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"Memorial Day: Remembering Those Who Gave All"

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Written by Pat Curran

Posted on 17 January 2018

Last Updated 17 January 2018

 

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in service to the nation.  As we move into the Memorial Day Holiday, please consider taking a moment to think about those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice protecting the freedoms we enjoy today.

 

I personally would like to remember all of my friends who have sacrificed and those who have given their lives serving the nation who include Matt August, Josh Byers, Doug Dicenzo, Mark Paine, Eric Paliwoda, Michael MacKinnon, Tommy Schoales, Ian Weikel, and Phil Esposito who the Freedom’s Light Charity Program is dedicated to.

 

Below is a story forwarded to me by a Freedom’s Light Newsletter reader. No words can describe how I felt after reading it. I think it represents nothing less than our best American values in practice.

 

God Bless,

--Pat

 

www.freedomslight.org

 

Something Truly Special

 

This was on facebook. Thought you guys would enjoy it. This funeral was just held in the last few weeks.

by Delayne Stallman on Sunday, April 24, 2011 at 11:12pm

 

(I didn't write this. It's from Mark Boss, the father of one of my former students. This is the best thing I've read in a long time. I told Mark he needs to send this into the newspaper).

 

When I woke up Saturday morning I didn’t realize that I was going to embark upon such a special event.   I want to apologize in advance as my writing skills won’t come close to describing the day’s events.  At any rate...here goes.

 

I woke up to a dreary day knowing I was going to ride with a group of motorcycles in a funeral procession. My friend Jeff Ehlers gave me a heads up about it and I said I was in.  As you may have heard one of our own, Don Nichols, fell prey to an IED in Afghanistan last week and his funeral was scheduled for Saturday morning.  Don, I believe, was 21 years old from the Waverly/Shell Rock area.  He was a regular young man who loved to do all of the things that any Midwestern young man would expect to do.  Hunt, fish, ride ATV’s, play sports and spend time with his family.  Pretty normal right?  Quite the contrary as you will learn.  Please read on.

 

When I pulled into the McDonald’s in Waverly it became increasingly apparent that he was not a normal everyday Midwestern young man.  As I circled around the backside of McDonald’s into the parking lot I was shocked to see a sea of motorcycles.   As you might guess a vast majority of the bikes were Harley Davidson.  However as I started looking closer, as I always do, I started seeing bikes of all make, Harley Davidson, Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki, BMW, Victory, Custom Choppers, you name it and it was there.  From cruisers to crotch rockets, vintage to the latest and greatest.  The riders donned every label from Harley Davidson to Rocket Joe.  A group of kindred spirits had come together for the day to do what needed to be done.

 

Upon my arrival I found Jeff and his girlfriend Jolene, parked my faithful steed and wandered over into the crowd.  I wasn’t there long before the crowd of black leather and head bands started to make its way to the front of the lot where there was a DOT officer parked.  A man in a red cap was getting ready to speak over the intercom.   After the procedural welcomes and thank yous, he introduced himself as an officer in what’s called the Patriot Guard Riders.  PGR is a group of individuals who banned together for basically one purpose, to shield the families and friends of fallen soldiers from the despicable excuse for human beings known as The Westboro Baptist Church.  This mass of useless pond scum has found it appropriate and necessary to protest at military funerals.  I’ll not expand on the details as to why they find it necessary.  Fact is it’s a heartless act that needed to be stopped.  Enter The Patriot Guard.

 

The man gave us our riding orders and we converged into a line 500 plus bikes long and rode to the high school in Waverly where the funeral was being held.  It was cold and windy.  We were all wearing leather yet the bite of the wind still found its way to our skin.  We huddled together to try and stay warm.   It was then that I realized how much of a wimp I was when a man walked up to our group wearing a kilt and carrying a set of bagpipes.  He was an older gentleman who looked as rugged as any bearded biker in the crowd.  I knew at that moment that when those bagpipes started to play it was going to get very hard for me not the shed a tear.  I’m a sucker for bagpipes.

 

The mourners made their way into the high school along the sidewalk that was lined with PGR members standing with large American flags waving in the wind.  It seemed like hundreds of flags, if you counted the small ones; in the hands of the other riders it probably was.  During the funeral the man in the red cap gathered us together and gave us more riding orders for the long ride to the cemetery in Cedar Falls.  He gave us kind advice to ride safe and try not to get in the zone of emotion when we see the displays along the ride.  Again, I had no idea.   As we meandered through the streets of Waverly following the funeral procession, it was like going through a tunnel of red, white, and blue.  Patriotic citizens young and old by the hundreds lined the streets waving flags and holding banners showing their support. By the time we reached the highway the numbers had easily reached the thousands.  People from all walks of life I’m sure.  Boys Scouts grouped together saluting with their uniforms on.  What a sight it was.  At times I found myself fighting back emotion.

 

We made our way out of town to the highway, which was sparsely scattered with more supporters.  It wasn’t until we reached Janesville and pulled off onto the old highway that it finally dawned on me.   This was a much bigger event than I realized.  Pulling into Janesville we found ourselves riding through another colorful tunnel of patriotic colors waving by in what seemed to be even more numbers than in Waverly.   Supporters found their own special way to honor the fallen as evidenced by the three flat bottom boats floating above the old bridge with flags affixed to the rear waving over the waters of the Cedar River.  From that point and on through the rest of the ride to Cedar Falls was a solid line of people lining the roadside, all there for the same reason. 

 

The more I rode along the more I took note of the faces of the people along the road, many of whom were either fighting back tears or had long since succumbed to the emotion of this endless motorcade.   More and more I saw men standing proud saluting or holding their hats over their hearts, woman and children waving flags with tears in their eyes.  It wasn’t until I saw the older gentleman, no doubt a World War II veteran judging by his age, that my emotion got the best of me.  This man was doing his very best to stand tall despite the years of wear bearing down upon his shoulders, with his Army Garrison Cap firmly down on his wrinkled forehead and tears streaming down his leathery cheeks he proudly saluted to the bikes as we thundered past.  He knew why we where there.  I began to weep under my full faced helmet.  It was just too much.  You see, I didn’t see Republicans, I didn’t see Democrats, I didn’t see gay, I didn’t see straight.  I saw Americans of all race and color banding together for a cause, a very important cause.

 

Coming into Cedar Falls found the crowds getting no smaller, rather more of the same and more of me continuing to fight the tears.  We got to the cemetery where the PGR provided a human fence around the gravesite.  Luckily the Westboro Baptists were nowhere to be found.  The funeral was allowed to proceed without delay or disruption.  And when the man in the kilt started playing Amazing Grace on the pipes it was like nothing I’d ever heard. 

 

So you see Don Nichols was no regular 21 year old man.  He was a hero.  A hero who was loved by more people that morning than his grieving family could have ever imagined, thankfully by people who understood completely the great sacrifice that he made.  He gave his life fighting for his country.  We’ll all go back to work and some will soon forget the day’s events as our day to day struggles overshadow and push that memory out.  I for one will carry the day with me.  It was an honor and a privilege to be part of it. 

 

Thank you to all who are serving and to those who have served.  You are loved and appreciated.