This is the place where we report how many Riders were at the Mission, what the weather was like and other facts to not only record the event, but assist other RCs in “lessons learned” and how we can do it better the next time.
All Missions are different, depending on the level of support requested by the family and many other factors. Many Missions are memorable; you can recall specific scenes, conversations and events years later. A few Missions are what I call “special.” This Mission was special… When asked to take it, I was in a bit of a personal crisis, but couldn’t say no and immediately called George Raglin and Ken DuBois to help make it happen. George agreed to be the family liaison, Ken would coordinate all movement and I would focus on the Flag Line, plaques and all of the typing. They ALSO seemed to disappear whenever we were approached by the press!
September 7th was a perfect day – clear, cool enough for a jacket when we left in the morning, not too hot in the afternoon. Three years ago, almost to the day, we were also at Spinks Airport to receive another Hero coming home for the last time. Wednesday we were there for SPC Jesse W. Dietrich, another Soldier who fell while serving with the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.
Jesse’s Father was there, CWO2 Paul Dietrich, an Army helicopter pilot with the 1st Cavalry Division. Paul was returned from Iraq, to be here when his son came home. Jesse’s aunt, Auneta, who raised him, was also there, as was his 2-year-old son Kevin – it was a very hard day for all of them and all of us.
As is almost always is the case, when the door opened on the aircraft, the family, friends and the Patriot Guard Riders were all deeply affected. As the family turned to each other to grieve, the Riders provided comfort and honor, as best we could. As we left the airport, the Ft. Worth Sheriff’s Mounted Posse were blocking the service road, allowing us safe passage to the Funeral Home. Wess Tyler and Ken did a magnificent job of LEO support – we were covered from the moment we left the airport on Wednesday, until we safely arrived at the burial site on Friday.
Upon arriving at the funeral home, Dan Mathys had the flags set up and it really was an incredible thing to see as we pulled in.
Thursday night we returned for visitation. It was hot and we had a lot of frontage to cover, but the RCs were all over the Flag Line, watering and relieving as often as needed. Ted Beauchamp had ridden in all the way from Breckenridge and jumped right in to assist. Several Riders had to leave early, but is seemed every time one left, another came late and took their place. Wild Bill May brought the PGR Store with him, allowing the Riders to stock up on wanted items. Larry Summers provided the most beautiful plaques for the family – first time I had seen them – and the presentation to the son, the father and the aunt who raised him was an unforgettable image. Thanks to Mike Lambert for assisting with that difficult portion.
We started Friday morning early, with a good breakfast knowing what a long day we had ahead of us. We got to the church a little early, but not early enough to beat several Riders who were already on station and ready to help. Dan got there shortly after and the flags went up quickly. When guests began arriving, there were plenty of Riders “Standing Tall and Silent” and providing assistance as needed. Once again, a huge thanks to Dewey Dyer, Ted Beauchamp, John Blaze and Mark Ingersoll for jumping right in and assisting the Flag Line, demonstrating what servant leadership is all about.
There were many members of the press there and remarkably, all of them wanted to know if we thought the significant outpouring of support was related to the anniversary of the 9-11 attacks. As gently as possible, we kept redirecting them back to SPC Dietrich and his family being the ONLY reason we were there and the amount of respect being shown from the local community.
As Ken and the Riders who accompanied SPC Dietrich from the funeral home to the church slowly rode through Mansfield, they were awestruck to see every school turned out to honor this young Hero. It was the first of many tears that the Patriot Guard would shed that day.
The memorial service included all of the heart rendering moments that most of them do, all of the songs about Soldiers not making it home, while images of SPC Dietrich were projected on large screens. Another unforgettable moment was when Kevin could be heard to exclaim, “That’s my daddy!” while pointing to a picture of Jesse holding him. At the conclusion of the service, Ken lined all the Riders up for the long trip to the burial site. The father’s MC, the Regulators, were well represented and placed in the position of honor, directly behind the coach.
