Sunday, February 04, 2007
This Mission is best understood backwards. It was like a Passion Play with several scenes taking place at different locations. So, let me paint the picture of the final scene so you can appreciate the beauty and sobriety of how it all happened.
I somehow ended up the last car in the procession from the funeral service, and as I drove through the cemetery I felt my second wave of emotion rip through my heart. There was a sign nailed to a tree in the cemetery. It said, "Happy Valentine Emilie. Love mom." I blew it. Tears, sniffles, crashing emotion. Children should NEVER die before their parents. And with that in mind, I parked and began walking toward Cpl Morris's grave.
While I had a general idea of what to expect when I arrived at the grave site, I wasn't sure how it would actually come down. Gunny and I had discussed how to set up our different formations, but he led the advance guard, while I remained back at the funeral site with 20 -30 of our people. In addition, I'd never been to that cemetery before, so, what I saw was a surprise to me.
As I walked up to the grave site, I could see about 150 of Cpl Morris's family and friends, crowded around for the service under the awning. Forming a semi-circle around them was the Patriot Guard Riders. About fifty American flags and in the middle was Pipey - Jon the Piper.
Beyond them was one of the many wide-open canyons that make Spokane such a beautiful city. The other side of the canyon was about a half-mile way. It's really God's country and the sheer size of it brings a humbling perspective. In fact, you could stand there on a quiet day, look out over that canyon and hear God talking to you. With a backdrop like that, it's easy to see why the Spokane Indians thought of this area as holy. And it is now the resting place of our hero, Cpl Morris.
As I looked across the canyon, I was thinking how silent this environment was. Hushed whispers barely heard from the gravesite service. Silent Patriot Guards, and the stillness of the cemetery. It had the sound of a world in which time had stopped. Then the quiet was shattered by the first volley from the Marine Honor Guard. Aim Fire! You might already know this; I love the sight of Marines in dress blues. But put a weapon in their hands and the universe pays attention. They were perfect in every way and truly looked like the classic image of uniformed warriors in formal attire. My wife says, "pretty and deadly."
The salute must have been 21 guns. That's what it looked and sounded like. But, it could have been just one, because to me it was a shock to my system. Until that instant, Cpl Morris was somehow still alive in my mind. Then - Bam! Bam! Bam! and back to port arms. I could feel Darrel Morris slipping away.
Next came the painfully lonely sound of the Marine bugler playing taps. Having been a musician most of my life, and having played in the Marine Band, the sound of taps vibrates through my bones and slices right into my soul like a bayonet through pudding. It's a sound that causes my heart to skip and stops me in my tracks.
Then, Pipey wailed the Marines Hymn, leading into Amazing Grace and the semi-circle of Patriot Guard Riders silently turned and began marching away. It was like time, life, all sensation slipping through our fingers - moving away toward the horizon, into the future, leaving Darrel Morris in his final resting place.
Now, we go to the middle part of the Mission - before all that. We see 102 members of the Patriot Guard Riders in formation at Ferris High School for the funeral service. I've been told that this was the largest Mission ever in Washington. Long icy cold moments standing at attention holding the American flag. From time to time, a civilian would walk up to us and say, "Thank you for what you do." Some of the Marine Honor Guard shook everyone's hand.
Those are long, silent moments that blend into each other in a distortion of time that allows the mind to process the events transpiring. Those events are the grieving family and friends. The Marine Honor Guard. The governor's husband. A dozen members of the press. And the middle of it all, the big black hearse.
Also in attendance were the rumors and reports of protesters. They were on one side of the school. Then, they were on the other side. We never knew for certain if they were actually there. But two things were certain: 1) the police became heroes by being there in force. I heard that the protesters were there, but the SWAT unit kept moving them around. If PGR can't cattle-prod them, I like the idea of SWAT doing it. 2) the other thing we knew for certain was that there was a counter demonstration of people holding flags and signs saying, "We our troops!" The real God blesses them.
