Thursday, November 12, 2009

My Remembrance Day...

I posted the following in the wee hours of Thursday morning, just before calling it a day:

Posted on the Facebook site: Support Canadian Troops in Afghanistan


How do you Celebrate Remembrance Day?

Posted: Thursday, 12 November 2009, 00:27hrs

Today, I saddled up my bike and headed South out of Ottawa, to meet my son-in-law in Morrisburg. The intent was to observe Remembrance Day ceremonies together. Fate and bad timing conspired against us though and I wound up arriving not only late, but unable to pinpoint where the services were being held (I was looking for an outside venue, when they were actually being held inside somewhere). I wound up observing my 2 minutes of silence in the saddle, accompanied by the throaty purr of the bike's Vance & Hines pipes.

I stopped at the Timmies in Morrisburg, to ease the chill and grab a quick double-double, before heading out on the second leg of my trip. I had a rendez-vous with a young American serviceman, over stateside in NY.

I headed out West along the 2 from Morrisburg. It was perfect riding weather, as I meandered my way along the river's edge, and I enjoyed the smells and sights immensely. Coming to Johnstown, I banked right onto the roadway which would lead me to the Prescott-Ogdensburg bridge.

As I stopped at the US Customs, I produced my passport and the officer asked me the purpose of my trip."I'm on a mission", I stated. "Oh", he said. "What mission would that be?" I told him I had to drop in on a young service fellow, down in Alexandria Bay. "Friend of yours?", he asked. "Well... he's ex-military and so am I", I offered. "We have lots in common", I smiled. He waved me through and wished me a safe trip.

From Ogdensburg, I headed West yet again, this time along Route 37, which also follows the St.Lawrence River. It's a very pretty road and from their side, you can see our shoreline on the other side. I stayed on the 37 until it joined the 12 at Morristown. From there, I banked right and continued to follow the river's edge.

I kept it under the speed limit, as I was in no hurry and was simply enjoying being out with my 'knees in the breeze'. Finally, I arrived at Alexandria Bay. I took a right-hand turn at the lights, under the watchful eye of a NY State Trooper who was illuminating that particular strip of road for speeders. I trundled along at barely 30mph. The town, a bustling, rowdy place during the summer months, was deserted. All the shops were closed, including the diner "Chez Paris".

I rode the bike up to the overlook, where there is a large bandstand. I dismounted and after removing my helmet and goggles, retrieved my S.O.T. ballcap and removed the poppy that I had pinned to the side of my hat, with a small Canadian flag pin. My left shoulder was giving me some grief and my left ankle was a little uncooperative for the first few steps, but I soon built up a head of steam and climbed the stairs leading to the bandstand.

I traversed it and took the stairs leading down the other side. This led me to a grassy plain by the water's edge, from where you can clearly observe Heart Island and Boldt Castle. But that was not why I had come here. Just off to the left, stood a black granite cairn. Erected at the top of that cairn, was a 'Soldier's Cross': A pair of G.I.-issued boots, with a M-16A2 protruding from them and topped with a helmet.

This monument was erected to commemorate the service and death of one PFC. Jack Sweet. He was a native son of Alex Bay, all of 19 years of age when he was killed in Ramadi, Iraq by a roadside bomb. He was serving with the illustrious 10th Mountain Division, which is based out of Fort Drum, NY.

He was why I had traveled here today. Someone had hung a wreath of fall-coloured maple leafs, against the wrought-iron fence which surrounded the monument. I approached it, reverently and pinned my poppy onto one of the larger leaves. Taking a few steps back, I removed my cap, bowed my head and gave young Private Sweet his well-earned 2 minutes of silence.

I did not know this young warrior. I happened on his monument, purely by chance. But it stays with me and I never go by that town, without stopping to pay my respects. Not only to him, but to all his brothers-in-arms of the 10th Mountain Division, to whom the monument is also dedicated.

I replaced my ballcap, squared myself away and offered up the crispest salute my protesting body would permit. I felt a tear run down my cheek, it's warmth almost surprising in the now cooling breeze. I turned to the right and marched off, back up the stairs to the bandstand.

Arriving at the top, I stopped and looked back. The area was so deserted... I felt good that someone had come to see him, on this day of remembrance. Even if it was an old Navy fart like me.

Rest easy, Soldier... your duty is done.

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