Mideast Conflict Wall – Marseilles, Illinois
A little more than a continental breakfast was available at the hotel; light but sufficient. The riders meeting was short with the tribute to follow: Specialist Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago IL died from wounds sustained by an insider attack in Afghanistan. He is survived by his parents.
Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, of Stryker OH died from wounds sustained by an insider attack in Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and son he never met.
Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos CO, died Aug 11, 2019, after being engaged in small arms fire In Iraq. Scott is survived by his wife and two children.
They are not forgotten.
Wayne’s prelude to prayer analogy was about why a windshield is so large, and the mirror so small; we should have more attention to what is ahead in our lives than the past. He then informed us of a man he met that day who withdrew $200 dollars for his savings account to donate to the riders for gas. We met many such gracious and generous people. There’s an inherent need in us all to contribute.
I watched as the Illinois State Patrol escorted the NVAR from the hotel parking lot. It was 112 miles to their gas stop. Forty-five minutes later, after the radio interview, I shot off; fortunate all but one of the state patrol were on escort duty. Luckily, the odd one had his radar on the westbound lane! I made the gas stop in time to empty my bladder, fill my tank, and jump in at the back of the pack as they rode off to Marseilles.
The Canaryville Veterans Riders Assn. were there to assist with road guard duty for the two mile ride through town to the memorial. We appreciate all the help we can get. The weather was overcast with a breeze, but comfortable in the Mid-East Conflict Wall and Museum area. The rugged flow of the Illinois River provided a tranquil atmosphere.
As always, Gary Croft, aka Mr. Wizard, the State Coordinator, had the appropriate program for our ceremony; with thanks to his wife, Nancy, aka Emerson, for her advice to keep it simple. The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Emily and Jaxon, aka X-man, Buster.
After recognition to the 13 slain Americans in Afghanistan last August, Mr. Wizard introduced his simple ceremony. Honored guests took turns reading names of service men and women, whose names cut into the wall behind them. Along with their names they spoke a little about their background, hobbies, plans, and not surprising, their desire to help the people in other lands to live free lives. They all had an inherent sense of compassion. A rose was placed at the base of each wall with the names of those recognized, with additional roses for others to place as they wished.
Mr. Wizard recognized the mayor, first, who spoke of his pride for the memorial, and then the caretaker of the museum, which is exceptional with personal memorabilia. The Canaryville Riders received a certificate of appreciation, also. The ceremony ended as always, with all in a hand-held circle, and joining in singing along with Lee Greenwood, “I’m Proud to be an American.”
The American Legion Post 235 prepared a lunch and a half, with a selection of deserts. As lunch wound down, Jerry recognized two special guests; Jenni Ori, for her long standing commitment and support to helping veterans and veterans organizations. Jenni was a charter rider on the NVAR. Virginia Proffitt, was next. She and her husband, now deceased, served hundreds of meals to the homeless and veterans in Chicago each week for 27 years. You read that right; each week for 27 years. That is a lot of compassion.
In appreciation for the years of support, and meals, from the Post 235, the NVAR presented a donation to the American Legion.
The Illinois State Troopers gave us a wild ride through South Chicago, clearing lanes like Moses parts water. They left us at the Indiana state line, where we met up with the Portage Police and fire department for an escort to the high school for a JROTC program. The school maintains strong support and interest in this program. Those young men and women put on an amazing show. What you’ve seen baton twirlers do with batons, the JROTC does the same with nine pound military rifles. Their timing and cadence skills are exceptional.
Our escorts led us through the neighborhoods to an easy stretch for the remainder of a short ride to the Michigan City Harley Davidson store. Michigan City is an unofficial ground zero for the NVAR, and the official home of The Wall Gang; two very committed veteran support organizations. The local police led the NVAR and additional riders to the Danny Bruce Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony. Danny was a local boy who sacrifice his life, so that three of his brothers in combat could live. The mayor spoke of knowing Danny in high school years, and on another ride, I met another of Danny’s friends. I was honored as a wreath bearer at his memorial on my very first ride. When I found out the province of his duty in Vietnam, that I knew rather well, I wondered if he had time to walk on the beaches near Da Nang, as he no doubt did many times on the shore of Lake Michigan.
After the ceremony, the reunion of riders, families, and friends continued until Jerry called for our departure. Due to construction, our escorts took us on a scenic roundabout tour to the St. Joseph Club for dinner; another feast of home cooking.
Thank You & Never Forget – Mike (Track) Rinowski