Today, we attended the funeral of Pfc. Thomas R. Wilson with the Patriot Guard Riders.
Pfc. Thomas R. Wilson, 21, of Maurertown, Va., died Aug. 27 in Paktika, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit during combat operations. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, Vicenza, Italy.
This is only the second funeral mission we've been able to attend with the PGR, and the funeral was about 40 minutes up the road from us, in Woodstock,VA, in the Shenandoah Valley.
We were the only members to attend in a 'cage',as they call a car, but there were two large groups of bikers who had gotten up at 4 am to come all the way down from Pennsylvania to honor this young man. Another group of bikers came in after we had already gathered at the high school where Pfc. Wilson's funeral was held.
I have a slideshow of a few pictures we took...we didn't take very many (and we also had some glitches with the picture taking,read 'operator error', as in I'm still not proficient at operating the camera)
We stood in the flag line behind the honor guard at the doors, and there were a tremendous amount of people who came to pay their respects.
The plan was for the bike escort to travel to where Thomas Wilson would be buried, on his grandfather's farm, and as we were in a 'cage', we drove down the street to get a drink once the funeral had started. In the store, we saw a notice posted asking the townspeople to show their support of the family by lining the streets, and we decided to stand there on the sidewalk with the people who were already starting to gather.
And the townspeople came. Two elderly ladies were already standing across the street when we first stopped,but they were soon joined bit by bit by more and more people. A young family, a veteran from the VFW, a father and his young son....they came and stood, some holding flags....and they waited for an hour and a half, for the funeral procession to begin passing by.
On our side of the street, we were standing by an older man who said to us that he had come down from another town....a disabled Vietnam veteran, he wanted to honor this young man's sacrifice and pay his respects. He stood with us in the hot sun along with all the others, speaking briefly of his own wartime service and shifting his weight from time to time on the ankle that had been injured in that service.
Others joined us as time went on.....a family group, a lone woman who said she felt that she 'must' stop and do this. A group of bikers stopped for gas, and when one of them came over to ask why so many were standing along the road? they decided to stand there and wait,also.
And when the procession left the high school a half a block away? They were led by the muted thunder of a group of what had to be over 60 motorcycles. The ride captain of this mission had asked riders to turn out in force to honor Pfc. Wilson's sacrifice, and they had.
We held our flags as they went by, and as I looked at the grief stricken faces of those riding by in car after car, young and old alike sharing the same pain-filled and still half-disbelieving look....I blinked back my own tears. For those who had lost a son,brother, grandson, friend....and for a town that came out to say with their presence "We are standing with you here today."
Our country lost another hero, but in the midst of this, I was reminded that this is what is best and brightest about us, about America and Americans.
It didn't matter what anyone's politics were, or their views on the war. They gathered together, and fellow Americans even came from another state, to let the family and friends know "We grieve for and with you for your loss, and we honor this young man's life."
May you rest in peace, Pfc. Thomas Wilson. Your family and friends are inour prayers.