A milestone, but not a happy one.

I participated in my tenth Patriot Guard Rider’s mission today in honor of Lance Corporal Kielin T. Dunn.

LCpl Dunn served with the 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force out of Camp Lejune and was killed in action in support of combat operations in Helmand Province, Afghanistan on February 18th.

He was raised in Chesapeake and, despite some troubled times in his youth, chose the higher, harder road than many of his contemporaries and joined the Marine Corps.  In the interview video embedded below, as is mother pointed out so poignantly,  “He didn’t die on the streets.  He didn’t die doing crimes.  He died with dogtags around his neck…he died with honor.”

I haven’t had many opportunities to participate lately as most of these missions happen during the week and most of them in this region are centered around Arlington, but I was glad to have had the opportunity to play my small role in this one.

Today, we escorted LCpl Dunn from the aircraft that brought him home to the funeral home.  On Tuesday evening there will be a memorial service where we will stand our silent vigil, and then he will be transported and interred at Arlington on Thursday.

We had a pretty good showing: There were about 30 Patriot Guards at the terminal to render honors as LCpl Dunn was transferred from the plane to the hearse.

With about 20 bikes and 4 cages for the escort.

But there were another 15 bikes or so just outside the base waiting to join the procession as we rode by.

So for the majority of the procession we had somewhere around 35 bikes, and 4 or 5 cages.

And about 50 people to render honors at the funeral home.

Not bad for a chilly Saturday afternoon.  I can only hope that our contribution provided the family and friends of our fallen comrade some small comfort in this time of grief and sadness.

Finally, the family did invite news crews to document the event.  I saw vehicles from both Channel 3 and 13, but the only report I’ve found so far is from channel 13.  

As I’ve said in past posts of this kind, it is my sincere hope that I never have occasion to participate in another one of these sad occasions…but as long as our military members continue to give that last great measure for their countrymen, the Patriot Guard will render honors and play our minor part in support of the families of the fallen.

How I spent my morning

Update: Some friends of Mrs. Parker-Williams have started a blog in her memory which is linked back to this post. To friends and family members who may visit from that site: I offer my sympathies and prayers for your loss. Thank you for the honor of inviting myself and my PGR Brothers and Sisters to provide what small assistance and comfort that we can at such a painful and difficult time. [/update]

I got an e-mail yesterday from Woody “Rustpicker” Wagner, our Regional PGR Senior Ride Captain. It was kind of an unusual mission, but it really tugged at my heart (yes, I have one…reports to the contrary have been greatly exaggerated):

Patriot Guard Riders,

On February 21, 2008 Mrs. Patricia Ruth Parker-Williams, 24, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly of natural causes in Virginia Beach, VA. Her husband, of one year, Sgt Christopher B. Williams, United States Marine Corps was deployed and serving our country on a Combat Tour of Duty, assigned to the 2nd Intelligence Battalion, Camp Fallujah, Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Global War on Terrorism; returned to the Hampton Roads area on Emergency Leave. Sgt Williams has requested a PGR HOTH Escort mission from Smith & Williams Funeral Home to Norfolk International Airport Cargo & Departure Terminal, Norfolk, VA and to be Paul Bearers for his beloved wife at the Funeral Home, Cargo Terminal and Tarmac at the Aircraft.

I haven’t had the opportunity to participate in any missions lately, but I felt this one was important. Our heros knowingly place themselves in harm’s way in defense of our country and their loved ones…but how many expect that it will be their burden to grieve over a lost loved one? Many leave knowing that they may not return to their spouses and families, but how many leave fearing that they may return home for a funeral and to an empty home? This was just one mission that I couldn’t miss.

Click all pictures to make bigger

So, up at 0330, quick check of the weather report…excellent: perfect riding weather…and off I went.

After a quick stop to top off the gas tank, I arrived at the funeral home.

Have you ever noticed that it isn’t easy to take decent pictures when it’s still dark out?

My camera does have a “night” setting that at least made pictures…albeit not exactly studio quality.

