10-4-07. Doc Willey and I rode North to Cheboygan, Michigan to attend the funeral of an exceptional soldier. SFC Matthew D. Blaskowski, 27 of Levering, Michigan. SFC Blaskowski was killed in action while serving with the 173d Airborne Brigade on combat operations in Afghanistan.
Having been asked to go and represent the Society of the 173d Airborne Brigade and Chapter 17 we also attended as Patriot Guard Riders. It was a very busy and emotionally draining day.
I tell you, nobody breaks out to serve their community and their veterans like rural America. There isn't a big city in the country that can compare to what we witnessed on 10-4-07. - I set my alarm to 0500, got dressed and walked down main street 'til I found an open restaurant. There were many locals inside and I got the hairy eyeball from all of them. Being dressed in my leathers they soon asked if I was in town to attend the funeral. After the initial words were spoken I was treated like I was someone special. (usually I get run out of town by the local gestapo.) The waitress said my breakfast was free as someone came in and layed down $300. to cover the cost of breakfast to any volunteer who show up to go to the funeral. - After returning to the hotel, showering and changing to class A uniform I met the honor guard, Matthew's beautiful wife and Matthew's best friend, SSG ? The Army had allowed him to take an early R&R to go to his friends funeral. (Pardon me but I didn't take notes and my memory sucks.) They had been up partying together so I did the duty of passing out Excedrine and cups of water to swallow them down with. (some traditions in the Airborne never change)
The funeral at the local high school was standing room only. Afterward the procession wound through the downtown area and approximately 8 miles to the cemetary. Everyone that could not go to the high school lined the procession route and honestly there were so many people you'd think it was a 4th of July parade instead of a funeral. After the procession left the city limits people from the outskirts stood by the road to honor their fallen hero and to give him one last goodbye. Amazing! - There was also a good 200 bikes in the procession from Patriot Guard Riders. Our own Doc Willey was asked to lead the procession behing law enforcement as he and 5 others were flying full sized flags from their bikes. - Law enforcement was well represented as there were officers from the local police, county sheriff and the state police.
If any of you would care to join Patriot Guard Riders it doesn't cost you anything but time invested, gasoline to get there and back and maybe a few shed tears if you get emotional like I do. There is no pressure because it is all voluntary and you come and donate what time you can. You will find there's a lot of good people like yourselves out there and maybe make some new friends because of it.