Happy Memorial Day everybody! Or at least be as happy as possible on a day dedicated to the remembrance of American soldiers who have died while in service to our country. I was always pretty happy on Memorial Day because, for at least 30 consecutive years I’ve gotten together with a couple of college buddies for a long weekend of camping or cabin-ing in various parts of the north woods of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. We’ve hiked, biked, canoed, seen wolves and deer and bears and moose and eagles and loons, listened to music, drank a lot of beer, and reminisced. As my friends have aged they’ve been less interested in the first three activities. Of course, I haven’t aged, but I still love to go along with them to enjoy the other four things.
Sadly, that 30-something-year tradition was broken this year — thanks to the dirty rotten Corona Virus — so you’ll have to tolerate me riding around on my bike, showing a few pictures, and writing down a few thoughts on patriotism, the weather, and the only person I actually knew who died in a war.
This will be the most patriotic post I’ve ever written. Generally, I’m not all that patriotic. I’m not seditious or anti-American or anything like that, but I’m more likely to parody overzealous patriotism than to be the guy shouting “RAH, RAH, USA, WE’RE THE BEST IN THE WORLD!” I like living here, but I’d probably like living in a lot of countries. To me, flags are decorative rectangles of fabric that citizens can take pride in, but not some kind of holy symbol of superiority that is so important nobody should ever take a knee in its presence. Showing disrespect for a flag is in NO WAY showing disrespect for soldiers who gave their life in defense of the country. And that’s final.
Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been noticing the flags on public buildings are flying at half-staff. I wracked my little brain trying to figure out what famous statesman has died recently. Only today did I learn (from the Feeshko) that its in honor of the nearly 100,000 Americans who have died of that dirty rotten Covid-19. THAT is a better use of the flag than draping it around your shoulders or flying it at the top of your car or pinning it to your lapel.
I bet you didn’t know MY Town has not one, but two memorials to fallen soldiers.
The reason for my patriotic mood today is that I had a pretty close relative who died in the Iraq War about 15 years ago. My nephew, Seth Garceau, was killed by an Improvised Explosive Device (roadside bomb) while riding in an armored vehicle. He was my younger brother’s only son. Our family was devastated. When his body was brought back to Iowa, Marines stood guard over him 24-hours a day for about a week until the funeral.
I think the entire town of Oelwein attended the funeral at the high school gymnasium and then lined the streets for the procession to the cemetary. He was honored as the hero he was. It would take a pretty stoic individual not to be moved by all that, plus the 21-gun salute and the bugle playing The Taps. I’m stoic, but not THAT stoic.
I continued on. My ride had started out suitably gloomy. The clouds were dark in the sky, but there was only a slight sprinkle of rain. It was warm, so I didn’t bring a rain jacket. The rain stopped after a while, but the humidity was so heavy that when speeding downhill I could feel the moisture collecting on my exposed skin. Before I was done riding, the clouds had dispersed and there were rays of sunshine. I started writing this when I got home. I felt great. I felt emotional.