Memorial and Shoot Report by Mark "The Elder" Mackowski
On Saturday morning, 9 December 2000, a crowd of 40 to 50 people gathered at Desert Marksman Range to bid farewell to their friend Michael Harries. Some were relatively new acquaintances, while others had known him for decades, but all were aware they had recently lost someone important in their lives.
Earlier that morning, a few of us met at his old haunt, Coco's Restaurant, to have breakfast and reminisce with Joyce Harries and her daughter, Pam. The rest of Michael's friends were waiting when we arrived at the range.
In the cool mountain air they huddled in small groups, telling stories and sharing memories. After a while the crowd was summoned into the pistol shed for the service. As we walked through the narrow door, our eyes focused a few yards downrange on an old Mauser 98k rifle with the bayonet fixed and planted into the rocky soil. Well-worn boots stood guard on either side, and a camo field cap sat on top of the butt. No flowers, no wreaths, no photographs… a simple soldier's memorial. At that moment tears came to my eyes, and a sense of finality surged through my mind.
Joyce took a seat in front. Lyle Wyatt said a few words to open the service, then one by one Michael's friends filed forward to give testimony to his friendship and humor and wisdom. Several told stories, some praised the lessons he passed on, while others just wanted to say goodbye.
Everyone who wanted to say a few words and recounted the facts of Michael's life, but offered that the mere facts didn't do him full justice. Indeed.
Lyle closed the service with a few brief words, and invited everyone to the 600-yard pad for a rifle salute. Upon his command, each rifleman fired one shot at the steel plate behind the target pit. Joyce joined the skirmish line, and Michael's ashes were scattered as we walked downrange. And then it was over. I felt a sense of relief, and release, at that moment. It was time to remember the lessons and move on.
An excellent rifle event followed the service, hosted by Lyle and Michael Horne. Our friend would have had it no other way.
On a personal note, there are several people that deserve special mention for rising above and beyond the call of duty. Pam, Tom, and Dan, for their service to Joyce in her time of need; Lyle and Michael Horne, for their long and loyal friendships; and ye Ed… for giving voice and structure to Michael's wisdom. I offer my deepest apologies for the many names I have missed, but they know who they are.
Michael Harries, Rest in Peace.