Thursday, December 14, 2006

Wreaths Across America

Today was another awesome mission with the Patriot Guard Riders! This was not a funeral -- rather, we participated in the "Wreaths Across America" memorial event that took place all across the country today. Wreaths were laid on the graves of fallen soldiers in Veterans' cemetaries all over the United States - I think something like 230 Veterans' cemetaries participated in this. The PGR was able to participate in a few Wreath ceremonies across Georgia. I went to the one that took place in Milledgeville, Georgia, at the Veterans' Memorial Cemetary. I had taken the day off of work to study for finals. I'd known about the ceremony, but was really debating on whether or not to attend. I've been SO tired lately and just plain wore out from all the crazy activity of the last several weeks... I thought I'd take a day and chill and not do anything but study & snooze (probably more snoozing than studying! haha!). Well... .in the end... I could not resist the chance to go and have a small part in honoring our Veterans and currently-serving troops. Since my time is so limited and I'm typically only able to participate in weekend missions... the fact that I "just so happened" to be off on this exact same day that there "just so happened" to be a mission... well.... it kinda all fell together a little too neatly to ignore! :)

The Wreaths Across America website declares that their mission is to

Remember the fallen;

Honor those who serve;

Teach our children the value of freedom.

2006 will mark the 15th anniversary of holiday wreaths being sent from the State of Maine to Arlington National Cemetery. Each year the folks at Worcester Wreath Company make and decorate wreaths that will adorn over 5000 headstones of our Nation’s fallen heroes - in what has become an annual event coordinated with the Cemetery Administration and the Maine State Society.


Milledgeville is about an hour and forty-five minutes from where I live. However, before going on to the cemetary, I had to drive to Buford (about 45 minutes from my house... in the other direction, hehe!) to pick up the wreaths that would be used in the ceremony. One good thing about driving a "cage" (that would be "biker" for 'car,' hehe!) is that I can carry stuff that the folks on bikes can't... like a big ole box of wreaths! And coffee... and a cooler full of water... and (sometimes) FOOD. :) I woke up at 5:00 a.m., filled my car up, and headed on out to Buford to meet up with Chip, the Ride Captain in charge of this here shindig (that's "Southern" for, "the PGR leader in charge of organizing this event"). ;-) I arrived at Chip's house shortly after 6:30. Because of the distance, the fact that this was a weekday (rush-hour traffic, yikes!) and due to severe fog warnings, he wanted to be on the road by 7:00 a.m. Got there, got the big ole box of wreaths into my car (I knew I'd bought a hatchback for a reason....now I know what is is! haha!), and headed out right before 7:00, Chip in the lead since he knew where he was going, and me following. I had my American flag and my PGR flag hooked on my front windows.

The first half of the drive was just fine... we encountered a few light patches of fog here & there... but nothing too bad. Heck, at one point we got to see the sunrise (good grief... can't even remember last time I saw a sunrise....) and I was just about blinded by the sun directly in front of us. That didn't last too long, though... after we'd got thru Winder, Georgia... we hit FOG. I mean, serious, serious FOG. Like, FOG TO THE EXTREME. Visibility was about ZERO almost.... it was BAD. Most of the time, I could see Chip & his bike just fine - BUT could NOT see ANYTHING past him. There were a few times - thankfully, VERY few times - when I could barely see Chip at all - just a vague shadow. That was SCARY. I prayed the whole time as we went through miles & miles & miles & MILES of fog (it seemed to go on forever!)... I prayed that God would lift the fog (the answer to that was, "Not now, later!") and that He would keep everyone SAFE in this fog - prayed for a few extra angels for all and for God to keep Chip VISIBLE to all around us (and all the others traveling in from everywhere). I was concerned... I KNEW I had a bike in front of me and had trouble seeing him sometimes - what about folks who had no clue there was a bike around and WOULDN'T EVEN THINK TO LOOK, much less pay "extra" attention during a severe fog like this, and...... ack. All sorts of disasterous possibilities flashed through my mind. Thankfully, we eventually arrived in Milledgeville without mishap.Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Anyway, I'll spare you the mundane details of our chatting with the cemetary directors, our Adventures in Finding McDonalds, and meeting up with the other PGR members who participated. Oh, THIS GUY actually drove up from Florida - it just so happened he was visiting family in Georgia and was able to hook up with us and participate in the Wreath ceremony. Too cool! Oh, and he very kindly let me get THIS PICTURE, which we both figured LL would get a real kick out of! (I think it's my new favorite picture, actually - just wait till all my friends see THAT pic, hahaha!)

