A gentle breeze carried a woman's voice through the air Tuesday afternoon, and the voice carried the soaring lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner, and the lyrics carried among the saluting veterans there assembled, at the Carroll County Farm Museum, carrying the memory of a friend and tireless advocate.
Mike "Mad Dog" Sater, an army veteran who served — and was wounded — in Vietnam, was tenacious in his post-service efforts to help local veterans access the services and benefits to which they were entitled. He became a driving force in the creation of the Carroll County Veterans Shuttle service, which has transported Carroll veterans to medical appoints at Veterans Administration health facilities outside the county since 2012 — for free.
Sater died in July, 2015 following a motorcycle accident and while no one could fully fill his boots, the county could honor his memory: The veterans shuttle was dedicated to Sater at the Tuesday ceremony, and the shuttle service renamed the Mike "Mad Dog" Sater Veterans Shuttle program. The three shuttle vehicles will now sport a new logo unveiled at the ceremony, a sturdy Doberman with a calm but steady stare, and the words "MAD DOG" emblazoned across its legs.
There was no better emblem to represent Sater's memory, according to Cid Reyes, the commander of American Legion Post 200 in Hampstead, where Sater was a member.
"The logo on the side of the van? That's him," Reyes said. "He had the tattoo right on his shoulder, on his chest. He would be proud to see that."
Those that worked with Sater to help veterans in Carroll can testify to how the man's focus and drive lived up to the image of a tenacious canine. Frank Valenti, the chairman of the Veterans Advisory Council, first met Sater in 2011 after Sater read that Valenti had taken the job and was also a veteran.
"All of a sudden there is this strange guy named Mad Dog at my door wanting to see me, and you can imagine what I was thinking," Valenti said. "That just started a wonderful friendship ... a good partnership if you will, to help bring veterans services to the county."
When Carroll County Commissioner Doug Howard, R-District 5 first began investigating the idea of providing a shuttle service for veterans, it was Valenti that introduced him to Sater, according to Howard's remarks at Tuesday's ceremony.
"He brought Mike up to my office and we had a very good and extensive and serious conversation in a way that I think only he could," Howard said. "In the nicest way, but also strongly, he said, 'Commissioner Howard, we're going to get this done.'"
Given Sater's commitment to helping veterans, Valenti said he can think of no better monument to his late friend than to have his name carried on the very vehicles carrying Carroll's veterans to get assistance.
"This is a venue for delivering services and that's what mike was all about, delivering services to veterans, and the shuttle will do that. It's so much better than a statue or a plaque or some picture on a wall that gets old and dusty," Valenti said. "This is a living testament to his dream of helping veterans here in the county."
As perfect a tribute as the shuttle dedication might be, Reyes said its not the only memorial to Sater and his dedication to area veterans. Recently, he said, nine motorcycles rode from the Hampstead American Legion Post to Big Falls, where Sater's name is inscribed on the wall as a fallen biker.
"I am sure there will be more dedications for a man like that, a great man, who will always be remembered for wanting to help the veterans," Reyes said. "He's still helping them."