I am exhausted. It’s about 10 o’clock right now as I write this. The entire mission took almost exactly 12 hours for me. It took longer than a lot of missions. With that, and the fact that I forgot my food/drink this morning…. I arrived home tired and hungry.
I awoke this morning to the sound of the alarm clock. In order to save some time this morning, I had gathered the riding apparel last night before I went to bed. I got out of bed, grabbed a quick left-over to give my body some fuel, and got ready to go. It was 35 degrees on my thermometer. I had planned on leaving about 7:30 for an expected trip of 3 hours. But, I actually got on the road at 7:45 for a ride that took a little longer than 2.5 hours because I made up time by going a little faster. I dressed in winter clothing, put foot warmers in the toes of my boots, and took off.
Let me tell you…. it was cold! Traveling 65 mph in 35 degree weather is cold. I did pretty good, however. One problem was the fogging of the full face helmet. I couldn’t breath through my nose this morning. I had to breath in through my nose and breathe very slowly out of my mouth to keep the helmet from fogging. Even though I had on the thick balaclava, there was still some cold that got to my chin area. But, it was nothing compared to riding without one. My fingers got cold after awhile. My toes did pretty good. It was much better having the warmers in my shoes.
I arrived at the staging area and greetings and introductions were made. After everyone arrived, we had a better than expected turnout. There 16 or 18 bikes with some riding double. There were 2 cages, also.
There are a couple of things that stand out for me on this mission. One, was the number of people who stood along the procession route from the funeral home to the cemetery with flags. It is a “country” area with small towns and the number of people standing to show their support was encouraging. It was a long way from the funeral home to the cemetery. The PGR were requested to lead the hearse. In front of the PGR were some local ambulance and fire vehicles. Behind us was the hearse with a long procession of cars. We traveled through the town and then onto “new 50”, then “old 50”, and then Route 23 to the cemetery. The total escort was about 20 miles. Along the streets and the old winding roads, there would be individuals and groups of people with flags and signs. One thing I noticed about them was the number of younger people (teens and younger) who were standing — some by themselves. I even saw a small boy – who looked like he couldn’t have been more than 7 or 8 years old — standing by himself with a flag in a yard along the route.
Another thing I noticed was the difference in demeanor of the young and the old. The young seemed to have an air of exuberance in their show of support. The elderly seemed almost weary; but still desiring to show respects. But, the thing that stood out for me the most was the number of middle aged, mother aged females that were crying. Even from riding distance, I could tell that lots of them were weeping. (Some men, too. But, the men seem to have a more stoic representation.) There were a couple of late teen/early 20’s females that were crying, also. But, not the number of the middle aged women.
At the funeral home, the mother and father came outside to thank us for being there. She was weeping. And after the services, when it was time to bring out his casket, the sound of her weeping was horrible. We were outside and could hear it.
Lots of people today thanked us for being there. Soldiers thanked us. Family of the soldier thanked us. Friends thanked us.
Something else caught my attention. This soldier has a 6 year old daughter. At the cemetery, there was a release of balloons. They had red, white, and blue balloons that many people released together. I think it was done for the benefit of the daughter. We stand back away from the services some so I’m not sure, but I thought I heard someone say, “Let it go,” and then, “There goes daddy. Say goodbye.” The one balloon was two hearts tied together. What was really odd was the way the balloons rose. All of the color balloons rose quickly and together. The hearts rose slowly and separately from the rest. It was as if the two hearts hesitated and paused before rising quickly to catch the rest. As I saw it…. I thought, “The heart leaves slowly. Love holds on and departs slowly.” It’s as if his spirt was there and was holding on…. hesitating to leave…. wanting to show the daughter that he loved her…. but, finally being drawn away.
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