Remembering our fallen heroes every day

  • Updated: March 24, 2012 - 8:23 PM
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Patricia Boyd

You know those people who have one career and get stuck there all their days? Well, we're going to have to check in with Patricia Boyd in 10 years, because she'll be doing something completely different.

Started in the culinary arts, went to work for a coffee company, made the natural transition to ... TSA baggage screener! Of course.

And now she runs a day care.

"I decided to work with real children instead of grownups who act like them," she chuckles.

Did she ever find anything unusual while checking the bags?

"Once we had to evacuate the area because we found an object shaped like a grenade. It was a cologne container." Red-faced passenger, I'll bet.

"It was in the pilot's bag."

She did save the skies from one dangerous person: herself. "I set off the explosives detector myself. I'd been at an apple orchard where there's lots of fertilizer, and that set it off."

She hung up her wand and now wrangles tots for a living. But her real passion is the Minnesota Fallen Heroes calendar, honoring those who have died since the wars began in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"It's changed my life," she said. "I don't go a day without thinking of the sacrifices of our military and their families." (She didn't mention it until we asked: She's a double blue-star mother herself, with a son in Kuwait and a daughter who's a medic in the National Guard.)

So far, the memorials have honored men, but that will change next year. "We are going to honor Jamie Michalsky, who went back after she'd served a term as an interpreter. A terrorist must have noticed she was American and went next to her in the market and blew himself up. I found her gravesite by accident -- it was in October, and I saw some candy corn around the gravestone, and went over to see her name."

Such items left behind at gravesites were among the things that drew Patricia to the project.

"I got the idea for the calendar after 9/11. I'd heard that Tom Burnett, the man from Flight 93, was buried in Fort Snelling. I was so impressed by what the passengers did on that plane, I thought I need to go out and visit his grave.

"I noticed the gravesites next to his have poignant things left at the sites -- pictures, cigars, statues, books, even some whiskey. My visits turned into regular trips, and I found out so much more about the soldiers. There were so many.

"When I started meeting the moms, that changed my life. I had a sobbing mother in my arms one Sunday, worried that people would forget what their children had done. I thought I'd find a way, and that's when the calendar came about."

We can hope one day the calendar ceases publication for lack of subjects to memorialize, can't we?

"There's about 175 since 9/11," Patricia says.

Whatever else she'll be doing in 10 years, the memorials will continue.

The calendars can be ordered for $10 at www.militaryheroesfoundation.org. All proceeds go to the Fisher House at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center.

JAMES LILEKS

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