I happened to get there just as Sgt. Williams was getting out of a car and we walked into the funeral home together. He was very free with his praise of PGR and his thanks for our participation. As usual, I remind him that it is an honor and privilege for us to be invited. Any thanks are due to him, not the other way around.

Anyway, we got the chance to speak with him for a few minutes in the funeral home. He related the story about how he and his wife met, how they knew he was going to Iraq and so, in stead of waiting to have a big wedding, they eloped in secret.

She was from the west coast and was being flown to Washington State to be interred with her ancestors. He said their families hadn’t even been aware that they were married yet and they had planned a big formal ceremony after he returned. It was a love story just begging for a fairy tale ending…but alas, life seldom works out as neatly as childhood stories would have us believe.

At any rate, the Sgt. stood with us as we did our pre-mission brief.

He is visible in this picture. He is to the left of center, you can see his white uniform belt and his face is just to the left of two reflective strips on someone’s jacket.

Note to self: reflective motorcycle gear is not compatible with flash photography.

I did zoom in and try to get a better picture of him, but I was far enough away that it came out very dark.

We were escorted by the Virginia Beach and Norfolk Police Departments to Norfolk International Airport.

I did get one final picture after pulling up to the cargo terminal, but then my batteries died. They were fully charged before leaving the house but I think the cool weather affected their longevity.

At any rate, it was a moving moment to be involved in this important mission.

We saw them to the plane safe and sound and leave her to the capable hands of our PGR brothers and sisters on the West Coast who will be meeting them upon arrival.

Godspeed and good luck to you Sgt. Williams…and thank you for your service.

One final only slightly related note. One of my PGR brothers and a Vietnam Veteran had in interesting paint job in tribute to Vietnam “Brown Water Sailors” on his Harley.

I am very impressed with the work so I took a couple of shots of it and just wanted to share them:

This is the rear fender. I had a hard time getting a clear shot of this one because the rigging he had assembled to hold his flags was in the way.

If you can’t see it well enough, just take my word for it…it was some gorgeous artwork.

Gratitude

Some of you may have noticed a comment from Katrice in the “recent comments” section of the sidebar.

Hi my name is Katrice. I pray that God continues to protect your family.
I am Dwaynes’ niece, he is 4 years older than me. Today I am having one of those bad days. So for the first time I decided that I am going to read everything about him in his memory. I just miss him so much, I wish I could talk and laugh with him. I wish I can play disney trivia, which he always has won, because his daughter is a disney princess fanatic. My daughter is a few months older than Ayahnah, but she doesn’t give me enough info to win. I just want to say that you meet good people in life. When you have so one in your life that is so honorable and so wonderful, you have to cherish it, because you never know when God is going to call them home. I am glad that he knew how much our family loved him. How proud we still are. If I had one more day to just laugh with him. I would cherish that day forever. I know this may sound corny, but I just can’t stop thinking of him. He taught me how to ride a bike, how to drive, to Love God and myself. He showed some many values by example. I make him a promise and myself. I promise to make a difference in my life as well as the life of others. I promise to achieve and to move forwawrd with courage and dignity. I promise to teach my children everything he has taught me. I promise never to forget him and never to stop loving him. I also thank the Patriot Riders for being there it truly showed honor, it showed how that love, honor, and respect joins us all together. Even if I am scared to ride a motor cycle. It was an honor and an outstanding blessing to have you ride in honor of my Uncle Dwayne.

With Haloscan comments, sometimes it’s difficult to figure out which post the comment refers to. Her comment was regarding This Post about the Patriot Guard Riders mission in honor of CW2 Dwayne Moore.

Reading her comment again this morning had the same effect as reading it last night: the tears are streaming down my face as I type.

Katrice, if you are reading this: thank you for sharing your thoughts and your love for your Uncle with us. I hope my (admittedly inadequate) scribblings offered some small comfort to you. I prayed for you and the rest of your family this morning. Rest assured, your Uncle is not forgotten. His sacrifice is appreciated, but also appreciated is the family that produces such honorable and selfless people. Heros don’t just happen. They are raised, nurtured, loved and taught to be who they are by the family that supports them.

