It was an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon on December 21, when members of the Patriot Guard Riders, American Legion 370, the Blue Knights, and other organizations staged at the KCI Security lot for a Patriot Guard Riders Welcome Home Mission.
Spc Dalton Howard was coming home for leave from Iraq and the Patriot Guard was responding to the families request for a Welcome Home Mission and Escort to Oak Grove, Missouri. About 29 bikes and three cars gathered to be a part of giving this young soldier a proper welcome home ceremony. The plane was delayed several times so it was getting on in the evening by the time six “big-flag” bikes (motorcycles that fly three foot x five foot US Flags and others) and a big red bus rolled into terminal C to stage for Dalton’s welcome home surprise. Local Kansas City channel’s 4 and 41 were on hand to record the reception.
KCI was busy with holiday traffic, and I could see many a weary traveler eyeing this strange looking group of leather clad folks with US Flags and brightly colored patches amid this invasion of sound, color, and chrome with a fair amount of trepidation. But, as we waited for Dalton’s plane, conversations were struck, introductions were made, PGR Ride Captain interview’s were conducted, and I began to see approving glances, smiles, and thumbs-ups from a more relaxed group of airport entities, caught in the hustle and bustle of the holiday travel dance.
Dalton was all smiles as he stepped off the plane to a multitude of family and well-wishers. The Patriot Guard were called to attention by Bob Severs, retired Nam Vet, rendered a salute, and then upon completion of honors, offered up a hearty “Welcome Home” to thunderous applause. After well-wishes and a round of emotional greetings with family and friends, Dalton had his time on camera with the local media. He expressed how great it was to be home, and how much he appreciated the turn out and expressions of gratitude. Dalton eventually made his way down and back up the two rows of Patriot Guard Rider’s and shook the hand of each man, woman, and child that had turned out to make sure he received a proper hero’s welcome.
It was getting late, and quite a bit cooler, as our patriotic band of motorcycles, cars, and a big stretch Ford F250 limo carrying Dalton and a large contingent of family and friends struck out for Oak Grove, Missouri. Once again, the night was interrupted by the thundering sound of big V-Twins as we assembled into formation for the escort, winding through the KCI Security lot to pick up the remaining group of vehicles. Many thanks are in order to the law enforcement departments of the various Missouri towns we rolled through as we made our way through the cold, moonlit night. Randolph, Independence, Butler, and Oak Grove all deserve thanks for assisting our lead patrol unit, which was from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department and driven by retired KCPD Sgt. Bob Knudsen. He led the escort from KCI all the way to the Civic Center in Oak Grove.
We rolled through Oak Grove at almost 2100 hrs (9:00 p.m. for you civilian-types) to a multitude of horn honking and screaming towns folk, who had lined the streets to make sure Dalton and his family knew how much they and the town appreciated Dalton’s and his families sacrifices. We rolled to a stop at the Civic Center where once again, there were a multitude of well-wishers. Hugs, hand shakes, and tears were once again the order of the moment. One by one, the riders of the Patriot Guard melted off into the distance, a thunder of sound, a roll of the throttle, and then just the echo of pipes as another patriotic American disappears into the wind.
By Eric S. Rossiter
Photos courtesy of Rich and Ruth Wegner