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Monday, September 17, 2007

Saturday - 1744th and Bowman Family

Saturday started at 0300. It should have started at 0900 but the missus wanted to have breakfast Saturday morning before I went on a PGR mission, with some PGR folks she hasn’t seen in a while. Well, then she proceeds to say out till 0100 and informs me as she crawls into bed, that she is gong to sleep in... Jeese. Those people she hasn’t seen in a while are going to be there so I CAN’T sleep in.

So, I’m up at 0330 (read O-Butt thirty), dragging my tired ass around (I was up till 2300 hours Friday night trying to sew... (that’s another blog post at another time, promise) trying not to wake anyone.

It was 38 degrees here Saturday morning and predicted to be 68 for a high. Leather was the uniform for the day but I had to be sure there was room in the saddle bags to put things as I warmed up.

0400 - I head out. After a summer of 33 90+ degree days my blood has thinned, bad. My coat wasn’t zipped completely, no gloves and no head covering except for a very thin skull cap. And for those that don’t know, no windshield (a.k.a. - wuss shield) I love the cold, I am almost never cold. Last year I rode in 20 degree weather.

It is 8 miles from my house to the first meeting place. How do I say this... OK, it was just COLD!!! By the time I got to the first McDs (and there was no interstate riding) I was shaking like a leaf in a hurricane. My gawd I was cold. On go the gloves, skull mask, zip the coat up to my neck and zip the sleeves closed. I was better, and we were on to the second stop for breakfast and hot coffee. I was much better.

Enough about me. The real reason for Saturdays trip. The 1744th was coming home!! 150 members of The 1744th Transportation Company were coming home after 17 months in the sand box, all of them!!

We, about 20 of us, met with them at Camp Atterbury in Edinburgh, IN. We rode up I-65, around Indy on I-465 then west on I-74 to the Indiana Illinois line. At the IL line about 50 Illinois riders joined us and we went on to I-39 and up to Streater, IL.

The IL State police escorted us the whole way. About 10 miles into IL the bridges were full of people waiving flags and waiving at their Illinois sons and daughters coming home. At the Streater city limits we were picked up by two fire trucks and a Streater city police officer. Sirens screaming, lights flashing, we entered the town. The streets were lined with flags and well wishers. Children, grand parents, parents, brothers and sisters lined the streets with signs ‘welcome home’, ‘we are proud of you’, welcome home John, your family missed you’.

In the central park are of the town several hundred (maybe a thousand, I can’t estimate crowds) people were waiting. As the heroes got off the buses you could hear the families call out ‘Johnny, we missed you’. The solders, not yet relieved from duty, had to off load and form ranks one more time.

As they walked by, many... most were mugged by family. Long hugs from tearful family. A husband smelling his now year old son for the first time. A mother holding her now walking and nearly talking 3 year old.

As the solders were being dismissed we crossed the street and had some late lunch at the local VFW. Shortly after that we left.

Here are a couple videos and pics. They’re from my phone, so give me a break on the quality, but I think you’ll get an idea of the festivities.







Now for the mission of missions and to date, the greatest honor I have had with the PGR.

While we were in Camp Atterbury some of us decided to ride on to Illinois. The reason, the Sr. Ride Captain from IL, Greg Bowman died last weekend in a motorcycle accident. He had just logged 20K miles in 20 weeks, on PGR missions. Because our first mission is funerals of KIA and in effect Greg was in action, in our minds. We reasoned that many of the IL riders would be there and not able to meet the 1744.

News of Greg’s death had reached these troops. In a brief but very honorable ceremony Caption Jennings presented us, the riders going all the way to Streater, IL, with a flag. Not just A flag, THEIR flag. Yeah, the flag they had flown in Iraq for 16 months at their duty station. It was their request, that we present this flag, as a token of their appreciation for his service to Americas Military, to Mrs. Bowman.

During our quick dinner, it was decided that I *gulp* should present the flag to Mrs. Bowman... wow, this is more of an honor than I can describe. I’m glad it was about an hour to Princeton, IL because I spent the time composing my self and trying to find some words that might express what I was feeling and what needed to be said.

When we got there, the official service was over so we went to the Bowman’s house. About 25 members of the family were there and gathered around and I presented THE flag. It has never been harder for me to speak. I think I did ok.

20 hours after leaving home, 675 miles passed. 150 Heroes are home. THE flag has been presented. A widow knows her husband will not be forgotten. Tears were shed. Hugs were exchanged. New friendships have been formed.

And I am humbled.

It was a good day.

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