As you know, today was the funeral for Curtis Mehrer, one of two fallen Bismarck soldiers killed in Afghanistan. Over 200 motorcyclists, myself included, were in attendance to support his family and loved ones, brothers and sisters in arms, and to make sure no monkey business took place. Fortunately the Phelps jackasses did not show, although I am told they have a permit to protest on Saturday morning.
Many of these men and women would have been here anyway, I’m sure; there were many veterans among the ranks of the riders. These riders are no strangers to the flag or the uniform and the respect they are due. While there was a solemn air over the grounds today, there was also a sense of brotherhood.
As you can imagine, ALL branches of local and state law enforcement were present. If any weirdos were to try crashing this affair, they could be dealt with. It’s uncommon to see the “bad biker” types standing around with law enforcement, so it was nice to see the stereotypes shattered for a little while. I can only describe the attitudes there as “professional courtesy.” We got a lot of waves from city, county, and state officers.
As the procession exited the church the soldiers were sharply at attention. Also standing tall were the biker guard, flags held high with pride and respect for the fallen soldier. The loss of this young man is sobering…also sobering was the atmosphere here as we united in respect of the sacrifice he made for his country.
I really didn’t like the feeling of being among the photographers outside the funeral. It feels cheap. But I wasn’t there to get a “scoop” or to try to get hits for my silly little blog; I was there to ride, and to bring back images to show you the honor and respect shown here today. Thankfully this family didn’t have to deal with the horror of protests; I’m sure today was overwhelming enough. But maybe they’ll see some of these pictures someday and recall how people came out to honor their son.
The riders were given the duty of escorts out to the Veteran’s cemetery at Fort Abraham Lincoln. This is a remarkable duty, one we should feel honored to receive. Many of the officers in attendance and others coming out of the church were shaking our hands and patting us on the back as they walked past the lines of motorcycles. I think they were relieved that there weren’t any protestors and were reassured that people were lined up to protect the dignity of the ceremony.
Obviously I can’t take pictures and ride safely at the same time, so I have none. But among some of the other images I have, I’ll tell you what I did see.
I was overwhelmed with patriotic pride and emotion as we left the church to see people stopped on along our way and on the street corners to pay their respects to this young man, his family, and the other soldiers. There were flags on cars and flags being held and waved. All the way the procession and flag were saluted.
As we passed by many of the businesses we saw lines of uniformed employees standing at attention… Cedric Theel Toyota, Schwann Pontiac, Open Road Honda and Roughrider Harley-Davidson, Bill Barth Ford, and many others let their employees stand for this man.
Public and private road crews working along our route stopped and saluted. One worker cheered with both hands in the air as a motorcycle with a large flag went by. I saw moms point at the flag as we passed and explain to their kids. One mom with her children stood by the Sitting Bull Bridge in Mandan, hands over their hearts as the flag went by.
Along the route I saw lots of cars and trucks, many of them work vehicles, stopped and their occupants standing by the side of the road. As we rode down Highway 1806 towards Fort Lincoln I saw more vehicles pulled over, some with their hats in hand over their hearts.
That’s my America. These are the people that liberals scoff at as uneducated, superstitious morons. These people have respect for our soldiers, our flag, and the country they represent. They know the meaning of the words respect and honor. They’re aware of something bigger than themselves, and I don’t mean global warming. They’re aware that soldiers risk their lives every day so that we can enjoy the freedoms we do, and honor that. Hundreds of them showed that honor and respect today.
You see, these people certainly weren’t saluting the bikers, although there are many veterans among the riders. They were saluting something greater, something even bigger than Curtis and Travis. They were saluting our country, our God-given freedoms and those who sacrifice to protect them.
Of course we were all there today to honor a fallen soldier, to remind ourselves that he willingly gave his life because he pledged to do so, and served when his country called. We also honor the loss of those who were close to him and whose grief is so great. Such soldiers tend to be very modest about what they do. Their sense of duty is what helps us sleep at night. Americans who serve when called and put their nation before themselves make our country great.
It’s pretty sobering to be a part of a procession like that, to see such patriotism poured out. I suppose that’s why I’m being dramatic in my writing. But today I saw honor and respect on display, the likes of which should be a part of every day in America. Rather than hear soldiers being accused of atrocities and war crimes by politicians with a (D) next to their name, I’d just like to see everybody show more respect for our military, our flag, and our country. Today the street corners and parkings lots had many people doing just that.
That’s the part that had me teary-eyed. I can’t talk about how I knew Curtis and Travis…I didn’t. Some people from my church did. But I got to see a lot of people who never knew them — all kinds of people, lots of them taking time from work — who still feel a sense of connection and a wish to honor these men. North Dakota has a lot of soldiers serving overseas right now. They do so for our sakes. How could a person not feel a connection to them?
There were so many motorcycles that, doubled up, we still took the length of Memorial Highway. Once we got to the cemetery we had to go all the way around the circular road to let the rest of the procession in. It was at this time that I needed to get back to work; I’m one of the fortunate ones who was able to take time to participate and show support, but I also had responsibilities back at the shop.
At least one guy there told me that his boss told all his employees a few days ago that if they were participating today, to “make sure you put it on your time card. YOU’RE GETTING PAID.” Amen to that! Obviously we have a pretty high ratio of patriots in Bismarck-Mandan.
I took the big bike today. Normally I’d be really out of place among so many “bikers”; sportbike riders and Harley riders don’t exactly mix. But on a day like today we were all unified. I kinda get a pass on circulating with the Harley guys, since I’ve moonlighted for a pair of Harley-Davidson shops for ten years, and I’ve met some of these guys through ABATE. But today we were all one pack, riding in support of those who have lost their son, their brother, their friend.
What lies before us now? The ugly business of dealing with the wackos on Saturday. I pray they just don’t show up at all. It would be best if we were just able to honor these fallen soldiers without having to deal with a freakshow. In any case, the bikers will be there to make sure the family doesn’t have that awful task.