Having met several of the family members at the funeral and seen your mettle and makeup, I’m certain that CW2 Moore occupies an honored place at the right hand of God and that you will see him again.

Thank you again for stopping by and for honoring me so with your comment.

And if you ever decide to face your fear and give motorcycling a try, I’d be honored to have you ride with me. Send me an e-mail.

SSgt Michael D. Moody Jr., US Army

Another fallen hero.

Click the picture to go to a sympathy Guest Book in SSgt Moody’s honor.

This entry is a bit late, but I wanted to get it up anyway.

SSgt Moody was laid to rest on the 30th of June. I, and several of my brother and sister Patriot Guard Riders paid our respects.

SSgt Moody was a graduate of Meadowbrook High School in Chesterfield County, just south of Richmond.

One recurring theme among those remembering him was his radiant, ready smile.

A ten year veteran who served a tour in Kosovo as well as a previous tour in Iraq as a member of the 2nd Battalian, 69th Armor Regiment based in Fort Benning, GA.

Surviving him are his father, also an Army veteran, mother, wife, and two children.

We were again humbled by the reception given to a bunch of scruffy bikers by the family and friends of this hero and honored by the invitation; our small show of respect and gratitude for the sacrifices of our fallen service members and their families is the least we can do.

I only wish that it could be more.

I ache for the day that I can say I’ve ridden my last such mission. I fear that day will be a long time coming and I pray daily for the safety of our troops and for God’s soothing hand and sheltering wings over the families of those who have given their all for their country.

In Memoriam: Lt. Richard R. Anderson Jr.

On Monday, I had the sad duty of standing vigil over the interment of another American hero who gave all for his country.

Lt. Richard R. Anderson Jr., an SH-60 helicopter pilot with the HS-7 “Dusty Dogs”, was killed in a crash in Fallon Nevada while conducting training exercises in preparation for a deployment to the Persian Gulf.

This tragedy serves as a reminder that, even in times of peace, even when not deployed to a combat zone, our soldiers, sailors and airmen place themselves in harm’s way on a daily basis in preparation for that day when their their dedication and skills may be called upon.

This is why honorable service in the armed forces is venerated and celebrated even when not directly involved in hostilities. The military way of life is a life lived at the extreme edge of our potential. When performance, endurance and ability are stretched to the limit, sometimes those brave souls who have sworn to defend our way of life are called to make the ultimate sacrifice. These people we revere, we celebrate, and we will never forget.

We were not involved in the funeral itself as the family requested a private ceremony. We were, however, privileged to serve as an honor guard at the interment.

We met at the staging point and briefed as usual. It was a short notice affair so participation was light but, notably, a pair of patriots from Havelock North Carolina made the 3 hour ride to join us on our solemn mission.

After the short ride to the cemetery, we lined the entrance gate with our corridor of flags.

After the last of the mourners passed through, we moved to the grave site.

It was a very brief ceremony but all the more poignant for it. The Navy honor guard performed their duties flawlessly and tears flowed as Taps sounded for Lt. Anderson one last time.

With Memorial day coming up at the end of the month, I hope that everyone will use that day to reflect upon the sacrifices made by American Patriots throughout our country’s history to make and keep us free.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13

 

In Memoriam: CW2 Dwayne L. Moore

February 2 1976 – April 19, 2007

As usual, I didn’t personally know CW2 Moore. What little information I have about him was gleaned from various press reports, family recollections and the ceremony itself.

By all accounts, CW2 Moore was a fine soldier, patriot and family man. The youngest of seven children, he was an athlete in high school playing wide receiver for Lafayette High School. He joined the Army shortly after graduation in 1994 and married his High School Sweetheart with whom he fathered one daughter.

During his career, he furthered his education and graduated from Cameron university in Oklahoma which led to his promotion to Chief Warrant Officer and his assignment to 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division.

Some reports indicate that he was rendering aid to injured comrades following a rocket attack when a second rocket struck and fatally injured him.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 NIV

I had the great honor and privilege of participating in CW2 Moore’s funeral service as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, my fifth such mission.

