Winding Roads and Winding Down….

As I run these last few miles through the northeast, history has unfolded before me. In many places there are plaques and signs depicting old meeting halls or courthouses or homes of prominent citizens. Vermont has been warm and welcoming and its people so gracious. Near St. Johnsbury the Academy cross country team joins me as we approach town and head for the city park. It is there that I see a small crowd of people gathered. They are there to honor those from Vermont that have died in Iraq or Afghanistan and I am told, to see this guy pushing a stroller and planting flags. I am often put on the spot for speaking so what I say is often what immediately passes through my mind in no random order. In the background a lonely bagpipe plays as the names are read. It is a sobering sound. That night I would spend the evening with the family of 2nd Lieutenant Joseph Fortin. His parents and grandparents and sister gush with the love and memory they have of their Joseph. His widow and I talk alone and she tells me what she remembers most and misses is his smile. Maybe we should all smile more because if we do then we will leave those we touch with a warm memory and a picture frozen in time. At the Waterford School I am greeted by 150 children (kindergarten through 6th grade) they have formed a corridor of flags and tiny bodies for me to walk through. Such a pleasure to see those excited little faces waving their flags. After a short talk from the top of a picnic table, I follow the colors of the leaves and head for New Hampshire and am greeted at the border at the Connecticut River, by a small group of well wishers. On into Bethlehem and at a small ice cream store named Rennells, I meet Maryanne whose son was the 4000 fatality. I placed his flag in Dayton, WA back in May and ironically, my stroller bears the names of two Iwo Jima Veterans who had signed it way back when I passed through their town. We chat briefly and Maryanne makes me the best banana split I have ever had….fact. I have but 2 nights in New Hampshire and my last is in the town of Gorham. Mount Washington looms nearby shrouded in fog and a light rain is my companion for most of the afternoon. Roy is a kind, gracious man and a gentle New Englander. His health is fragile but perhaps this visit has given him a lift to carry him a few more years. We go to dinner at the Legion Hall, a small, quiet affair with his family. Chicken pot pie, steaming and piled high, blurs my vision. It is no wonder I have only lost 3 pounds in these past 5 months. I leave knowing well that in a few short miles I will cross the Maine border, my final state, knowing that Rockland and my last flag is very, very close. The attention has grown. Legion riders, Sheriff escorts and numerous vehicles lead me to Bethel, Maine. People are standing along the road. Bethel lost one of their own, Army Private Tyler Smith who was only 22 years old. A grandfather stands off to the side and he motions me over. He had lost his grandson and had driven a good 5 hours to see me and give me a picture and a copy of his grandsons dog tags. This is what this week has been like. Much like the past few months but more intense and more frequent are these random visits. The miles and roads are winding down. There are but a hundred and fifty left and then the Atlantic will lie before me and the winds from heaven will carry the voices of those who are there, watching and smiling and the sun will warm us all with their love from above because they truly know, a country has not forgotten……

15 Comments

  1. Linda Wright

    Your words touch my and so many others soul. The journey you have traveled and shared with so many will never be forgotten. Rainbows around you for the rest of your journey. Your miles have touched so many and in return you have been touched. Your words show that. Thank you Mike again for what you have doing and will have done when your journey ends.

    You know where you are always welcome. With love and blessings and angels all around you. LINDA

    Reply
  2. Megan Wood

    Mike,
    i dont know if you saw me in that crowd of 150 kids at waterford school in Vt but i just wanted to say good luck on the rest of your jouney! It was such a pleasure to get to know you the night you stayed at my grandparents house. you really inspired me in that you are running across america! i really like your blogs, ive read them all and look forward to your next one! Thankyou for what youve done! :)

    ~Megan

    Reply
  3. Bob Kohler

    How can anyone who reads what this man has done not post a comment? As one who proudly carries our flag in races, I can only say God speed to your final destination.

