Crash victim Chuck Geertz 'showed others how to be in darkness and be able to come out'

By LIZ BOARDMAN | Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa | Published: August 28, 2019

MUSCATINE, Iowa (Tribune News Service) — With the roar of hundreds of motorcycle engines and the love and honor of his peers, as well as many a passerby, Chuck Geertz is coming home.

Throughout the weekend, a line of over 300 motorcycles passed through several towns in southeast Iowa to escort Geertz’s remains to their final resting place in Muscatine. The 23-year military veteran is known throughout the area as someone who was always there to help, no matter the need. Many of the riders stopped along the way to speak of their fallen comrade. While Chuck was the name he normally went by, many of the people who knew him also called him by his nickname “Bowtie.” Cyle Geertz is proud to call him “brother.”

“He was my big brother and he was my rock,” Cyle Geertz said. “He was everything to me.”

Geertz, 63, was pronounced dead Monday, Aug. 19, at the University of Kansas Medical Center from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash. He was returning home from a veterans rally in Colorado.

The escort started in Kansas City and ended in Muscatine. A visitation will be held for Geertz at the Iowa National Guard Armory, 5901 US Highway 61, Muscatine, from 2 to 7 p.m. today. A celebration of life service is scheduled to be held at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Armory.

A longtime member of the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club, Geertz was also a lifetime member of the American Legion, and a Canteen Board member of the Muscatine VFW, the state sergeant of arms of Iowa as well as a past post commander. He had served as a U.S. Marine from 1974 to 1976 and in the Army from 1989 to 1996. He also served in the Iowa National Guard from 1996 to 2009. He retired as a Sergeant First Class. His deployments included Operation Just Cause and Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.

As the procession traveled through Iowa, Cyle Geertz was awestruck with the number of people he saw come out to give his brother a salute. He recalls lines of people with their hands over their hearts. Police officers and fire departments came out to fly the American flag in honor of Geertz.

Cyle Geertz recalled his brother’s giving nature and the number of people, especially veterans, he had helped over the years.

Geertz helped found Healing at English River Outfitters (HERO) in rural Washington, Iowa, in 2008 and served as the president of Healing. The organization offered outdoor activities — hunting, fishing, hiking and camping — to military veterans and their families.

The idea of the organization is that it is tough for many veterans to get treatment, but it is not tough to get them to sit around a campfire with their friends and talk. The people at HERO are peers of the veterans and offer peer support. Ground was broken on a new veterans lodge in July. HERO vice president Dave Lewis said the work Geertz has begun is going to continue.

“Chuck was an amazing guy,” Lewis said. “He was an 'anything is possible' kind of guy. He cared deeply about veterans.”

Lewis said the HERO board has determined it will complete Geertz’s vision and will expand on that vision in the future. Lewis hopes the organization will become Geertz’s legacy and will live forever.

Lewis recalls the numbers of times Geertz had been on the phone all night helping a veteran in need. He remembers Geertz dropping everything and traveling to another state to pick up a veteran in crisis. He commented during the procession, veterans came in from as far as Australia to honor Geertz. Cyle Geertz said veterans are on their way in from Germany to attend the funeral.

Cyle Geertz explained his brother knew the struggles of veterans after deployment because he had such struggles himself. In helping his fellow veterans, he was also helping himself.

“Some of his closest friends will tell you that if it weren’t for Chuck, they wouldn’t be here today,” Cyle said. “He was that guy, because he was there and he came back, he showed others how to do it. He showed others how to be in darkness and be able to come out.”

Singer/songwriter Todd Apfel recently released a song called "Heroes" in honor of Geertz and HERO. Apfel’s Facebook page says all proceeds from the song will benefit HERO.

©2019 Quad City Times, Davenport, Iowa
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