Each and every one of these missions has rendered me virtually speechless. As hard as I try to convey the emotion that these missions evoke, the gratitude with which I view the fallen hero and his family, the pure pride that I feel in contemplating the sacrifices that the few make for we many…I fear that I am simply not up to the task. I am relegated to simply recounting the events with no hope of adequately conveying the feelings that accompanied them:

The Hampton Roads contingent met in the Super K-mart Parking lot on Norview near I-64.

After the mandatory introductions and a quick brief, we hit the interstate and headed toward the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and Newport News.

It was a workday so traffic was heavy, but flowing well.

We stopped in Newport News to pick up some more riders on the way and then continued up to Williamsburg.

At the funeral home, we met up with riders from Williamsburg itself as well as a contingent from Richmond and other more western locales.

After a thorough mission brief from our Ride Captain, Johnny (DLIQNT (delinquent)) George…

…we mounted up for the ride to the Church where the funeral was to be held.

We had a pretty good turnout. I think the final count was 28 bikes. Not an overwhelming show, but enough to properly render respects for the fallen.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Patriot Guard Riders, the group is completely voluntary with no member dues or special requirements. Most members are veterans and bikers, but neither is required. Cagers (those people who drive 4 wheeled vehicles) are more than welcome and we always have a few non-veterans amongst our ranks.

The group was initially established to protect the family and funeral services from the religious fanatics (I won’t honor them with a link and there is no way I will refer to them as Christians or belittle the denomination they defame by claiming membership) who were protesting funerals of our fallen service members. The “protests” quickly tapered off and are virtually unheard of at this point, but the Patriot Guard has continued the missions nonetheless. With no evidence of protesters, we basically form a “corridor of flags” through which the fallen hero and the mourners pass. We do not formally participate in the ceremonies, only stand vigil over them and render respect for the fallen, the family and friends. We only attend services when we are invited by the family and would never intrude where not wanted.

After the ceremony, as is typical, we are honored with the task of escorting the funeral procession to the grave site.

The gentleman to the extreme left in this photo was a member of CW2 Moore’s family. I didn’t want to intrude on his mourning by plying him with questions so I don’t know his exact relationship but I do know that this was his first Patriot Guard Riders mission.

It was especially meaningful to have a family member join our ranks for this mission.

I have a personal tradition of taking one of the “mission accomplished” pins from my vest to give to a first timer following each mission. This was done for me after my first and I like to carry on the tradition. I was honored, humbled and moved to tears to be able to give a “Mission Accomplished” pin to a family member of this hero. I only hope that it helped ease the suffering of his loss in some small way.

One of the most moving moments I’ve experienced in these missions occurred during the interment.

The three rifle volleys and rendering of Taps on the bugle always bring tears to my eyes and this ceremony was no exception, however, during the eulogy, a single white dove was released to fly heavenward. This represented the spirit of the fallen being freed of the bonds of earth. That single white dove and what it represented said more to me about my own personal faith than anything I’ve experienced in a long time.

My brother is a very talented Christian Music Pastor/song writer. One of his songs was originally composed while his wife’s mother was struggling with cancer. He revised the song somewhat to its present form when our own father was dying of the disease. I cannot listen to this song without crying…but they are tears of hope and happiness, not sadness. The hope that is brought out by faith in God’s plan for all of us and the happiness in the knowledge that we also will be “welcome in this place” when we arrive home.

I’m not going to embed the song into this post, but I will provide a link for your enjoyment.

Mission Accomplished.

Gathering Of Eagles

I have to apologize for not getting this up yesterday, however I claim illness. I actually started coming down with a bad head cold on Friday. By Saturday morning at 0330 when I arose to head to DC, I was downright miserable. Yesterday I took the day to rest and try to recover. I’m feeling a little better but now it’s trying to move into my chest. I took today off to rest some more and try to stave off Pneumonia but I don’t want to wait any longer to get my post up about the Gathering of Eagles.