Safety was stressed at every opportunity, but there was ONE reported mishap. Our brother TJ provided some entertainment early on for the Riders behind him. The way it was reported, his bike caught on the pavement in a corner, spun completely around, he decided to get off the merry-go-round at the half way point and the bike then righted itself and rode off without him. If anyone has a video of that, I’d LOVE to see it! As is the right of the Ride Captain, the three of us immediately concurred that TJ’s road name for the next 12 months will be, “Crash.” Fortunately, a torn shirt, a little road-rash and some hurt pride were the only damages.
There are no words to adequately describe what happened for the next three hours. EVERY town we passed through, there was a choreographed hand off between law enforcement agencies. There were so many businesses with every employee standing out on the roadway, hands over hearts, in acknowledgement of our passing. There were flags, posters and I’ll forever have the haunting image of a women kneeling on the side of the road, with her head bowed in prayer. Schools were turned out and people of all ages stood in silent tribute to SPC Dietrich.
SPC Dietrich was raised at the Diamond J Youth Ranch, just south of the small community of Gustine, TX. He had asked that should he not make it back, that he be buried there and at the family’s request, we took him home. John Watts and his wife had arrived ahead of us and had flags lining the long driveway. As we rode across the cattle guard, we were met by two young ladies, mounted on horseback with large American and Texas flags and we proceeded up from the entrance behind them. To our right, in between the flags John had drilled into the hard ground, were teen-aged girls and boys, mounted on horseback, standing in silent tribute to their Hero.
As we entered the Ranch, there was no doubt where we were going. A grave had been dug beneath one of the largest oak trees I’ve ever seen. Chairs had been set up in its shade and once everyone had gathered under its branches, a couple of hymns were sang, military honors rendered and it was suddenly over.
Afterwards, we were told the Cowboy Church of Goldthwaite had paid for our supper at the City Café in Gustine and many of us took them up on it. The community just overwhelmed us with their gratitude and love. All of the Riders had been going for over nine hours, many of the support and leadership folks much more than that. I asked everyone to please be EXTRA careful going home and I pulled back into my driveway at 9:38. It was a very significant day and I remarked that I don’t think I’ve ever been more proud to be a Patriot Guard Rider, than I was yesterday.
This Mission COULD NOT have been accomplished without the help of all of the good folks listed above and captured in the images taken by James Carlisle. But there would have been no tribute without the Riders who quietly showed up, grabbed a flag and showed respect. THEY are the face of the PGR, those incredible men and women who show up to Stand Tall and Silent. We are honored to serve you.
From Ken: Arriving at the Funeral home at 8:30 AM, I could see that we were going to be in good shape, as far as police help was concerned. I expected one Sheriff’s Deputy to be there, but instead we had 4 squad cars, 3 motor Officers, and 2 Escort Motor Officers. Arriving at the church, again the amount of local LEO was overwhelming and far beyond the number of LEO that I had contacted and was expecting.
Mansfield City Office had alerted me, that they were going to shut down the schools, but to see hundreds of grade school children as well as the High School staff and students was overwhelming. Also, companies like Mouser Electronics had all of their employees out front with flags.
During the ride through Granbury, Stephenville and every other small town along the route, it was very obvious to me that our Texas “Small Town” mind-set was one of Honor, Respect, Love of Country and appreciation for those who are out on the front lines defending us back home.
I was never so proud to be a TEXAN and to see my fellow TEXANS honoring this American Hero. I would also like to thank those Riders for being so flexible with the fluidity of their participation in this Mission. It was the longest Mission for me to date, but also the most emotional. It was very hard to keep the sun glasses clear of the rain inside them…
From George: First I guess one of my thoughts was how well we all worked together. Everyone had a part & we were able to compliment each other.
The obvious was exactly what Ken said. The small town outpouring of honor and respect. From Mansfield to the ranch the number of people that stood in the ditches, beside the road and in the cities was unreal. Also our gas stop in Tolar, we shut down the whole road and nobody seemed to mind. The overwhelming police and fire presence was unbelievable.
My contact with the CAOs was also outstanding. There were never any problems doing anything. They were more than happy to help us any way they could.
Overall it was a great mission.
We were blessed to have had the honor of being invited into your lives at this tragic time. May God bring peace and healing for your loss.
Rick "Doc" Crabb