Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Welcome home Mr. Soldier.

Last night I got a big ol dose of perspective shoved up in my face. I know that sounds crude BUT the fact is that the Universe obviously knew I needed it.

There aren’t very many things in this life that send shivers and chills up my spine and spark instant tears in my eyes. There aren’t a lot of moments in my life when something I do or something I belong to brings the truest definition of pride to my soul. There aren’t a lot of moments when I step back and take life in and realize the true meaning of a single moment or event.

Last night – along with my hefty dose of perspective – I felt all of those things.

Pride. Emotion. Compassion. Honor. Empathy. Patriotism.


I’ve told you before that I live in Podunk. All the towns around me are also Podunk-ish. By my definition that means that each town has less than 1000 people living in it. Most have less than 500.

So by default – when we say our communities are close-knit….we ain’t kiddin’. Hell, 99% of us are related to each other.

I’ve also told you that Rambo and I belong to a Harley Owners Club…a Hog Chapter. We have patches and vests and “colors” and meetings and events.

Most people have no idea I am a member of such a thing. My mother thinks it’s a shame. A terrible thing. Tattoos and motorcycles and men in leather just aren’t what her daughter should love.

But I do. There’s something about the freedom of doing something no one expects you to do. Normally I’m a professional who looks the part and says and does all the right things. On the back of our bike with my arms wrapped around Rambo and my hair whipping in the wind with heavy metal music playing – I am free.

I’m probably more me than at any other moment.

There are others in our group that also have the ability to shock you when you find out what’s behind their leather. Namely our President.

He is a fit, older man with a depth in his eyes that makes you wonder how it got there. When he smiles – you know he means it. There’s not a single thing about this man that is fake. His tattoos show his memories and if you had the time – you know he could tell you a million stories like you’ve never heard before.

And while I don’t know his full story – I know that he’s been to Vietnam and survived. I’ll never forget the time all the guys were talking about deer hunting and he said, “I used to deer hunt. I don’t anymore. You’ll find that once you’ve hunted man, you’ll never hunt anything ever again.”

I can’t remember if he was Secret Service or CIA or Special Ops…but I know he was one of them. I know he talks to Rambo a lot due to the fact that Rambo works in the prison field with inmates.

I remember that he once took a coin out of his pocket and showed it to me and told me that coin has been with him in 37 countries as his good luck charm. 37 countries and I’m pretty sure there’s not a day in his life he hasn’t fought for or loved the US more than most people that I’ll ever meet. Even now – as a retired Hog Chapter President – he’s the epitome of honor and the definition of American.

Yesterday in one of our Podunk towns – a solder came home from Afghanistan. The highways were literally lined with people and flags. Hundreds and hundreds of flags. And people taking the whole day off to put them there. And to stand and salute as the soldier went home.

Our Hog Chapter Patriot Guard was there of course. The bikers always escort local soldiers home – when they step off the plane until they are home. It is an honor the bikers take very seriously.

This time though – the solder didn’t step off the plane.

He was carried off – in a casket.

Dead or alive – the Patriot Guard sees the soldier home.

I saw picture after picture of the roads lined with flags. Marines, soldiers and the men carrying his flag-laden casket off the plane. Bikers by the dozens. Two by two stretched out on the highway.

And then there was one picture that took my breath away and I still can’t explain why. It was of our chapter President. Every leather in place. His hair handsomely combed back in respect. Sunglasses on – staring straight ahead – at the front of the pack of bikers….holding the handlebars to his freshly washed Harley.

Waiting to lead the soldier home to his final resting place.

The honor and pride was almost a palpable thing you could see in the picture.

Two men – both whom had fought for people like you and me. One who had survived countless wars and events and one who did not. One leading the other one home.

Behind the President were all the other bikers. The same look on their face. The same honor in their stance. The same pride. The same brotherhood. The same American spirit.

There really aren’t words to describe the depth of emotion that the flurry of pictures stirred within me…within everyone who saw them. Here in the office today everyone is talking about “the soldier’s ride home yesterday” and I swear to you – not one person can talk about it without tears filling their eyes - though not a single one of us directly knew the fallen soldier.

So yah…I ride with these men and women in this “biker club”. I trade in my professional security badge for a vest of leather to display my “colors”. I trade my high heels for black leather boots. Hands that are used to calculate and type and direct from 9 to 5 – become hands only for waving at other bikers who pass by us. I trade in my well placed curls for a studded bandana. And I love every minute of it.

I am honored to be a part of such a group. It ranks right up there with one of my most favorite things. It’s one of the few places I feel like I fit – and have from the beginning. Though I’m no veteran and I don’t deserve half the respect most of them do – they’ve never made me feel like an outcast. From the moment I met them – I was welcome.

It got me to thinking – that while the last two days, my head has been filled with shitty thoughts and complaints about small things in my life….a soldier was being brought home. Hundreds of war vets took on the duty of getting him there. Entire towns made sure his road home was visible with flags for miles.

And I got to witness it.

That’s perspective.

At it’s finest.

And it’s proof that the clothes – nor the tattoos or mode of transportation – don’t make a person someone you believe you have the right to make assumptions about.

Ask me to choose between the multi-billion dollar President of the company that I work for and the President of our Hog Chapter and I’ll choose the latter every time.

Rest in peace, Mr. Soldier. I hope you are “riding free” in Heaven.

And welcome home.


Cat said...

Thank you. There are no other words for my emotion reading this.

vickyd said...

I have tears in my eyes...there are no words...

Lap Band Gal said...

great post, thanks for the perspective

Jody V said...

WOW - what a story! I also understand your position on being in a HOG chapter. Frank and I are also and yes, I have tats and I'm looking for more!

Rest in Peace, Soldier. God loves you!


Katy said...

This is a beautifully written post that brought tears to my eyes. I love that your community has such respect for the military.

Frickin' Fabulous at 40 said...

God Bless that soldier, your President and America.

Kaycie Christine said...

Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I needed to read that today.

Laura Belle said...

I couldn't get past 'casket'. I will try later. But with family over in the depths of Hell right now....I just can't do it.

Even though I know it's a good story.
I just can't.

Karen Butler Ogle said...

Too many caskets coming home. I think it is wonderful that someone honors them on their final journey home.

Chris said...

Once again you take my breath away. Beautiful post, and a wonderful tribute to both of those soldiers. Thank you.

LoriBang said...

You are amazing at writing your posts! So touching. So sad to have a soldier come home in a casket. I wish for no more soldiers to come home this way! As far as the motorcycle thing.......ride 'em if you got 'em! I don't have one, but I do live in South Dakota. Home of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle rally!

Kyla said...

Great post. Makes you think, eh.

october 11 said...

I just got goosebumps!

o.c. bandster said...

You are killing me this week...second time I have cried over your posts.

Beautifully said

Holly from 300 Pounds Down said...

Amen!!!!!!! That was a pure blessing to read today!!

InWeighOverMyHead said...

Thanks for the ugly cry first thing in the morning. I am so glad you were able to share this and have that experience.

Reggie said...

Thank you Draz for this post. Rest in peace Soldier.

Band Geek said...

Draz....My nephew was killed in action in Afghanistan on January 21, and the Patriot Guard (and Freedom Riders her in CA were here at his hero's mission, welcoming Christopher's casket when his plane landed, and accompanying his procession to the mortuary, and then to his final resting pace two days later. It was so moving, and gave me a renewed faith in this country and its people. Thank you for doing your part, in your little Podunk town. I am absolutely certain that it meant the world to the family of the fallen soldier.

LDswims said...