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Monday, July 16, 2007

Saying Goodbye in Brookfield...

Saturday morning was beautiful. A little cool, sunny, with a slight breeze. I left my house at eight a.m. to make sure I was there early. It was a great day for a motorcycle ride, but this wasn't an ordinary ride.

I was going to help bid farewell to a Hero.

Jason Dale Lewis' funeral was Saturday morning in the town I grew up in. It was the first ride I was able to make with the PGR since joining, due to my work schedule. This one I had decided to be there for, no matter what.

When I arrived, the parking lot was already busy. Among those there, there were police, Navy pall bearers, and a pair that made my throat catch - a Marine with a riderless horse.

I was directed to where the Patriot Guard Riders were gathering, with a "thank you for coming."

When I arrived, an hour before the scheduled meeting time, there were already a few Riders there. I got help to rig my flag to the back of my motorcycle (duct tape and zip ties work wonders), and watched as the parking lot began to fill.

The final count was more than seventy motorcycles.

The bikes to my left - two rows deep.

The bikes to my right, also two rows deep.

As we waited there, people began to wander over, one or two at a time, to look at the motorcycles, and to talk to us. Some were Jason's family. His aunt stopped by, stopping to thank us for being there. I was stunned by that, and by several other thank yous we got that day. To be thanked by a Fallen Hero's family was humbling. After what Jason and his family had given, riding down didn't really seem like something worthy of thanks. It seemed to be so miniscule, and yet here they were, telling us how much it meant to have us there. Simply unbelievable.

The PGR takes their missions very seriously. Before heading over to form the flag line, we were briefed on what was going to take place, and on the conduct expected of us during the day.

As we got closer to the service, we were ordered to form a flag line outside the church. Several people came out to speak with us, including one governmental figure who shook hands with the entire flag line, thanking us for coming. I have to say, I thought that was pretty classy.

Some saw all the flags and cried, telling us how beautiful they looked. A man in a wheelchair saluted as he went by - I was told it was Jason's grandfather.

And then the Navy pallbearers stopped by to say thank you. It was another jaw-dropper for me.

Standing there, watching people file in, amid a line comprised largely of veterans, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of what I was doing. I watched the Navy pallbearers as they moved around the parking lot, and in and out of the church. They met the hearse when it pulled up.

When the service had started, we broke down the flag line, and headed to our motorcycles to prepare for the ride to the cemetary. The general route was one I'd travelled countless times when I lived in Brookfield and the next town over. But I'd never travelled them like this.

We rode out two abreast, under a flag draped from two fire trucks - the New Milford and Brookfield fire departments had come to pay their respects. There is video of the flag, and of the PGR, here and here.

People stood with flags here and there along the route. The local and state police did an excellent job with the escort, closing our route and allowing us to get to the New Milford cemetary without incident.

In the cemetary, people had come to stand along the route, too, holding flags and standing quietly along the drive. We waited until the procession entered the cemetary, and then formed a flag line around the service.

I'd never seen full military honors before, other than as portrayed on T.V. A number of Navy personnel were in attendance in addition to the pallbearers, and the lone Marine with the riderless horse was there, too. It is a somber, moving thing to see them. The professionalism and care with which they performed their duties is simply stunning. They moved Jason's flag-draped coffin gently into place as the service started.

There was the twenty-one gun salute, and the profoundly moving sound of Taps being played. Then the folding of the flag, and the presentation of that flag to Jason's wife. Tears flowed along the flag line, and among those in attendance.

A couple of times, as the minister spoke, the light wind would catch the flags and have them waving. One of those was just at the moment that he said the service was concluded.

And then came the moment when Jason's wife stopped at the flag line, and embraced one of the PGR members.

We were dismissed shortly after that, and I began the ride home still stunned by it all.

It's hard for me to explain the magnitude of the day. When a loved one is lost, the grief can be overwhelming. When a Hero is lost, it's not just one family that grieves. It's a community, a state, a nation.

The reality of the cost of war was never so tangible, so real, as that sunny Saturday when I stood among my fellow Patriot Guard Riders, to hopefully shoulder a little of the grief that Petty Officer Jason Dale Lewis' family was feeling.