    Reply
  4. Vickie

    I have followed your journey since you passed through central Nebraska. Thank you so much for want you are doing. I have a grandson, Joseph, who will be leaving soon for Afghanistan. Just wanted you to know that I will pray for a safe and successful end to your journey.

    Reply
  5. Lori

    Seems hard to believe you are only 150 miles from the end of your journey. I believe they all will be watching over you as you make the final step over and to the ocean. From sea to shining sea you have delivered the message. Made Family’s feel their loss was not in vain. And reminding others they are only blessed in life because of those who sacrificed everything for their Country.

    God bless you Mike as you travel with all those watching over you from above. Knowing you to have sacrificed to remind the masses of the many who gave their all.

    Reply
  6. Carl Oesterle

    Back in Nebraska I left you with an encouraging “keep plugging!” and I’ve been watching your steady progress since Mike. Good on you and thanks for doing this wonderful thing.

    Reply
  7. Kara

    Mike,
    You are an amazing man!! Your words are so endearing. You have have touched and brought hope to many many people it sound like on your run. I wish I could have got out to see you. Maybe our paths will cross again sometime. How was the foilage in VT!! Kara

    Reply
  8. Peggy

    You are almost there!

    Reply
  9. Al Oesterle

    Father of Carl. Phyl and I met with you in Briggsdale, Co. on your way to Sterling.
    We have followed your progress via Carl and are pleased to know that everything is well. We are proud to have met you and appreciate this wonderful trip you have made.

    Reply
  10. Scot

    It has been a great honor to have been able to ride behind Mike the last 3 days. My plan was to only ride the first leg of his Maine crossing… I had such a great time I have decided to go with him to Rockland. Oxford county along with members of the Patriot Guard Riders also came along in support of this tribute. The weather today was a New England Fall day, but the warmth of the foliage at its peek made it all worth it. Thanks to all the well wisher that have taken time out of their day to wave, even had a young man of 10-11 proudly waving Old Glory. The warmth that I felt from that carried me to the end of the day. Thanks to my wife for coming to fetch me up each night with a hot meal, I love you! Laura

    Carl Scot Gisseman
    SFC, USA (ret)

    De Oppresso Liber

    p.s I am taking Sunday off but I will make up the miles Monday…

    Reply
  11. kath

    you have angels mike, west coast, east coast, or the midwest….every step, every breath….every mile.

    i think they have guided your path that is safe and you are a walk of grace.

    one journey….one flag…..one man….for all the right reasons…. making this extraorindary accomplishment!

    you my friend have a heart of gold.

    Reply
  12. Mark

    Burt ~ as your brother and a witness of your many personel achievements in life. The journey you are on now has earned you yet another level of respect not only from your family but many others.

    The fear that those of us living is that after after were gone we will become forgotten as the memory fade.

    You have absorbed the stories of personal loss and the joyous memories of many on this journey ~ and that is a task that would humble most.

    We will see you in Maine soon.

    Reply
  13. Eydie Aremburg

    Mike, it was great to hear you speak at Arnold Park in St. Johnsbury. What a tribute you have paid to these servicemen who have given their lives for the freedom of others. Just to let you know, those Waterford School students were K through grade 8. My son is in the 7th grade and told me about your visit.

    Reply
  14. Jeana

    My eyes well up with tears of appreciation for what you have done/accomplished. I can’t thank you enough for honoring our fallen heroes in this way. I also thank you for spending time with my daughter, Joey’s widow, at the Wood’s home … it meant a lot to her. We hope to see you in Rockland when you finish. God bless you, Mike.

    Reply
  15. Mike Edgecomb

    Mike,

    It was a pleasure to meet with you this week, and the ride along for a few miles.

    I saw you this morning on Rt 17 in Jefferson, Maine. Just a few more miles and you will be done running, but the memory of your trip will last a lifetime for you, me, and all of those you have touched along the way.

    I will be there tomorrow when you finish.

    Thank you for what you have done.

    Reply

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