Shortly after the funeral service started, Gunny took the advance guard to the cemetery and I escorted the rear guard into the building to get warm - finally. Eventually, we formed two flag lines as parallel perimeters on either side of a walking procession that included, Cpl Morris, his family and closest friends. We escorted them to the hearse and stood silently while everyone filed out. That's when the first real wave of emotion hit me in the heart. A boy of about 15 walked by. He was about six-feet tall, 180 pounds. Had that goofy teen-age awkwardness about him and he wore a face that screamed. I could see in his face agony, fear, anger and confusion. I wanted to step out of line and hug him. Maybe because he reminded me so much of my nephew, but that I hurt deeply for that lad.
Then, we broke and headed for our vehicles to join the procession. I understand that as we were leaving, a small group was asked to stay behind for the family. All part of a day in the life of the Patriot Guard Riders. You never know when you're going to be called on to serve, and we so willingly do serve.
The procession from the high school to the cemetery took about an hour. It was a long drive. As I was the final car for most of the ride, I could look ahead and see flashing lights forever. The PD and funeral home security did an outstanding job of stopping traffic for us. And since we were driving through the heart of Spokane, there seemed to be hundreds of streets for them to block.
Now, we come to the beginning of the Mission and how the morning began. I have to confess, I was so nervous, I thought I was going to puke. But, this is the responsibility I accepted and damnit, I was going to take control of myself and the task at hand.
As I was about to deliver my Mission Briefing, I stood on the tailgate of my car and looked into the faces of 100 people. Most of them were vets. I know because I asked. Most of them were wearing their cutaways with their club colors. I love the pride of biker vets flying colors. In other words, it was an assembly of OUR people. It was an assembly of every-day heroes. It was an assembly of America's most seasoned patriots. And, I was about to address them and give them directions for our shared Mission to honor and respect Cpl Morris and his family. I was looking into the faces of men and women I would gladly have followed through the gates of hell, and my job was to serve as their leader for a short time. It was a very humbling experience and a real gut check for me.
What did I say to help them appreciate the puzzles and problems facing us. Essentially, here's what I said:
I want to start by asking you a question. What do Jane Fonda and FEMA have in common? They were the wrong warriors for the battle at hand. Today, we have an opportunity to be the right warrior for the mission at hand. And, we have an opportunity to f*ck it up too.
It is our natural tendency to meet our enemy head on. Then, we either blow him up, shoot him, stab him or kick his ass. If we do that today, we will be the wrong warrior for the mission at hand. This is a new kind of battle. One of wits and wisdom and keeping our cool in the face of a vile and disgusting enemy.
You don't pay any attention to old, chewed-up gum stuck on the street - because it doesn't deserve it. If the protesters show up, we won't pay any attention to them, because they don't deserve it.
In the end, the protesters might have showed up, but they were a nonentity. If they showed up, they were meaningless and we did not have to deal with them - although I know all of us wanted to form a flag line in front of them and fart at them, wishing the phrase, "silently but deadly" was literally true.
I'm really proud of my city and the way it responded to the insanity of those twisted vermin. Some of you saw me on TV, so you know my half of the story. The half you don't know is how decent and professional all the media people were throughout most of this Mission. Nearly all of them expressed to me with pain in their voices that they did not want to call any attention to the protesters. They expressed that they were on our side and respected the work that we do. I believe we have an allies in the Spokane media.
SSgtBAM, Pipey, Gunny, Wicked, Cal, Aunt Bill, Clean Cut - you all stepped into the fray, picked up the gauntlet and performed brilliantly. Men and Women of the PGR, again, you humble me. Thank you for giving me the honor of serving with you.
Next - as soon as the ice on my road thaws enough for me to get the Heritage out of the garage, let's ride and get together for something less meaningful but a lot more FUN. We have a large, active community of heroes here. Tuesday and today gave us a new perspective. Let's bring us all even closer together and form even more bridges between us. If you're up for it, I'll help organize it.
Semper Fi, brothers and sisters!
Michael Lovas, C.Ht.
I could never join the Patriot Guard because of my anger. I know that and no I don’t need anger management because, I feel anger keeps you on your toes! I will fight behind the picture and email legislative people and doing it that way. Safer for me and the other party of morons! Legally speaking!
Maybe if I work on it a little I will get past the anger but I really doubt it! I still want to bash those idiot protesters faces to the ground! Starting with JANE! ^..^