One Fall Day……..

Fall in Maine, like many of the New England states, is an extremely colorful affair. The maples burst in brilliant reds and orange and yellow. Leaves tumble and swirl and find a final resting place on the ground turning it into an animated assortment of beautiful piles.  St. Johns Street is a quiet street in a quiet town called Skowhegan. A town famous for its shoe mills and a few years ago, the filming of the movie, Empire Falls. It is also a town that bears the ghost of a little boy. On this street I stand alone and stare at the 2 story cream colored house sitting across the lot from where I am staying. I close my eyes and hear the laughter of boys back in the mid-70s. They are playing football. In the huddle they draw a play in the dirt that was once green grass now worn down by endless games throughout the summer. They range in age from 8 to 16. It is a time when the neighborhoods were tight in this town. A time when everyones doors were open and most of the time their refrigerators too. Grandma T., lives in the house I am staying in. On Saturdays she would bake cookies and pies and cream puffs. The boys would partake in these delicacies. The little boy who was 8 at the time would follow his siblings and devour many a baked good from Grandma T., but only under one condition and it involved drinking a glass of milk with their cookie or cream puff or pie or cake. Back to the game of football they go. The little boy, with his baggy Levis and red and white Dukes of Hazard t-shirt lines up next to the ball. The play begins and a mad scramble begins….

The cream colored house sits alone. It is bordered by trees whose shade is welcome in the summer.  Second story windows have white blinds pulled closed to keep the afternoon sun out. The tin roof glistens.  It has a steep pitch so that the winter snows will slide off. It is snow that would be shoveled off the porch steps by the little boy even though he would struggle at times with the weight of the wet snow and an over-sized shovel.  He worked hard doing that and in the summer mowing the grass. In time he would grow bigger and stronger and more athletic.

Back to the game……..a pass is thrown, caught and then the ball pops loose and squirts along the ground right to the little boy who scoops it up and runs……he runs as fast as he can…this is his chance, his glory……he darts left then right then back. He stops and starts and fools the older boys with his quickness.  He only needs to get past the maple tree. With a final 8 year old burst of speed and a brilliant move he breaks the imaginary line in an imaginary stadium and scores in front of a hundred thousand imaginary people. Yes, yes, yes.

I open my eyes and look at this yard. The wind blows softly and whispers to me. The home I am looking at and the yard where this game was played is the home of a little boy named Jay Thomas Aubin.

I will be placing the very last flag at the waters edge in Rockland, Maine. It is the flag of Major Jay Thomas Aubin.  He died in the pre-dawn hours of March 21st 2003 on the border of Iraq, piloting a helicopter. He would be one of 6 to die that first day of the war but there is no glory in being number one when it is only for numbers sake. I chose to place him last because finishing in Maine I felt it appropriate.

As I look at his home, his street, his yard, I see him as a young boy. I feel the exuberance of his life, I feel the tremendous potential in his future, I feel his presence. Grandma T., remembers him fondly as she does most boys from the neighborhood. Jay Aubin would become a great man.  A great father with 2 children and the rare breed of Marine who rose up through the enlisted ranks and then became an officer. Grandma T., remembers his smile.  As I stand here alone, the sun pours through these remarkable colored trees and I feel the warmth of that smile from the blue sky above.

Yes Jay Aubin you are not forgotten,  I traveled across this country, running the miles with you and so many others and we will play a football game in the heavens one day……..


  1. meredith murphy

    Thanks, again, for sharing your journey with us. A very fitting “last flag” indeed.

  2. Linda Wright

    Your words mean so much, your miles and journey mean so much to so many. Thank you for sharing your stories along the way. ;) Godspeed to you my friend. You are almost there. I/we are running with you in spirit. You go Mike.

  3. Megan Wood

    good luck on your last few miles! :D

  4. steve metzger

    your posts bring such a message of remembrance, love and kindness to all who are following your journey.

    all the best Mike

  5. Bill Halberg

    Mike, Reading this entry, I could picture myself standing there. You have a gift for creating pictures with your words. It’s hard for me to fathom that you have come so far with no injuries or mishaps to deter you. Truly you are being watched over by 4000+ of your fallen comrades. Godspeed my friend.

  6. Paul Schmidt


    Well done. Your long journey nears it’s end on the roads. But your tribute will last in the hearts and souls of so many you have touched
    that it will be a long time before the full meaning comes to rest.
    Thank you.

  7. Gail

    Mike, you and your team will NEVER know how much this trip and these posts have meant to so many of us. I will miss reading them each day and I will miss wondering how your trip is going. You ahve touched so many Americans. You have taught many of them what a real Hero is. Thank you for your service. I thank you for reminding our country what is really going on with our military. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!

  8. Erika

    Mike, you always write such inspiring words. Congratulations on all you have done over the last few months and for reaching out in this way. It means a great deal to a great many. Our thoughts will be with you as you reach Rockland and place that last flag for Jay Thomas Aubin. I am sorry we cannot be there with you, but out hearts will. It has been an amazing journey to watch and take part of. God bless you, Trent and Erika

  9. Donna Jordan

    Congratulations, Mike! What an amazing journey…and you allowed so many of us to “be there” with you through your truly wonderful blogs! I can’t find the words to express our gratitude…they all seem so small, shallow and redundant. We do thank you for all you have accomplished. As someone else has stated, we have all learned through you what a true Hero is. Our love and prayers are with you as you finish your amazing journey/tribute in Rockland and place Major Jay Aubin’s flag. Thank you so very much, Mike. You are such a gentle soul. God bless you! With much love and respect, Donna and Brian

  10. Mary Thompson

    Tthank you so much Mike for this amazing journey you are taking. This AMERICAN will NEVER FORGET! God Bless you and keep you safe!

  11. Derek Davey

    Thank you Mike for doing this. I am sorry, I did not know until today of your run. You planted my son’s flag in Nebraska on July 31, 2010, which happened to be the 5 year anniversary of the last time I saw him. Cpl Seamus M. Davey, USMCR was Killed in Action on October 21, 2010 in Albu Hyatt Iraq.
    God bless you for the honor that you have given to so many.

  12. Michelle Daniel

    Thank you so much for what you have done! I am honored to have been your hostess in Glidden, Iowa, and only wish I could have done more for you and your cause. You will always be remembered in my town. Thank you!!

  13. Cath

    Good morning, I just learned of your tremendous effort & victory the day after you arrived in Maine..How much I would have liked to have been there to cheer you on…congratulate you…thank you for honoring our military so with your own life & courage…God bless you richly…Thank you for your service…I pray that many others both children & adults will be inspired by your willingness to care & DO something so heroic….Have a safe trip home…

  14. Ellie Lizotte

    Mike, I stand in awe of your strength of character, let alone your physical strength.WOW!! Your journey across America has connected all of us as one. You have given us the gift of hope and it is our duty to pass that on. May the love you have given and the love you have received sustain you always. I loved reading your blog. It brought tears to my eyes many times but also an awareness of the goodness of the human spirit and to be very grateful for every minute of every day.
    Embrace the light that will shine upon you. You deserve every bit of it!!
    Safe Journey to Hope…


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