THIS PAST SATURDAY AND SUNDAY . . . I WIPED AWAY TEARS:
As you all probably know . . . I have an incredible respect for the United States of America and the Brave Men and Women who serve under The Stars & Stripes.
BUT I ALSO HAVE A NEVER-ENDING RESPECT FOR MY COUNTRYMEN WHO DO THE SAME.
On Saturday June 1st, Five Hundred BIKERS rode East from CFB (Canadian Forces Base) Kingston towards CFB Trenton. I was one of them.
From the West . . . about One Thousand Five Hundred Bikers rode just East of Toronto towards CFB Trenton, where together, about TWO THOUSAND Riders stood in silence in Memory of Canada’s Warriors, who lost their lives fighting for the FREEDOMS of others in Afghanistan.
This RIDE, known as the HHR, the Heroes Highway Ride . . . is an annual event organized by my two good friends . . . Lou DeVuono (the founder of the HHR) and Graeme Hume (Lou’s Right Hand man), which honors the courage and sacrifice of Canada’s FALLEN HEROES.
TRY TO IMAGINE THIS SCENE ON SATURDAY:
There is a large amphitheater just off base at CFB Trenton, surrounded by acres of rolling green hills, gently climbing to a BERM that horseshoes the entire area, with the St Lawrence River as a background.
In the amphitheater is a back wall that is adorned with the photos of 158 Fallen Canadian Soldiers. In front of the amphitheater is a Pipe and Drum Band. Behind the Pipe and Drum Band is a long line of young people, some holding large photographs, some holding large Canadian Flags . . . ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHT OF EACH.
As the ceremony begins with music . . . the name of each FALLEN soldier is read aloud, as the person carrying his photo marches up the BERM, followed immediately by a person carrying a Canadian Flag.
A THOUSAND AND MORE BIKERS IN LEATHERS AND PATCHES WIPE AWAY TEARS:
From the amphitheater, when looking up at the BERM, there is a solid line of young Canadians holding alternating photos and flags blowing in the winds coming off the St Lawrence, as a Lament created specifically for this honor is sung A CAPPELLA, by a woman who carries the moment of grief and pride in her incredible voice.
From the Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial at CFB Trenton, by 6:45 am, we set off in the rain for the three hour Ride to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, led by another man of great distinction, who I am also proud to call a friend . . . the incomparable retired and wounded Canadian Sniper Trapper Cane, leader of the CAV . . . The Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Unit who honored me last year in Toronto at the HHR with a CAV Plaque.
Once at the War Museum, we listened to Trapper Cane as he described in brief, Canada’s exemplary war history, dating back to the South African Boer War from 1899 to 1902, and every major world conflict since then, when and where brave Canadians fought for the Freedom of others.
JUST A NOTE OF HISTORY TO SHOW CANADA’S TRUE GRIT:
1 – Canada was the FIRST Commonwealth country to send troops to Britain at the Declaration of World War Two in 1939 (my dad was amongst the FIRST).
2 – Canada had a total population in 1939 of about eleven million People.
3 – YET . . . Canada sent more than One Million Men and Women into harm’s way.
4 – And more than FORTY Percent of Canada’s male population between the ages of 18 and 45 wore the Canadian Uniform to rid the world of the Nazi scourge.
THE RIDE TO THE CEMETERY:
From the War Museum, we arrived as a Motorcycle Convoy of more than SEVENTY Bikes under cloudy and threatening skies to the National Memorial Military Cemetery, where we stood in reverence facing the Cenotaph, honoring all of Canada’s FALLEN Heroes from the first to FALL in the Boer War . . . to the last who gave it all in Afghanistan.
The NATIONAL MEMORIAL RIDE . . . is organized by retired RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force) Pilot, Major Greg (Shep) Shepherd, who flew F-18’s and served with distinction in the Balkans.
I am also PROUD to consider Major Shepherd as a friend, who is of the highest caliber, who has never forgotten those who went before him, and those who now follow his example at the Sharp End of the Spear.
We stood in silence during the anthem, prayers and short speeches, absorbing the Remembrance Ceremony of the Bravest of the Brave, who volunteered to meet the enemies of FREEDOM head on, regardless of the risk and cost.
And as I stood there, I thought about one HERO amongst all the HEROES, my DAD, who from 1939 to 1945, served his country and his world with PRIDE, who was decorated several times, written-up in Dispatches several times, and was awarded one of the Netherlands HIGHEST honors by Queen Wilhelmina for Bravery Above And Beyond The Call Of Duty.
ONE OF THE ALL-TIME GREAT HONORS:
I stood watching the men and women who were chosen to lay a WREATH, as they were called upon to do so, waiting for my name to be called, when I too would lay a WREATH in the name of JEWISH Bikers, in HONOR of the Pledge Ride and our COMMITMENT to NEVER AGAIN.
And in my mind’s eye as I laid the Wreath, I saw my father, who would have been so proud to see the company I keep, and the cause of FREEDOM I defend.
Even as I write this several days later . . . I can’t hold back the tears.
I am PROUD to be a Canadian.
I am PROUD to be a Jew living in a country where being Jewish isn’t a crime.
I am PROUD to know men of incredible distinction in the names of Lou DeVuono, Graeme Hume, Trapper Cane and Greg Shepherd.
But most of all, I am proud to be a part of this incredible group, and PROUDER yet that all of them support the Pledge Ride, and have taken the Pledge of NEVER AGAIN that means so much to me.
Sometimes, the most comforting and proud moments are best described in tears.
Best Regards . . . Howard Galganov