[July 23, 2014]LINCOLN - When Lincoln resident
Michael McCray died unexpectedly in California recently, his sons,
who he had been visiting, were tasked with returning their father’s
remains to his home town. They wanted to honor their father and
acknowledge his service in the United States Army and his two tours
in Viet Nam.
They contacted both the California and Illinois chapters of the
Patriot Guard to help out. The Patriot Guard is a national volunteer
organization of more than 200,000 members who provide escorts for
deceased veterans, and those who have given their all for their
country in combat. They provide an honor guard at funerals and
accompany the deceased and family to the cemetery. The Patriot
Guard’s motto is “Standing for Those Who Stood for Us.”
In the case of Mr. McCray, the Patriot Guard accompanied his remains
from the California funeral home to the airport where his casket was
to be transported by air to Illinois. Holland Barry and Bennett
Funeral Home arranged for Mr. McCray’s casket to be brought from the
airport to their Lincoln funeral home.
The Illinois chapter of the Patriot Guard arrived at the funeral
home at the request of Mr. McCray’s family to honor his memory, and
show respect for his family and our community. Members stood at
attention inside the funeral home at a special display with the
American flag. The rest of the contingent from Region 4 of the
Illinois Patriot Guard stood at attention outside amid a mass
display of the stars and stripes.
When it was time to accompany Mr. McCray to his final resting place,
the Patriot Guard members, most of who were on motorcycles festooned
with flags, provided an escort. There were approximately a dozen
motorcycles from the group in the contingent, all of whom volunteer
for this solemn duty.
The Guard members in Mr. McCray’s cortege were from all over central
Illinois, some from as far away as Danville and Charleston.
Funeral director Chris Bennett, a Marine Corp veteran, said “I can’t
say enough good about the Patriot Guard. This was our first
experience with them. They went so far as to decorate the cemetery
plot with a display of flags.”
Rick Daily, from Georgetown, is the Senior Ride Captain for
the local region of the Illinois Patriot Guard. “We attend over
150 funerals in central Illinois a year, and at times have
travelled to Indiana and Missouri to honor our veterans. This
was our first time in Lincoln,” he said. Kevin and Cathy Page,
Bloomington residents, drive the support vehicle that
accompanies the motorcycles.
Daily said the Patriot Guard members also organize events at the
Veterans Hospital in Danville including cookouts. The Guard also
attends the deployment of troops and welcomes them home. They
also attend Honor Flights.
The Patriot Guard attends funerals only at the invitation of the
family. Funeral director Lesleigh Bennett said, “The funeral
home can arrange for a Patriot Guard escort if the family of the
deceased asks us to.”