On Saturday, May 5th, I was blessed to be the only reporter and the only female in attendance at the 10th Anniversary Cpl. Michael Starker Graveside visit by the Veterans MC Canada.
Killed in an ambush by the Taliban 10 years ago on May 6th, 2008, Cpl. Michael Starker was a Calgary Paramedic and a co-founding member of the Veterans MC Canada.
I’d known Mike for a little over a year before he was killed, and I had attended his deployment party, a party where Haley and Dave got engaged, and two other members were also getting ready to deploy. Over the course of our friendship, I had learned to appreciate Mike’s unique sense of humor, and it cracked me up how he could push the buttons of Anthony, the other co-founder of the Veterans MC Canada. Those two could not have been more different from one another if they tried, and they provided countless hours of amusement and entertainment for those who knew them!
I was honoured to be the person to capture the graveside visit and to be allowed to share it with everyone else in our community. This is a rare glimpse into the Veterans MC Canada and the brotherhood that exists because of the rigorous vetting and mutual histories and hobbies that these men share.
Bright and early on Saturday morning, I was picked up at my friend’s place in Airdrie by Sean Ellis, a man who has also become my friend.
We arrived at the clubhouse in Calgary, and the smells wafting out of the backyard had my mouth watering. Fozzy, another prospect was serving coffee, eggs, sausage and pancakes.
Fozzy is an interesting character; he speaks with an English accent but spent a good amount of his time with the Veterans MC Netherlands. I was directed to talk with him to find out more about the history of the Veterans MC, the various chapters around the world and their involvement in an alliance called the Brothers in Arms.
After a big scarf and being introduced to a good number of the 24 club members who would be attending at the graveside, it was time to head out for Queens Park Cemetery.
I rode with Sean, who had all of the graveside amenities already loaded into his SUV.
We pulled into Queens Park Cemetery and walked over to Michael’s grave. A bouquet of green and white flowers from the club was placed on his marker. A lot of the men who are a part of this MC today never met Mike. They didn’t experience his brand of friendship, loyalty, mischievousness, etc.
Telling the same stories year after year, making sure that each new comer to the club learns about its co-founder and his values, is a task left to people like Kris Dlouhy.
Every year he does his best to educate the newcomers about the philosophy and sense of brotherhood on which this club was founded. Like every other year, Kris spoke of Mike and his values, and while his voice cracked, he held his composure together for the most part.
After some tears, some cheers and a few photos, everyone headed back to the clubhouse. One of the wives had made spaghetti sauce, and that was the first smell that hit you when you walked in the door. Instantly people were ready for a late lunch, and so it was decided that we’d go to a local pub for growlies.
After the luncheon, it was back to the clubhouse, and by now you could smell the spaghetti sauce out in the backyard too. I didn’t think I was going to make it until supper time!
Some of the gents had to head back home as they had to work the next day, but in their stead came more club members, many of whom brought their significant others. The backyard was full, so was the front yard and the house itself. There were people everywhere.
After an amazing supper (and Melanie, that was amazing spaghetti sauce), many of the different riding clubs that make up the fabric of the Calgary Motorcycle scene started dropping in.
The show of respect was evident from every RC that showed up. The prospects, all 8 of them, were busy ensuring that every guest was being looked after. They kept the yard clean, the beverages flowing and were offering all of the new comers a bite to eat should they be hungry.
I watched young men like Pork Chop work his way through the guests and make sure that everyone was taken care of, and he did it with such joy and reverence that I had to smile. Likewise, Matt was just as considerate and efficient in taking care of the club’s guests. They all were.
If Mike was alive today, I think he’d be so proud.
The quality of the young veterans or serving members that comprises this club is really remarkable. I watch the way they work together, ride together, move together, and I can’t help but think that the training these folks undergo, no matter the division, makes it so that they can work side-by-side in a precise fashion even if they have never worked together before.
The brotherhood of people who have fought side-by-side, who have trained side-by-side, is so unique. Firefighters and Veterans/Serving Soldiers see horrid things during the course of their careers. Many have had to do things that you and I couldn’t possibly fathom.
I hear a lot of people throw that word brotherhood around, but I am here to tell you that the average person that thinks they know what brotherhood really is, probably does not have a clue.
“Brotherhood is an unconditional love that I feel for my brother. I would do anything to support or help my brother, anytime, anywhere. If this (prospecting) doesn’t work out for me, then I will become a lone wolf because I don’t want to be a part of any club. I want to be a part of THIS CLUB because of what it represents,” said Pork Chop.