Tuesday, September 18, 2007

An Escort for a Soldier

On September 15th my fellow H.O.G. members participated in our annual “Iron Butt Ride” of 12.2 miles for charity. This was our was our 7th year and the money we raise goes to our scholarship charity that we award to a local graduating senior each year who lives in our county and has a relative who owns a Harley-Davidson. We had a lot of fun and my husband got real lucky and won the 50/50 raffle. Momma wants a new pair of shoes (notice I didn’t say I need a new pair of shoes).

We finished up the raffles and drawings quickly to stay on time because we had another important event to participate in. Several weeks ago two of our members ask if anyone would like to ride their bikes and help escort their son Tony who was returning home with his Stryker brigade from a fifteen month tour in Iraq. We arrived at the rest stop with thirty bikes and at least forty people when you count those riding two up.

Angie had contacted the Combat Vets and they arrived with a group to lead the escort and several other local chapters notified their members and we had sixty bikes for the escort waiting for Tony to arrive. Surprise--because Marla and Bill told their son they would meet him there but didn’t tell him that all these bikers would be waiting to cheer him home. You see Tony bought a Harley while he was in Iraq and he will take delivery of it October 5th and will become our newest H.O.G. member in the chapter.

All we could do was visit with friends and wait. Someone yelled, “here he is” and the look on his face was like, “where I am going to park my vehicle with all these bikes taking up the spaces?” Then people were calling out his name and waving and the look on Tony’s face was stunned silence. Marla had tears coming down her cheeks to see her son home safe. We gave the family a few moments for welcoming hugs and the Combat Vets then greeted their brother with hand shakes and hugs. Slowly most of the crowd also moved forward to either shake Tony’s hand, hug him, or both.

Mike S. was there with his trusty camera and wide angle lens for a few groups shots before we pulled out and headed up the highway. Several of the bikes with the Combat Vets lead the vehicle Tony was driving with his wife and baby. His family and the rest of the bikes fell into a staggered riding formation stretching out for almost a mile down the freeway. Riding farther back in the pack and sitting elevated on what everyone refers to as a “princess seat” on our ultra classic I had a view of the entire procession ahead of us when we hit the dips and twists. Quite impressive! I am sure the motorists who passed us wondered why there were so many of us and where we were going. Mike had gone ahead of us and was stationed on an overpass to take some shots of the escort parade coming into town.

We ended the ride in Bellingham at a park where everyone could visit and do some more picture taking. Bill spoke on behalf of the family and thanked everyone for making this surprise welcome home for Tony and his family a very special event. Bill also asked that we remember those who have not returned home alive and to remember those still serving their country.

Mike and Miss Patti had a large oversized flag attached to their bike all day and it was quit a sight waving behind their bike. At the park Mike presented Tony with the flag as a remembrance of his escort home.

I have always told my kids that you are born into a family and that in life you also have others who become your family. This HOG group is my family. Thank you Marla and Bill for inviting the HOG family to become a part of your family and sharing such a precious memory with us.

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