September 02, 2011
I went on a ride today with the Patriot Guard Riders out of San Diego. My dad has been on a couple of these already and I wanted to check one out. Riding with a bunch of older dudes on stock bikes at parade speed is what I generally try to avoid at all costs, but this was worth it.
What the PGR usually does is ride to military funerals or escort servicemen's remains and shield the families (at their request) from protesters or kooks that might want to disrupt things. Sometimes in our area they escort the buses from March AFB to Camp Pendelton or Miramar when troops are returning from deployment. Each time you ride one of the funeral related missions you get a dog tag. Obviously old "Gunny" here has been to a few.
Today was one of those days for escorting returning troops and we waited around in Fallbrook for a while, then escorted the buses through the Naval Weapons Station and to the armory where the Marines could check their weapons in and get back on the buses. Of course there was a lot of hurry up and wait and several changes to the schedule. Exactly what you'd expect if you've ever been in the military and gone anywhere with a large unit. The PGR guys took it all in stride. I knew not to bitch about standing around in the sun for an hour or so when these Devil Dogs have been through a lot worse.
Once we got under way again we escorted the buses to the RCT1 area at Camp Horno, where we rolled across the parade deck in front of all the families patiently waiting on their loved ones. Thankfully the CO was quick, there was no BS speech, just a regular formation, all present and accounted for, and then cut 'em loose. Lots of hugs and tears and I'm sure all the younger dudes were just dying to get out of uniform, get a cold beer and start hunting girls.
The PGR guys make a point of walking around and shaking hands, thanking guys, taking pictures with them, etc. Letting these dudes know that there are still people in America who give a shit goes a long way in helping them deal with the stress and anxiety that comes with returning from combat.