Gold Star Dad

The thoughts of a father who has lost a son to war

My First Mission with the Patriot Guard

Posted by fozzynok on 09/08/2009

I read the short notice announcement board on the PGR board on Friday afternoon. The family of US Navy Viet Nam Veteran Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class Johnny Maness had requested that the PGR attend and stand for him at his funeral the next day ( Saturday the 5th). This was short notice for everyone and the information was placed on the Oklahoma PGR board and I thought about it for a while and honestly did not know if I could actually do this. The fact that this was such short notice and that this veteran deserved all we could give him, I decided that I would go and see if I could help out.

I left the house at around 7:30. The air was nice and cool and there was no wind to speak of. My bike was topped off and it was very nice to get out there in the breeze and get some alone time on the beast. I pulled into Comanche at about 8:45 and saw that there was already one bike and a pickup truck there in front of the church. We talked a bit and I help them set up the flag line in front of the church. We got that done in short order. The gentleman who was driving the pick up was the same fellow who came to our home to set up the escort for my son when he came home, He has a lot of experience setting these things up and I admire him a lot for the strength and dedication that it takes to be able to do what it is that he does.

We got the flag line set up and moved our bikes across the road to a parking lot out of the way of the limos and the hearse. I should add that it was quite an emotional moment when the hearse showed up and unloaded the flag draped coffin. I have seen too many of these things in the last couple of years and it doesn’t seem to get any easier. We drifted back across the street to the parking lot where a few more riders had arrived. We talked a bit and the ride captain made the announcement about who it was that we where there stand for and what the events of the day would be. We gathered at the flag line again in the front of the chapel and the family and friends filed by and into the chapel. When they were all inside, we broke down the flag line and moved our bikes into position to escort them to the cemetery.

When their services were over we all moved back to the bikes, geared up and prepared to move out to the cemetery. We were escorted by a local police cruiser which blocked traffic at the first intersection as we made the left and headed down the road toward the cemetery of this little town. We arrived in moments and we all moved to the circle and tool our places. There were enough men and women there to completely fill the circle. The young sailors had taken their place at the flag draped coffin and when the Preacher had finished his short speech, they began the work of rendering honors, folding the flag and presented it to the family. I knew that the playing of taps was next and that moment is where I became fully aware of the sounds that I had heard at Micheal’s funeral. The sounds of utter despair and grief were pretty upsetting to me. I think it would have really been worse had this been a young KIA like Micheal.

I was on auto-pilot during Micheal’s services, I could have been a bit of shock or just plain old fatigue. I was so intent on keeping my family protected and watching over them that I honestly do not remember all that was said, I remember the 21 gun salute and taps being played. I don’t remember much other than the sounds of sorrow from the people in the crowd, this brought that flooding back. It made me feel very bad for what the family was going through at that moment.

As soon as the service was over, I helped secure the flags from the circle and load them into the waiting truck. As soon as we had finished, the cemetery was practically empty. I talked to the ride captain and one other rider, thanked them for allowing me to be a part of this and then rode home.. the ride home seemed to take a lot longer.

RIP Aviation Machinist Mate 3rd Class Johnny Maness.. You will be missed

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One Response to “My First Mission with the Patriot Guard”

  1. kelley said

    Thank you for all you have done, and for riding out that morning with the PG to honor my father. Thank you for giving him what no one ever gave him..honor and recognition for the horrors he faced serving during the VN war.So many things never mentioned about my dad. The purple heart he would never look at, because only two of them made it home that day.He came home with most of the hearing lost in one ear and only half of the teeth in his head, after throwing himself over his buddy as the grenade went off,wrapped securely in the hands of a child,wrapped securely into the belt of one of our soldiers,after walking up to him with his arms out for a hug.The constant battle proving his effects from A.O regardless of the fact that he was one of the men who sprayed it over the greenery around base,a base that to this day..never existed,so he was never there.
    The last acknowledgement my dad recieved for volunteering (not being drafted) to be an American soldier,was the day he came home,beaten broken and wounded, and faced an angry mob of Americans who threw trash among other things at him, and called him a murderer.Still he went on the become a Border Patrol Officer, a Bailiff, a Coroner, and finally, a Deputy Sheriff. Always serving, always saving just one more, until a bullet in the knee took that away also.
    It was not an easy life with him. He had many demons to fight on his own.I never understood what he was living through until my graduation into the Army,when he sat up with me all night,telling me all the stories he refused to share with anyone else.He finally had someone, I suppose, who understood the why of what he did.(..and..i think he just had a hell of a lot of enjoyment after my training, when he could shout “INCOMING” just to see me drop and roll for cover.)I do know that he was the type of man who would willingly put his life on the line to save anyone elses. I do know that maybe, just maybe, if things could have been different, if he had been acknowledged for his service after such devastation and loss..just maybe, things could have been better for all of us at home.
    Our family will never forget the vision of the patriot guard leading us to the cemetary that day, encircling us at the gravesite, and wishing that he could have seen it all, wishing he could know that he was honored, not forgotten.
    For what you have given him and his family,I will always be grateful and appreciative. What you do for the soldiers really does matter. It really does make a huge difference for all of us. Thank you for taking the time, for making the decision, For riding with that flag for all of us who have served,and for those who are still serving.I could never imagine having such an honored service as that,regardless of what my duties were as a soldier. I think, It belongs where it is. Making things a little bit more right for the fallen heros.

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