OK, I'm like mega-exhausted here, lol, so this will not be my finest writing ever. It took me forever to get the pics from today uploaded cuz my computer was being bratty.
Anyway, let's see... to begin at the beginning.... I learned yesterday of the funeral of PFC Kenneth "Aaron" Kincaid of Lilburn, Georgia who was KIA in Iraq on 9/23/06 as the result of an IED. Representing Soldiers' Angels, my friend Karen and I went to Tom Wages Funeral Home in Snellville last night to pay our respects to the family (having called first, of course, to verify that this was open to the public). The family was very kind, gracious, warm and thankful for all the support they are receiving from the community.
Since I was able to get off work for the funeral today (which, as mentioned previously, we had verified was in fact open to the public), the Soldiers' Angels founder (Patti Patton-Bader) contacted me late yesterday afternoon and told me that the Patriot Guard Riders were going to be in attendance. She asked if she pay-palled me the $$, could I please provide food, water, whatever, for the Patriot Guard Riders? Of course I would. Anyway, at the funeral home last night, a representative of the PGR was present. Karen & I introduced ourselves, and told him that Soldiers' Angels wanted to provide food or whatever for them tomorrow. He said they already had water/snacks etc covered, but if we wanted to bring breakfast, that would be great. He also talked to me about joining the PGR -- don't know how that subject came up -- I know he brought it up, not me, haha! He said there are several non-biker members, the only requirement for membership is "RESPECT" for our fallen and their families. So... I signed on the dotted line, so to speak. :)
Anyway, I asked him what kind of breakfast we should bring for them....He said just plain ole donuts would be good, but Karen & I both agreed we wanted to do better by them than just donuts. So, after brainstorming with Karen, 0I found myself at Chick-Fil-A at close to 9 pm talking to the manager. To his credit, he didn't have a heart attack when I placed an order for "enough biscuits, hash browns, & coffee to feed 40-50 big hungry biker dudes, and by the way I need it by 6 a.m.!" And...sure enough... 6 a.m. today, I walked in to Chick-Fil-A, and it was ready & waiting!!!! They did a most excellent job....even loaned me a cooler to tote it all in, so the food wouldn't get cold!!!! Yay chick-fil-a!
I got to the church early this morning, and my car became a fast-food restaraunt, haha.... I opened up the hatchback and had everything all set up, coffee cups, coffee, cream, donuts, all the chick-fil-a stuff.... everything except the stupid orange juice and napkins I forgot to grab on the way out this a.m.!!!! ack! Anyway, I'd been pretty nervous about today, not knowing what to expect, but the PGR folks made me feel VERY welcome and were VERY gracious and helpful and really went out of their way to make me feel part of the bunch. Which was good, cuz I was sooo out of my element, hahaha! ;)
Shortly before 10:00, when the funeral was to start, the PGR folks lined up on either side of the walkway leading to the church door. Most were carrying large flags that they'd brought with them. We stood there at attention as folks went into the church. The hearse pulled up, and several soldiers acted as pallbearers. It was amazing watching them - they worked together like clockwork. As the casket was taken out of the hearse, the PGRs who were veterans saluted; those of us who are not veterans put our hands over our hearts. After the casket and the family and the last of the attendees had gone inside the church, we were free to either go in to the service ourselves, or stay outside. Only one other PGR guy wanted to go into the service, the rest opted to wait outside. We slipped into a back pew to watch the funeral mass. It was lovely. I did really good... up until the priest read a eulogy written by the soldiers' father. Then, I was very glad I'd brought Kleenex with me. Very, very glad. Once mass was over, we slipped outside and lined up with the rest of the PGR again, like before, until the family had left the church and the casket was loaded back on the hearse.
One of the PGR guys who'd waited outside told me that while we'd been in the church, they'd each chipped in some cash towards the breakfast I'd brought. I was floored... I told him, "Y'all didn't have to do that -- Soldiers' Angels paid for it, not me!!!!" He said that was fine, just give it to Soldiers' Angels then...they really, really appreciated the breakfast. I was just amazed...that was so kind of them. Soldiers Angels provided breakfast to them as a gift, as both groups work towards the same goals: support our troops, honor our fallen, remember the families. For them to take up a donation for Soldiers Angels was just incredible. I'll be putting that check in the mail to Soldiers Angels tomorrow, first thing!!!
OK, anyway, where was I? Sorry, I'm tired and rambling! Unlike most funerals, we did not depart for the cemetary right away. There was a reception in the basement of the church, serving ham and other assorted goodies. We ate lunch, and then just hung out till 1:00, when it was time to escort the family to the cemetary. To say that it was an honor to be in that group is a mega understatement... mega mega understatement of the century. It was a sight to behold for sure. First, I believe there were a few PGR bikes in the lead (not sure how many, since I couldn't see up that far). Then came the hearse, two limos for the family members, and then... I dunno.... 30 motorcycles? Approximately? I didn't count, haha. (Most of the bikes had big American flags mounted on the back, which was an awesome, awesome sight to see as we drove down the highway, flags flying in the wind!!! Just, WOW.) Next in the lineup after the bikes was a Patriot Guard lady who was in her car, followed by me, followed by another Patriot Guard lady in her big blue truck -- her truck sported a huge American Flag and huge PGR flag... it looked EXTREMELY cool. After her came the remainder of the funeral party.
The trip to the cemetary was a long one -- about 70 miles from where the church was. We went to the National Cemetary in Canton, Georgia. Took about 2 hours to get there. Once we got there, we did the same thing as before -- we all lined up with our flags for the casket and the family. Aaron was buried with full military honors and it was amazing. I learned two things today: 1) 21-gun salutes are much louder in person than they are on tv, and 2) Taps, which is sad no matter when you hear it, when heard in the context of a military funeral, is just heart-wrenching beyond belief. Nobody that I saw had a dry eye... and again, I was thanking God for Kleenex. It was rough... especially when they folded the flag on the casket and presented it to the widow. Flags were presented to each of the parents, as well. Then bagpipes played Amazing Grace, and shortly thereafter, the service was concluded.
It was a humbling, incredible experience to say the least. Heart-wrenching, yet amazing, too. I'm so thankful I had the oppotunity to be there... I'd missed Mike Stokely's funeral last year... I did not want to miss ANOTHER local Hero's funeral if I could possibly help it. Kudos to my job for letting me off work to go!!! :)
Pictures of the day can be seen by clicking HERE. (These pics are "before" and "after" the service, certainly NOT "during.")
Rest in Peace, Aaron. We will never forget you.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Posted by Kat at 11:05 PM