As I said, I got up at 0330 Saturday morning, took a shower, got some snacks together and headed out. I fully intended to ride my bike but I was feeling very poorly and the temp was about 27 degrees when I left. I really don’t relish hospital time so I decided to do the prudent thing and drive the cage.

Traffic was light but I did have to stop a couple of times. Did I mention I didn’t feel very well?

Anyway, I got to the Franconia-Springfield metro station at about 0800 or so. As soon as I got to the ticket kiosk, I noticed a patriotic looking group of people so I introduced myself and asked if they would mind if I tagged along with them. (I’m the ugly guy in the “boony hat” second from the right)

Turns out that most of them were from North Carolina and were all members of the Patriot Guard Riders. I actually did a ride with them a couple of years ago. One of the group is the Virginia State PGR Ride Captain and is good friends with the Hampton Area ride captain and my friend Woody “Rustpicker” Wagner. Another of the group is an editor of Full Throttle magazine and was there partly to take pictures and write an article for the biker mag.

It was still pretty chilly when we got there…there was still some snow/frost on the ground…so, as we walked up on the “bullpen” for our area, I was a little surprised at the turnout.

The numbers are a bit in dispute. It seems that the NY Al Jazeera Times and some other “news” outlets reported our counterprotest to number in “the hundreds”.

I can say unequivocally that that estimate is pure, unadulterated BS.

I’ve seen counts as high as 30,000. I’m not sure that it was THAT high, but I will say it was well over 10,000. It was kind of hard to nail down because GOE people were scattered all through the area “patrolling” monuments, guarding the Wall, the Korea Memorial, the WWII Memorial, lining the street to point and laugh at the antics of the “anti-war” protesters. I’ve heard that some were dedicated at Arlington to protect the memorials there so it wasn’t like we had the whole group together at any one time to count heads. In other words, although my personal impression was 10,000+, I could easily be underestimating because of the “spread out” nature of our group. I wouldn’t dismiss the estimates of 30,000 out of hand for that reason.

There are also reports of the anti-war protestors numbering in the tens of thousands…again, I’ve got to throw the BS flag on that one. They pretty much WERE all together and didn’t even have the numbers in their group to match those in the GOE bullpen, let alone the throngs wandering around the mall and Arlington. I would say that they numbered around 5,000 or so. In my humble estimation, the patriots outnumbered the communists by a minimum of two to one. Probably closer to three to one.

Basically most of the day was occupied on both sides with speeches, music, chanting and flag/sign waving. The one thing that the other group had going for them: they had a MUCH better sound system than we did. Had I not known better, I would have thought this was an illegal immigrant rally considering the volume and regularity at which they blasted latino music into the frigid air.

There was a three hour wait to clear the screening area the Park Police had set up to visit the wall. This shot was taken from the GOE “bullpen” area toward the wall. Beyond the wall is the street lined with “eagles”, then the mass of press vehicles (which were notably sparse near the GOE “bullpen”) and the “anti-war” protest site beyond that.

The Police presence was pretty heavy. I’m sure they had heard of some of the threats coming from the other side and of our comitment to preventing them from carrying those threats out. They were in full force to prevent it from getting out of hand. I will say that the DC police and the Park Police were very professional and carried out their duties efficiently and effectively.

After walking around the reflecting pool to the Korea Memorial and up to the WWII memorial, I headed back down the street toward the wall and the “anti-war” protest. The street was lined with “Eagles”. Some carried signs, but most just waved flags. Chants of U..S..A….U..S..A.. would rise and then subside in response to “anti-war” protest chants.