The men and women who go to war know that they can become one of the fallen, carried in a flag-draped coffin as their family grieves. They know that they could lose their lives in a land far away

And still they go. For their families, for their friends, for strangers.

It was an honor to be able to help say farewell to one of them, and an experience that I will never forget. Though I wish I did not have to be called to do so again, I will be proud to stand with my fellow Patriot Guard Riders should the need arise.

Rest in Peace and Godspeed, Petty Officer Lewis, and thank you.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Thank you to Soldiers' Angels Richard and Adele for coming to the service.

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WATER SUPPLY — An Iraqi boy carries a package of water given to him by U.S. Army soldiers during a humanitarian mission in Buritz, Iraq, July 5, 2007. U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christopher Hubenthal

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In Today's News - Monday, July 16, 2007

Quote of the Day
"When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you,
therefore make firm those who believe.
I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve.
Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them."

-- The Qur'an [8:12]
(Doesn't strike me as very 'peaceful' - how about you? -- P.)

News of Note
Operation Iraqi Freedom
Bombs kill 80 in Iraq - Video
WHouse spurns Republican proposal
Republican unity on Iraq to be tested
Pressure Mounts for Speedy Iraq Results
Coalition Targets Al Qaeda Blog: The Trip I'll Never Forget

Operation Enduring Freedom
Afghan President Pardons Would-Be Teen Bomber

Homeland Security / War on Terror / Hamas-Hezbollah Happenings
TSA: All Clear After Miami Airport Terminal Evacuation
Hamas TV Follows Farfour with Nahoul the Bee
State Department Issues Travel Warning for Israel
U.N. Peacekeeping Patrol Struck by Bomb in Lebanon
Australia Says It Will Detain Suspect in Failed U.K. Bomb Plots on Immigration Charges If He Makes Bail
No Injuries Reported in Bombing at U.K. Embassy in Chile
Iraq inspired failed UK attacks: expert
Australia halts Indian doctor's bail release
Pakistani investigators hunt bombers as toll rises - Video
73 dead in northwest Pakistan attacks
Olmert presents Abbas with pro-Fatah amnesties
Bush to reaffirm vision for a Palestinian state
Fierce fighting in north Lebanon camp

Troops on Trial
Soldier, Sniper ... Killer?

Other Military News
Pilotless Robot Bomber Squadron Heads for Afghanistan, Iraq
U.S. may build shield in Poland in Feb-Russian paper

Worldwide Wackos
Nuke Inspectors Confirm North Korea Shut Down Reactor
Libya to decide fate of foreign medics in HIV case

Politics / Government
Bill Would Give FDA Power Over Content of Cigarettes
UPDATE '08: Giuliani to Reveal Judicial Advisory Panel
Presidential hopefuls increase spending

In the Courts / Crime and Punishment / Law and Order
New Jersey Millionaire to Stand Trial for International Child Sex Tourism

Media in the Media / Bloggers in the News / Watching the Web
It's no secret: Facebook's allure is its privacy

Science / Medicine / Technology
Choking risk for babies prompts Gerber recall
Zanzibar fishermen land ancient fish
Enduring a rare disease with no cure
No La Nina this summer, NOAA says

Mother Nature
Earthquake Kills 5 and Injures 500 in Japan - PHOTOS

Vermont Town Has Had Enough With Going Buff
As tasty as a truckload of rats
"Too sexy for my bus," woman told

Other News of Note
Would You Like a Side of High? - Restaurant workers cop to using most drugs

Fox News
Rebecca Romijn and Jerry O'Connell Married

Reuters: Top News
U.S. trade act seen as mixed blessing for Africa
Ethiopian opposition leaders escape death sentence
Bangladesh police detain former PM Hasina
Vertu rings till for British-made luxury goods
"Casual" the new video game buzzword
Japan smitten by puppy love - Video
Doctor who sparked vaccine scare faces UK hearing
"Harry Potter" rides to top of box office charts
Hype and hysteria as Harry Potter series nears end - Video
Oil climbs to $78, eyes all-time high
World stocks hit life high, oil eyes record
Verizon rises further on Vodafone bid talk
Gold steady near 5-week highs, dollar moves watched
Dollar struggles, hits multi-yr lows vs high yielders
Nintendo likely to keep growing strong
Losing out to globalization "menace"?
IHOP says to buy Applebee's for $2.1 billion
Vodafone says has no plans to bid for Verizon
RBS-led group offers more cash in $98 bln ABN bid
McDonald's sees EPS above Street expectations
Bancroft member moves to block sale of Dow Jones: source
Mattel posts higher quarterly profit

