That Other Group I Ride With
By Liz Smith
Some of you may have noticed that I was absent from the April Spokes-Women meeting. I was riding with “that other group” I sometimes ride with, the Patriot Guard Riders. I would like to tell you a little about the group and about two recent rides I went on.
The Patriot Guard Riders are a diverse group of riders from across the nation whose goal is to honor and respect our armed forces and veterans. Many of the members are veterans (Viet Nam and others), many are parents, children or spouses of veterans, and some have no connection with our armed forces. Some folks ride on two wheels, some on three and some on four – but our common goal is respect.
The rides we go on are called “missions” – as in each case we have a job to do. Some missions are happy ones (welcome home escorts and the like), and some are quite sad occasions (funeral escorts and flag lines). Many times we work with other organizations to carry out these missions. I am honored to serve as a Ride Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders.
On April 10 Charlie and I joined about a hundred other riders at the McDonalds in Bayville, New Jersey in preparation for a Welcome Home mission for SPC Nicole Addonizio who had recently returned from her second tour of duty in Iraq. With the assistance of Ocean Gate police, fire and EMS we “quietly” proceeded to this young lady’s Ocean Gate home and our Senior Ride Captain “lightly” tapped on her door. She came outside to receive many welcome home hugs and thank-yous for her service. She looked more than a little stunned.
Once everyone had a chance to thank her we gave her a motorcycle escort to the local fire house where the mayor of Ocean Gate, the Yellow Ribbon Club and others had a welcome home ceremony waiting for her. Once again, she looked a little bit stunned by the outpouring of emotion welcoming her home.
Here’s a link to some pictures that were taken of the event:
Unfortunately, not all missions are happy ones. Sunday, April 17 was the first day of a three day mission, the only day I was able to participate. This part of the mission was a motorcycle escort of the remains of a fallen hero, SGT Keith Buzinski, from Dover AFB, Delaware to a funeral home in Yardville, New Jersey. SGT Buzinski was killed in action in Afghanistan.
About 30 riders began the escort at Dover AFB, and about 30 more joined the escort in Penns Grove, New Jersey with assistance from both Delaware and New Jersey State Police. Due to the high winds, I notified my State Captain that I would report directly to the funeral home and help coordinate on that end. I requested that he in turn let me know how many bikes we were expecting before the escort departed Penns Grove.
Charlie and I managed to keep the bikes upright and in our own lanes on I-195 and US 130 until we arrived at the funeral home about a half hour or so ahead of the escort. This gave me a chance to talk with two other PGR regulars as well as the casualty assistance officer and the funeral director to determine where he wanted the bikes, the flag line, the hearse, and so on. He also asked me if we could provide 6 people to serve as pallbearers, which I assured him we could.
Soon after our conversation I heard the rumble of approaching bikes and took up a position from where I could direct the lead bikes toward a large shared parking area. As soon as our State Captain got off his bike I relayed the request for pallbearers and requested that the riders form a flag line around the hearse in preparation for transfer of the casket into the funeral home.
As our six volunteers carried the casket inside the remaining riders held flags, snapped to attention and saluted SGT Buzinski.
Once the casket was inside the group was dismissed – many headed out for a late lunch at nearby Mastori’s diner. Others headed back to Philadelphia, Delaware, and other areas from which they had come. Charlie and I talked with a few other ride captains in attendance and then headed back home.
Some pictures of this mission are posted here:
These were two very different missions but each important in its own way – both were about respect and honor. And if you notice from the pictures, many members wear dark sunglasses whether it is sunny or not. They serve not only to protect the riders’ eyes, but also to hide tears of joy and sadness.