I heard of no violence, but I did hear threats of it. I heard second hand the story of what became known as “Hill 35”. Just across the street from the Lincoln memorial is an area where vendors sell POW/MIA memoriabilia pretty much year round. There is a slight hill in the sidewalk up to that area from the Vietnam Wall. The story goes that a group of protestors were walking the sidewalk along the reflecting pool and were on their way up that hill toward the Lincoln memorial area. There was a group of Eagles at the top of the hill…either waiting for an opportune time to visit the wall, buying patches etc from the ubiquitous vendors there or just keeping a watchful eye out. When the protestors were seen approaching, the Eagles…mostly veterans and bikers, simply decided that the protesters were not taking “their hill”. The Eagles stood shoulder to shoulder and wouldn’t budge as the protesters tried to make their way through. The protesters tried to breach the impenenatrable defenses once or twice to no avail and…well…suffice it to say that the protestors went AROUND hill 35 on that day. Perhaps it was a small, maybe even petty, victory, but a victory nonetheless. Considering the brave talk coming from some of the protestors leading up to the event, when faced with the reality of thousands of battle hardened, steely eyed combat vets, their determination understandibly faltered just a little bit.

Another, slightly related, incident that happened to my group: the anti-war protest columnated with a march to Arlington and then to the Pentagon parking lot. Note the relative dearth of US Flags present in the protestor’s ranks. What do you think, SHOULD we question their patriotism? But I digress. As the march made its way toward Arlington, my little group kept pace with them on the sidewalk along the march route. The sidewalk was packed up to 6 deep with Eagles all along the route. As we kept pace with them, they shouted insults and challenges at us, some of which we couldn’t pass up. A common theme was “why aren’t YOU fighting?” The standard moonbat “chickenhawk” argument. You would think they would be smart enough to realize that the vast majority of Eagles were combat vets. The standard reply, of course, was “we served…where were you?”

The protesters were very brave and challenged us regularly as long as they were in their group marching and the Police were between them and us. But, as we got close to Arlington cemetary, my group of Eagles…about eight of us…decided that we needed to be on the other side of the street.

We stepped off the sidewalk and approached the line of protesters. I don’t know if the police just weren’t paying attention to us or they wanted to see what would happen but they didn’t try to stop us. It was hilarious how quiet the line of protesters got as we approached…all the jeering and chanting came to a screeching halt…the line separated and they backed away and eyed us warily…and we walked right through their line to the other side without a word.

Now, I’m not saying that we expected any different or that I wish violence had ensued, but it was just very funny how quiet they got when we approached them and they thought, however fleetingly, that they may have to put their money where their trash talking mouths were.

Also notable was the sheer number of protesters that were in disguise or masked in some way or another. I must ask: If your cause is righteous and just, if you truly are being patriotic and support the troops, why do you feel the need to hide your face? Who are you hiding from?

The closest to a disguised person on the Eagle’s side was a guy who had painted his entire head up like a flag. He wasn’t trying to disguise his identity, he was simply putting a face on his patriotism so to speak.

Anyway, I can say that the mission was a great success and it was heartwarming to see the true patriots in this great nation come together to defend the honor and sacrifices of our current crop of heros. I was proud to soar with the Eagles on 17 Mar 2007 and repeat the message passed from veteran to veteran on that great day: “Welcome home brother”.

Michelle Malkin has a great roundup and links to more coverage of the event.

By the way, I heard several people saying “There’s Michelle Malkin” and such but I never even got a good look at her, let alone a chance to meet her. It was just too crowded to get through…and I’ve never been much of a “famous person” sycophant anyway so it didn’t break my heart too badly.

Update: Michelle Malkin and Hot Air films has done an episode on the Gathering. It is outstanding.

Mission Accomplished: Cpl Joshua Stricklen

I had the honor Tuesday and Yesterday of participating in the tribute to of one of our Nation’s heros. Cpl Joshua Stricklen of Virginia Beach, VA was laid to rest at Colonial Grove Memorial Park.

For information about Cpl Stricklen as well as comments from friends and family please see here.

I didn’t personally know Cpl Stricklen, but I don’t need to have known him. All I need to know is that he risked, and ultimately laid down, his life for his fellow countrymen. Whether one agrees with our engaging in the war against Islamic Extremism or not. Whether one supports our Government’s actions or not. Whether one believes that the military planning and execution has been performed well or not: One cannot deny the dedication and sacrifices of the young men and women with their boots on the ground. One cannot deny the courage and selflessness with which they and their families serve and one cannot deny the debt of gratitude that we as Americans owe them.