AP World News
Rapper Remy Ma arraigned in NYC shooting
Phillies lose No. 10,000; Bonds in slump
U.S. stocks head for flat open
Lindsay Lohan checks out of rehab center
EADS taps Gallois as new president
Ford denies it's in talks to sell Volvo
Cardinals hand Phillies 10,000th loss
Review: LuPone triumphs as Mama Rose
Univ. president fired after cover-up
Los Angeles ports facing strike threat
Politics, pollution collide in NYC plan
World's Largest Veteran Job Board
Slideshow: A Bloody Business
Op-ed: The Wrong Test for Iraq
Def Tech: New Prez Helo Takes Flight
Daily Shock: The Shrapnel Detector
Movie Review: Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

CENTCOM: News Releases

USJFCOM leaders, others to speak at 2007 industry symposium
Command seeks input from industry and academia to develop a force provider collaborative workflow staffing capability
Download the requirements (Adobe Acrobat reader required)
Newsmaker Profile: Joseph Camacho
More about JKDDC
USJFCOM, others to test Coalition Combat Identification capability during Bold Quest 07
More about CCID - podcast

Multi-National Force-Iraq
Security forces gaining strength, generals say
Anbar leaders celebrate awakening
Armor, infantry join forces to treat patients
Role-model town produces positive results
Second School destroyed in two days north of Baghdad
Iraqi Army and Coalition Forces detain insurgent leader and two accessories
Task Force Lightning Soldier attacked
Car-bomb factory discovered, destroyed in Qanat Banat Al Hasan
MND-C begins new offensive operations
Iraqi civilians hit by insurgent indirect fire

Patriotism, Pride Spur On Troops in Combat - Photos
Troops Receive Mediterranean Hospitality
Bush Urges Vigilance to Ensure Surge Succeeds
Gates: Al Qaeda Presence Grows in North Africa - Video
Pace Vows U.S. Will Track Down Attackers

More Headline News
Progress May Lead to Troop Reductions in Iraq
Iraq Surge Operations Have ‘Significant’ Impact
Troops’ Focus, Motivation Remains Rock-Solid

Military News
Guard Troops Continue Kansas Flood Assistance
Global Engagement Teaches Leadership, Base Deployment
Advance Team Smooths Way for Comfort Mission

War on Terror
Nine Extremists Detained
Iraq Raids Net Terrorists, Weapons
Top Terrorist Leader Captured
Forces Kill 2, Capture 19 in Iraq

Symposium Keys on Future
Officials Realign Installations
Defense Officials Offer Million-Dollar Prize for Power Innovations

Face of Defense
Sailor Earns Bronze Star
Coach Chooses Army Life
Twins Become Captains

America Supports You
Radio Show to Feature Troops
Foundation Helps Families
Groups Partner to Help Troops
Airmen Elect ‘Best Mom’

BLOGGERS' ROUNDTABLE with U.S. ARMY Brig. Gen. Michael J. Walsh
Efforts Will Have Lasting Impact - Story
Bloggers' Roundtable Web Site

Forces Kill 2, Capture 19 in Iraq - Story

Coalition, Afghan Workers Complete Projects - Story
Hawaiian Soldiers Strengthen Ties with Project - Story
Role-model Town Produces Positive Results - Story

Iraqi National Police Receive Medical Training
Iraqi Army Cleans Baghdadi of Insurgency
Operation Sets up Combat Outpost in Iraq
Hundreds of Police Recruits Vie for Security Jobs
Once Violent Iraqi Neighborhood, Now Peaceful
Cooperative Efforts Returning Falahat to Normal
Ironhorse Brigade, City of Austin Team up in Iraq

