many joining us for the first time,  hit the streets of Lexington!  There were folks from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Mississippi, Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, and Montana, among others...
Those who stood vigil on Main Street and at Washington & Lee University reported overwhelmingly positive responses.  Citizens and university students often stopped to shake our hands and thank us for being out there.  We did not see ONE anti-Confederate protester all day on Friday.  One woman stopped at our corner and rolled down her window and told us that she had just left her office on Main Street for lunch, but that she had left her door unlocked in case any of our folks needed to get some water or use the bathroom.

Many shop owners waved, saluted, or gave thumbs ups from their stores or offices, and several came out to speak with us.  
After lunch, we met at the Jackson Farm flag site to change out the flag there, giving everyone a chance to see the flag sites and see the flags raised, while we could inspect the sites and replace the flags.  
From there, we headed out to the I-81 site and replaced the 20' x 30' flag there...
...and finished up by putting up a new 8'x8' ANV Battle Flag at the Visitor's Center site downtown!
From the Visitor's Center, we grabbed our flags and headed a few blocks over to pay our respects to General Jackson on the parade grounds at VMI.  By this time, more people had arrived, and we made something of a procession heading across town.  What happened over the next hour or so turned out to be the highlight of the day for most of us...
As we approached Letcher Avenue and started up the sidewalk, we noticed a Washington & Lee Security vehicle parked half way up the walk. Apprehensive, we decided to go ahead and continue our trek. As we neared, the officer approached, and as we walked by, he simply greeted us and wished us well. 
We were able to walk freely up to the parade grounds at VMI to pay our respects. We paused for a photo and sang Dixie. This video does not do it justice, but gives you an idea of the spirit of the moment:

This in itself was enough to thrill most of us, especially after what we dealt with last year.
But then...a gentleman came out to lower the U.S. and state flags as dusk was approaching, and when several of our folks stopped to chat with him, he introduced himself as a VMI official and INVITED US INSIDE FOR A TOUR. We stepped in and he spoke for a bit about Jackson, showed us where his office was, told us a little of the Confederate history and the history of VMI, and went on to say that he very much appreciated us coming by and that we were welcome any time. He wanted to be sure we knew that VMI was proud of its heritage...which he said was the heritage of America AND of the South. One glance around the group that had gathered and I could see that I was not the only one standing inside that archway with goose bumps and watery eyes. 
It was an absolutely phenomenal end to the first day in Lexington, and we thanked him repeatedly for his hospitality. Most of us walked away in awe and wonder in what appears to be a complete shift in policy from BOTH universities. Washington & Lee who tried to prevent us from even having access to Letcher Avenue last year, yet smiled and waved as we walked by this year....and VMI who quietly tolerated us in the past, and went out of their way to welcome us on Friday.

Supper Friday night was a great time of fun, fellowship, and last minute instructions for the planned events on Saturday.  We had asked the restaurant to reserve seating for about 50, and ended up with closer to 100 in attendance.  

News Reports from Friday:

Lexington To Hold First MLK Parade Despite Controversy

Controversy Over Lee-Jackson-MLK Celebrations Continue in Lexington This Weekend

Up next:  Reports and photos from Saturday's mega flag raising, memorial service, and march through town!

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