Wherein our heroine joins the Illinois Patriot Guard and Operation Welcome You Home in an effort to expand horizons while representing the SCOOTER NATION.
Chances are, no matter what state you are in, you will have a version of Patriot Guard Riders. These groups are a collection of motorcycle riders who show up for funerals and welcome-home events for our military. They create flag lines and typically parade the returning soldier through town. Very fun, as long as it is not a funeral. Then you will be boo-hooing the entire time, TRUST ME!
I am not a typical gung-ho military supporter but I do try to show my support to the best of my capabilities. Going to these rides has been the most visibly patriotic thing I have ever done.
Anyway, all you have to do is to go to the PG or WYH website and click on their calenders to find an event that you can attend.
This is what you do:
1. Ride your scooter to the "staging area", which is typically some sort of parking lot. If it is summer bring water or something to drink because it gets HOT out there.
2. Be prepared to be in the midst of many, many flag-festooned motorcycles and plenty of bikers. They WEAR A LOT OF BLACK, with almost everyone in a black vest covered with military patches. (BTW anyone can get these vests and stick patches on it, you don't have to be n the military to wear that stuff.) Very little ATGATT, and few full face helmets. Time to MINGLE! Just be open and go up to people and and start talking. REMEMBER, YOU ARE THERE TO REPRESENT THE SCOOTER NATION! DO US PROUD!
3. An organizer will show up and talk to the crowd.
4. Then they hand out flags and everyone makes a flag line.
5. The soldier and the family will arrive, (typically much later or earlier than expected and they usually drive into the parking lot from the wrong direction.)
6. Then they will drive down the flag line and get out of the car as everyone hoots and hollers. Let me tell you, it is pretty emotional. Don't ask me why, I DON'T KNOW.
(I was there once when an old soldier from the Vietnam era was in the parking lot with his wife. They had seen the flag line of bikers forming so they came over to see what was up.
They stayed and got in the line. This bearded old man who could barely stand, hauling an oxygen tank. He and his wife held one of the flags. They stood with tears in their eyes.
"No one ever did anything like this for me when I came back," the old vet gasped to me as he wiped at his tear streamed face.
"Unh!" That did it for me... I am now forever officially verklempt.)
7. Everyone greets the arriving soldier and gives him/her a hug and says, "Thanks".
I am not a real, "huggy" person, ( AMAZING I know!). But I thought about all those women in other countries, oppressed, denied, tortured and imprisoned, and here I am riding a scooter and doing what I want... well, then it is pretty easy to say, "Thanks".
8. Then we hand back the flags and hop on our rides and form a parade line.
This is the FUN part. You just merge into double lines with everyone and start rolling. Flags are waving and horns are going off, and emergency lights are flashing. We get a police escort and we get to ride through stop lights and stop signs. People wave and beep their horns and it is just plain COOL!
9. Everyone arrives at a VFW hall or a home. Park and dismount. There are speeches and stuff and then it is over. Yep, that is usually it. So get back on your scooter and get the heck out of there! Or try to stay a bit and mingle. It is up to you.
This has been a lot of fun for me this summer and I have met some nice people and had some challenging rides just to get to the staging areas. Next project: How to make and attach a flag pole to your scooter for parades.