"The principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale." --Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 13

Patriot Guard

I am not dead. It's been a combo of taking a break from blogging and a broken laptop that I have delayed having worked on because I have found the tether of my Blackberry enough as of late. I did however have a few things on my mind that I would like to write down, if for no other reason than to sort through them myself.

On Jan 15th 1991, I was an 11 year old Cub Scout. I was in charge of the flag ceremony at our pack meeting that night. Earlier in the day, my country had entered a war with Iraq and Saddam Hussein and the Gulf War began. I wasn't sure what to think as a young boy. All I knew was the country in which I lived was involved in war, which I knew was a scary place to be. I knew nothing of the politics, middle east history or even where Iraq and Kuwait were. For some reason, I felt emotional about the soldiers and the military. I asked if I could play the Lee Greenwood Classic "Proud to be an American" on my tape player before the flag ceremony. I remember crying. I remember a lot of people crying. That's what scared me the most. I sat in front of the TV with a typewriter documenting the war as I watched hours of news coverage and night vision pictures of green Scud missiles intercepted by Patriot missiles over Baghdad. I thought somebody needed to write this down in case we didn't survive. As a young buy I had a soft spot in my heart for soldiers and the military. More inclusive, were all things patriotic. If this experience as a boy taught me anything, it was that I should be grateful that I didn't have to fight in such a war. Throughout my youth, I would always remember that night and even today I always get a lump in my throat when I hear a really great rendition of the Star Spangled Banner or see Old Glory presented by soldiers in the 4th of July parade.

Because of this "unmanly" soft spot in my heart for things patriotic, and my gratitude that I have never been called upon to leave my family to put my country's welfare before my own, I decided I should at least find a way to show that gratitude to those who have. I was recently talking with a friend that told me about the Patriot Guard Riders. They are a group of motorcyclists who are invited by the families of fallen soldiers to escort the funeral processions and show respect as soldiers return home. This immediately became something I wanted to do.

Last Friday, I attended my first "mission" with the Patriot Guard. It was for Col. Steven Mittuch who was stationed at HAFB. He was killed in a car accident early last week. I didn't know him. I didn't know his family or anyone who even knew him. But he joined the Air Force in 1988 and spent his career defending my country. I wasn't sure what to expect when I got there but given my past history of patriotic soft-heartedness, knew that there was potential for a few manly tears.

When I arrived at HAFB, I was the only one in the parking lot who wasn't a veteran. I was the youngest of the group...I didn't have any veteran's patches on my leather jacket. I didn't have on a bandanna and I immediately went back to the days of a 7th Grader's first day of school. I spoke with several men as we waited for our instructions. One man asked me if I was a veteran. I told him no and that I felt a little out of place amongst these veterans. He told me not to worry. He explained that these veterans get more excited to see a civilian than they do fellow veterans. It shows them that someone cares besides the group of veterans that were there.

We proceeded out onto base. About 40 riders parked their bikes and were given full sized flags. We stood in parallel flag lines outside a hangar on the flight line. The hangar doors opened and the widow and her family proceeded between the flag lines. Congressmen and decorated officers followed. Once the family was out on the flight line, F-16's flew over the family in the missing man formation and the lead jet shot heavenward directly above us. It was a very moving experience to be part of.

As I stood there saluting and holding an American flag for this man and the hundreds of people who attended his funeral, I thought to myself..."What qualifies you to even be here? You're not a veteran. Your life has never been threatened in defense of your country!" I still don't think I have answers to those questions yet. But I do know that if my country called me, I would. One thing I did realize is that those who have served our country deserve alot more gratitude than they are given.