I never fail to be moved to tears by these ceremonies and this one was no different.

The mission started with a vigil at the viewing Tuesday evening. We had a decent showing with about 15 bikes and 20 participants.

It was chilly but but not a complaint was to be heard. We all lined up to pay respects when the family arrived and then ran shifts to ensure that the vigil was maintained throughout the duration of the viewing.

We all manned up again at the conclusion to again pay our respects upon departure of the family. Cpl. Stricklen’s wife and a couple of other family members didn’t want to leave him alone so they stayed at the funeral home through the night.

As the rest of the family departed for the evening, An aunt of Cpl Stricklen made a point to approach several Patriot Guards (including myself) to express her thanks. The tears flowed feely as her heartfelt gratitude was expressed with much appreciated hugs and kind words.

The next day’s ceremony was in the afternoon requiring some logistical gyrations to get time off work. Considering that it was during the workday, we had a pretty good turnout. I believe the final count was 18 bikes and three cages and somewhere around 30 participants.

We staged in a local strip mall parking lot, signed sympathy cards, greeted first time mission participants, briefed the ride thoroughly (failing to plan is planning to fail) and said a quick opening prayer.

I thought it was interesting that the Police motorcycle escort chose the same parking lot as a staging area as we did. Great minds think alike and all that.

I was very happy to see the large police escort presence. The Police originally requested Patriot Guard riders to assist with traffic blocking duties (we have done this in the past with good results) but they decided that they had enough uniformed officers to do it and so we all were able to participate in the escort ride.

The funeral was held at the Little Creek Amphibious base Chapel. We parked in the parking lot and then took up our silent vigil outside the chapel.

The ceremony lasted a bit over an hour. The sad wailing of bagpipes emanating from the chapel was a poignant reminder of the solemn nature of the occasion.

Following the service, we took up our position in the funeral procession immediately preceeding Cpl Stricklen and his family. I cannot express how gratifying it is to be afforded the great honor of escorting the hero to his final resting place.

To me, this is the most moving part of our duties. The nuts and bolts of standing guard for the family and friends of the fallen hero is gratifying to say the least, but the honor of riding escort on this portion of the ceremony is, for a reason unknown even to me, simply emotional beyond words.

I never have pictures of the family, of the casket or of the graveside service because we are not there on a sightseeing mission. We are there to honor the fallen and the family. During the ceremony and any time the family is present, the cameras get put away and we stand our vigil. This is as it should be. As much as I would like to have pictures of some of the more moving events, it simply is not what we are there for and my desire for memorable pictures must, of necessity, take a backseat to the mission and to the Honor and Respect that the fallen and his family deserve.

Following this ceremony we had a short debrief during which Cpl Stricklen’s Commanding Officer (a Colonel who’s name has, unfortunately, escaped me), approached us. He effusively thanked us for what we do. Several family members and friends also thanked us at various times. This has occurred at every one of these missions I’ve been privileged to attend.

If any of the family members, friends or shipmates of Cpl Strickland happen across my humble blog I would like to pass on one message.

Your thanks are much appreciated but absolutely uneccesary. I, and I think I speak for all PGR members in this respect, am honored by the invitation to participate. It is an absolute privilege to be allowed the opportunity to pay our respects and give back in our insignificant way some small measure of the sacrifice made by Cpl Stricklen and his family. It is absolutely the least we can do and WE thank YOU from the bottom of our hearts for thinking enough of a bunch of scruffy bikers to allow us to support you in any small way we can.

I do have one final picture that I want to share. On the left in the red hat is Woody “Rustpicker” Wagner. He is the Tidewater area ride captain. The amount of effort he puts into organizing and leading these rides is unimaginable. I wanted to point him out because of the effort he puts into this worthy cause and to mention that he, in my mind, is a hero in his own right.

Rustpicker is also a veteran and is a member of the Combat Veteran’s Association. For his service while on active duty and now, in support of our latest generation of heros, I salute him.