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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I don’t usually go to bike night. I feel a little out of place and I don’t know many people as I tend to keep to myself. To make things worse, I’m embarrassingly bad at remembering names. Even though I seem outgoing and friendly, I’m really shy and reclusive. It’s a constant battle with myself to step up and say hello to somebody. I’m happy just to slip into the comfort of the “Ebay coma” on my couch after work.

When I got to Antonio’s on Thursday, I rode into the bike parking area going the wrong way. Ugh. It begins. Can I just crawl under a rock, please? I was greeted with smiles and, “you’re going the wrong way, girl.” Moments later I was chatting with a Patriot Guard member who had happened to pull up next to me. Soon I was at a table in the bar with about ten other members, frantically trying to commit their names to memory. After a few diet sodas and some food, I filled out the ride waiver and got the final itinerary and road rules.

I hung out for another hour or so at Antonio’s, talking to others and looking at all of the bikes in the parking area. There were all kinds—from mopeds to cruisers and street bikes. Everyone was great and I had a wonderful time. I got home after ten, wondering how I would get any sleep before the next day’s mission.

It was cool and dark when I left my house on Friday morning; a chance of rain. I was sleepy. I was restless and uncomfortable the night before, wondering what to expect in the morning. I had considered taking my truck because of the weather, and some nervousness about riding in formation, but a fellow member talked me out of it. I put on my leathers, which I hadn’t had occasion to wear before around large numbers of people, and started my bike.

When I got to the first rally point in Round Rock, I was greeted by seven or so fellow bikers and a few odd looks from the regular patrons and staff at the fast food restaurant. I felt a little weird—fat woman in leathers. I’m a teacher. I’m a mom. I’m a little reclusive. Do I really fit in here? Somehow it wasn’t so bad. The unconditional acceptance of the other bikers was like a comforting blanket; they didn’t care who I was or what I looked like, just that I was there with them to honor a fallen hero and support her bereaved family.

The formation was strange at first; I took fifth position since it was my first official group ride. Somehow my inexperience with formation riding didn’t cause any trouble. I’m comfortable on my bike and I’ve been riding long enough that I just fell into place and concentrated on keeping a tight formation. There were about twenty of us by the time we left the restaurant. I had studied the hand signals the night before; afraid I’d do something horribly wrong or make an ass of myself. I’d only ever ridden with a few friends in a casual formation through the hill country and the prospect of doing something stupid, at speed on the highway, in front of a group of seasoned bikers was a little scary.

The ride to the second rally point was uneventful, but the gusty weather made us work hard; we kept a nice, tight formation and rolled up to the big parking lot in Temple to be greeted by a sea of shiny metal and over a hundred more bikers. It was about ten degrees cooler in Temple than in Austin, and the sky was that dull, gray color like galvanized steel. The weather was appropriately gloomy, but it didn’t rain. The Temple Police did a wonderful job of briefing us, as did our ride leaders, passing on the information and getting us formed up. I felt comfortable and ready to ride when we went “kick stands up” (KSU) and rode to the church.

The police had stationed the uninvited guests (UGs) in front of the church on the right side of the road, and the ride leaders instructed us to go “eyes left” as we passed them. There were only six UGs with their awful, day-glow hate signs—a paltry effort on their part—as sad and misguided as their purpose. We rode into the back parking lot of the church, ignoring them, and parked. The ride leader gave me a large flag to hold up. We quickly formed a wall of red, white, and blue under the direction of the leaders. It was beautiful. We were called to attention and saluted as the family passed by. I felt a great swelling of pride and a wave of sadness as the family’s limousine passed our ranks; PFC Duerksen’s mother sadly gazing at us as she passed by in the polished, liquid black sedan.

We were invited in to the funeral, but I stayed outside. It was hard enough watching the family pass by, and I didn’t think I could handle the funeral. Many others, for their own reasons, stayed outside as well. The mood in the parking lot was subdued, and we patiently waited in the morning chill for the word to re-form our wall of flags for the departure of the family. The UGs left after about half an hour. Perhaps they realized that they weren’t going to get any attention from anyone at the service, aside from the news crew, and gave up. The family and the chaplain thanked us for our patriotism and support, and the guests took pictures of us with their camera phones.

The ride to the cemetery was an amazing sight—I wish I could have seen the whole thing from the roadside. We must have been a mile long. Oncoming cars and trucks stopped and watched as we passed. When we arrived, we again formed a wall of flags and saluted at the appropriate time, under the direction of our ride leaders. The flag-folding ceremony was precise and touching, and the soldiers who executed it were very professional and somber.

After the ceremony, we rode back to Austin individually. The ride leader told me to keep the flag he had given me to use; “you’ll need it for next time.” I was lost in my thoughts on the way home and grateful for the opportunity to relax a little on my own, without having to worry about keeping in formation. It was a long, tiring day, but rewarding in that I got to give something back to a fallen soldier and her family. My individual part in the mission was nothing, but with my fellow Patriot Guard Riders, it added up to something beautiful.

Maus

For more information about the PGR, visit www.patriotguard.org.
 

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Whay a nice story. I belong,but have not had a mission close to me yet. This group shows what America is all about. My Dad was a ww2 vet and I've really come to appreciate what they did. We're losing more every day now than ever before. Thanks for being a part of the group and a big thank you for doing the mission. You have no idea what your kindness means to the family.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks, PatriotARK, I'm glad you enjoyed my story; that first mission was certainly a moving experience. The PGR appreciates your kind sentiment, as do I. Please check into the PGR website (www.patriotguard.org) for more information. We have chapters in nearly every state and we just hit the 20,000 member mark. There are lots of meet and greet activities going on every week, and a national rally in July.
Best,
M
:thanks:
 
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