Sunday, June 26, 2011

2LT Harry Bedard, WWII MIA/KIA, Dayton, MN. 25 Jun 2011

Early morning 42 Patriot Guard gathered at the church in Dayton and prepared to ride the 7 miles to bring 2LT Harry Bedard back to the church. 35 motorcycles lined up behind me in perfect formation. During the 6:45am briefing I stressed the need to be respectful of the quiet sleeping community. But even while we were trying to keep stealth, it is hard to subdue the roar of 35 motorcycles on a mission. We rolled down the road holding a tight formation all the way to the funeral home. On the way we picked up one of our LEO escorts from the Wright County Sheriffs Department. (there is a sub-story about our LEO that you will need to ask Dan or Joe about)

At the funeral home our group lined the knoll between the road and the coach and waited for family. When they family arrived they had a special request for the Patriot Guard, so I asked for 6 volunteers. Without hesitation 6 stepped forward without even knowing what the mission would be. The group entered the funeral home and had the honor of transporting 2LT Bedard to the coach while the rest of the group stood at attention

2LT Bedard was readied for his trek to the Dayton church and we mounted up. As we crossed the river the Wright County Sheriffs squad pulled in front and cleared the traffic for us. A second unit was waiting at the busiest intersection to secure it for our safe passage. Our group was awesome it stayed tight and looked so professional, I would have to think that the people that saw up thought we practiced for this. 7 miles of perfect moves by 35 motorcycles was an awesome tribute to Harry.

When we arrived at the church our flagline run by Ernie Johnson had grown and was in place. Again we were asked to carry 2LT Bedard into the church, so 6 volunteers did the honors.

We held our flagline while the family and friends arrived. At one point a lady drove up that wasn’t part of the funeral and walked the entire flagline to thank each of them for what we do, then left right after, we had welcomed home her son.

Shortly after the service started our group stood down for a break. As the service ended our group had lined the road from the church to the cemetery and the cemetery driveway to the ceremony site.

The honor guard carried 2LT Bedard the whole two blocks to the graveside site with the family and friends following. As the last of them past our group fell in behind. Once we reached the grave site we surrounded the family. The church did the blessings, Chaplin Morris gave a great speech, and the Honor Guard did their honors. I had 5 minutes to present the family with a plaque and I praised the family for their persistence over the generations in keeping Harry in their lives, waiting for his return. as I finished the family thanked us for what they thought was a amazing act on our part and the guests applauded us.

As the clapping stopped it was replaced with the thunder of powerful F-15 engines as they approached, then they appeared just above the distant tree line. They came in low, I could see their numbers. Cpt. Allen’s coordinates that he supplied to the aircraft were right on, the missing man fighter peeled off and climbed what seemed to be straight up right over our heads. The roar was deafening as the afterburner came on, we watched as the F-15 went out of sight, we could still hear the roar for quite a while. On the conclution we were asked again to carry Harry to the coach and escort him back to the funeral home. There were 25 of us that escort 2LT Bedard back to the funeral home to prepare him for cremation. Again the escort performed their mission flawlessly, staggered, tight, and with as one moves.

Everyone that was there, I thank you. You made this a great mission.

Special thanks to all those that were on the escort, and well done. Also to my team working front and behind the scene: Dan Wilkenson, Ernie Johnson, Geno Kamerac, Jack Foster, Joe Eagan, and Mike McDonough. The Wright County Sheriffs Dept and the Elk River Police were great support, we couldn’t have done what we did without them. If there is anyone I forgot, THANK YOU.

Tim Leonhardt