Well, anyway, the ceremony started somewhere around noon - ceremonies all across America started simultaneously. The ceremony was beautifully done. It included a moment of silence for our fallen & POW/MIAs, the pledge of allegience, the National Anthem, and speeches from a state Senator and the Mayor of Milledgeville. One by one, a member of each branch of the service took a wreath and placed it beside a memorial honoring that particular branch of service. The last wreath was one especially for all the POW/MIAs, which was placed by the POW/MIA memorial by one of our very own Viet Nam Vetarans.

Once all the wreaths were placed, there was a rifle salute, follwed by "Taps." And even though it wasn't a funeral - it still made me cry. (Why I even bother putting on makeup before a PGR mission, I still have yet to figure out. It's pointless... I almost always cry it all off by the end of the day!) Well, anyway, once the ceremony was concluded (it truly was awesome and very moving) , we all headed out to a local McDonald's for lunch. This is so cool what happened next. The local police actually gave us a full escort to McDonalds! I kid you not - there was a police car in front of all the bikes, lights flashing, followed by all the bikes, and then those of us in cars/vans/trucks/etc, followed by a couple more police cars, lights flashing!! They blocked intersections and stopped traffic for us so we could all turn into the parking lot together. How cool is that?! Definitely a first in GA. PGR history! Usually we have escorts to the funerals and such -- but we've NEVER had a police escort for LUNCH!!!! It was too darn cool! I mean, cars were pulling over to the side of the road to let us pass, and everything! hehehe! Too cool.

I ended up getting back home around 6:30 p.m., ate dinner, uploaded all my pictures from the day, and now am typing this. And you know what? I'M TIRED. So... on that note... I'm going to bed! If you'd like to see all the pictures I took today (there's like 30 pics), you can CLICK HERE.

7 comments:

DNR said...

Cool mission. I had so wanted to go to a wreath laying ceremony down south (from here). We were asked to escort at a WWII vet memorial service. I just couldn’t make the 82 miles through back country roads in 45 minutes.

So when are you getting a bike?

LL said...

Thank you so much for taking those pics of you and "that guy." He's lucky he lives so far away or I'd lick him all over that beautiful bald head of his. hahaha

Great post, hon. Glad you got out and did that. You're the best.

Kat said...

LOL! LL you are too much, hehehe! It was a rather amazing day - and I'm SO glad I went. :)

Kathi said...

Glad you were able to make it after all!!:) Great pics!!

I din't get to 'ride', but I am so glad I went to the wreath laying ceremony at our little cemetary near here. And I finally met some other PGR members,Yay! (we are in an area here where we're actually too far away either north OR south from where so many of the funerals are.)

SK said...

Kat, how wonderful! Love the pics too. And don't trust LL for a minute cuz I know she MEANS it ;-)

Kat said...

I know she does, LOL!!!!!

Evanthe said...

Just found your post and can only say Wow!.

I am leading the ceremonies at Canton this year. I have been trying to get in touch with the PGR for this years events. If you could pass this on to them I would appreciate it. I can only hope I can honor our military as well as last year.

So far I have 5 of the seven branches represented, I have invited the govenor, state and local officals, but no firm commitment. I have AF approval for military fly over and am looking for a squadron to do so. I have raised funds for 140 wreaths to be laid at the headstones of these wonderful people. I am new to this so I ask all to bear with me.

My email is evanthe@mindspring.com. You can also look up my contact information at the WAA website under locations, Georgia, Geoegia National Cemetery.

Kindly,
Evanthe

Georgia Blogger