Civil Affairs Donates Supplies to African Hospital
Marines Train Djiboutian Navy in Security Tactics
Medical Task Force Educates to Save Lives

Army Medics Continue Sustained War Efforts
Army Engineers Host Summit in Afghanistan
Joint Medical Engagement Treats Afghans
Bank Agreement Strengthens Afghan Economy
Afghan Leaders Provide Aid to Flood Victims


Renewal In Iraq
Iraq: Security, Stability
Fact Sheet: Progress and Work Ahead
Report: Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Iraq Daily Update
This Week in Iraq
Multinational Force Iraq
State Dept. Weekly Iraq Report
'Boots on the Ground' Audio Archive
War on Terror Reconstruction Report
Iraq Reconstruction

Afghanistan Update

Fact Sheet: Budget Request
Fact Sheet: Terror Plots Disrupted
Waging and Winning the War on Terror
Terrorism Timeline
Terrorism Knowledge Base

Bost/Laskar Ghurian Herat Kabul Qandahar

Ansbach Aschaffenburg Berlin Berlin-Tempelhof Berlin/Schonefeld Bremerhaven
Darmstadt Frankfurt Frankfurt/Main Freiburg/Breisgau Garmisch
Garmisch-Partenkirchen Geilenkirchen Gelnhausen Giessen Kitzingen
Hanau Am Main Heidelberg Mainz Mannheim Nurnberg Stuttgart Trier
Wiesbaden Wurzburg


Agana Agana Heights Agat Andersen AFB Asan Barrigada

Al Azamiyah Al Basrah Al Hillah Al Karkh Al Kazimiyah Al Kut
An Nasiriyah Baghdad Baqubah Mosul Najaf Nineveh Tall Kayf

Kadena Air Base Okinawa Tokyo Yokohama

Today in History
- Origin of the Islamic Era (Muharram 1, 1 AH)
1439 - England bans kissing.
1775 - U.S. founding father John Adams graduates from Harvard.
1790 - Congress establishes the District of Columbia.
1798 - The U.S. Public Health Service is established; the U.S. Marine Hospital is authorized.
1862 - David G. Farragut becomes the U.S. Navy's first Rear Admiral.
1904 - Samoan chiefs cede the islands of the Manu'a group to the U.S.
1912 - B.A. Fiske patents the airplane-launched naval torpedo.
1927 - Augusto Sandino begins his five-year war against U.S. occupation of Nicaragua.
1941 - Seattle, WA records a record-high temperature of 100˚ F.
1945 - The first atomic bomb is detonated at the Trinity Site in Alamagordo, NM.
1956 - Barnum & Baily Circus is held in a canvas tent for the last time.
1957 - Marine Major John Glenn sets a transcontinental speed record (03:28:08).
1962 - NASA civilian test pilot Joseph A. Walker takes the X-15 to 32,600 m.
1969 - Apollo 11, carrying the first men to land on the Moon, is launched.
1973 - During the Watergate hearings, Alexander Butterfield reveals the existence of tapes.
1980 - Ronald Reagan is nominated for President.
1982 - NASA launches Landsat-4; its job is to create a thematic map of the Earth.
1983 - Britain's worst helicopter accident kills 20.
1985 - The F-86 Sabre sets a world aircraft speed record of 1716 m.p.h. (152 k.p.h.)
1990 - In New York City, the Empire State Building catches fire; there are no fatalities.

Today is "District of Columbia Day"

- Giuseppe Piazzi, discovered the first asteroid (Ceres)
1821 - Mary Baker Eddy, founded Christian Science
1872 - Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer, discovered South Pole
1887 - "Shoeless" Joe Jackson, baseball great
1888 - Frits Zernike, inventor of the phase-contrast microscope, Nobel Prize winner
1896 - Trygve Lie, first UN Secretary-General
1907 - Orville Redenbacher, popcorn king
1932 - Richard L. Thornburgh, U.S. Attorney General

1918 - Czar Nicholas II of Russia and his family, executed
1991 - Frank Rizzo (Mayor-Philadelphia)

Reported Missing in Action
Neco-Quinones, Felix V., US Army (PR); released by PRG February, 1973

Dawson, James V., USAF (KY); F100D shot down, KIA, body not recovered

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