“With the horrendously sick news that we have received this week it is difficult to clear one’s head and look around so as to touch what is real and important to all of us, and today that would be the 15 year anniversary of the 9/11 attack against our country; an event we should never forget or whitewash as some politicians and government leaders would like us to do.
I will not expound or comment as like religion, this topic and where you were and how it affected you is very personal, but try to wash out your mind with what one man does in an effort to remain sane and respectful. Remember those who were lost.” ~ R.T.
by Catlin Doornbos as published in the Orlando Sentinel
“I don’t know what it means to them, but it means a heck of a lot to me…”
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Brent Bachand said life has been “empty” since his horse Banjo was struck down by lightning just before Independence Day this year.
The 59-year-old Clermont man rode Banjo with an American flag in hand to commemorate in nearly every patriotic holiday. He never missed a Sept. 11 anniversary riding Banjo down State Highway 50 near the Florida Turnpike to spread love of country since the terrorist attacks in 2001.
While it’s hard getting back in the saddle with his grief, Bachand has been determined to prepare another rescue horse, Roscoe, to take on Banjo’s patriotic duty for 9-11.
“You don’t stop because [Banjo died,]” Bachand said. “For me, it’s not even a choice; I was raised to be this way. I’m patriotic because it’s in my blood.”
With steady patience, the self-proclaimed “horse teacher” has been guiding the formerly abused horse to accept his new role of standing statuesque while Bachand waves the stars and stripes above his head.
“It’s not as easy as one may think,” Bachand said. “Try walking a dog down the side of Highway 50, then think about riding a horse the same way.”
He and Roscoe, both a little nervous, took a practice ride Friday. As commuters drove past, their reactions were moving. Veterans saluted from car windows and children craned their necks from passenger seats, while others — including a police officer — stopped to take pictures with the pair.
“That guy there that gave a salute, the people in that car from New York City,” Bachand said. “I don’t know what it means to them, but it means a heck of a lot to me.”
Bachand said the endeavor would be dangerous for an untrained horse and rider, as the bustle of cars flashing and honking by can spook an animal.
“People honk their horns out of respect for the flag, but they don’t even think about how that affects a horse,” Bachand said.
Regardless of the danger, the U.S. Army veteran is committed to honor the country and remind passersby of those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. He previously rode Banjo with the flag after the June 12 shooting at the Pulse nightclub.
“If you don’t have a terrorist attack, no one really gives two hoots about patriotism,” Bachand said. “I try to get out and just let people see the flag.”
Bachand said he was discouraged that he didn’t see more American flags displayed after the Pulse shooting. He said he worries the country is more divided now and wishes the flag would unite citizens.
“I’m not the patriot who was there after 9-11 for two weeks; I’m the patriot who has been here for 15 years,” Bachand said. “What I hope is what people look and see me with the flag, they think about this country and what this really means.”
Bachand said he and Roscoe will be riding with the flag Sunday from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. along Highway 50 near Clermont for those wanting to see the spectacle.
“I hope when they see this, they just take the moment to think about 9-11 — all the carnage that went on — and about us being Americans,” Bachand said.
Click link for video and photo gallery: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/911-anniversary/os-sept-11-patriot-horse-20160908-story.html