Top Cats Honor Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
by Larry Scalzitti
Early in the morning on Thursday, August 27th, Chuck Prettyman, Larry Johnson and I assembled at the Mobil Station in Lake Zurich. After a quick discussion about the events of the day and the best route to take, we headed toward Wheeling with Larry Johnson leading the way. We later met up with fellow Top Cat, Fred Creed and the four of us were a team for the remainder of the day.
We met so we could ride to pay tribute to United States Marine Corporal Christopher J Boyd. He was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan on August 19th while supporting combat operations in the Helmand province. Cpl Boyd was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, 1st Marine Expeditionary Force based out of Camp Pendleton, California.
The 22-year-old graduated in 2006 from Palatine High School. He anchored the offensive line and started as the center his senior year, leaving a legacy of diligence and toughness with the football program. He married his high school sweetheart, Danielle Harden Boyd. The couple lived in California and had twin sons, 18 month old boys, Evan and Jack.
If you have never ridden with the Patriot Guard Riders, I highly recommend that you do. Visit their web site to learn more about what they do and why they do it. (www.patriotguard.org) or just talk to anyone mentioned in this article about their experience. I’ve been able to participate in both the sad and the glad parts of riding with the Patriot Guard. Thankfully there are more homecomings than there are burials. You don’t need to be a veteran or ride your bike to these events. Take a day off or spend a weekend day honoring the men and women who have made great sacrifices for our freedom. Believe me at the end of a mission you will appreciate just how important your presence was for the families of the service members. It is truly an amazing experience that will make you a better person by the end of the day. It can also be the kind of moving and mournful experience where tears are shed as you watch the families say their goodbyes for the last time.
Normally the Patriot Guard rides that honor fallen service members are conducted over a number of days. The first event is escorting the warrior from the airport to the funeral home. The second event is participating in a flag line during the wake and that can be conducted over several days. A flag line consists of Patriot Guard Riders, each holding a large American flag, lined up to welcome and shield the mourners as they arrive. The last event is the funeral. On this day there were flag lines at the funeral and the burial as well as a ride escorting the funeral procession to the burial site.
This memorial would be very different because all three phases of the mission would be conducted on the same day. We began by forming a flag line at the Chicago Executive Airport in Wheeling. There were over 130 bikes and riders present. We initially set up a flag line as the body was transported from the hanger to the hearse outside. We then returned our flags to the chase vehicles, mounted our bikes and formed up to serve as an escort down Milwaukee Avenue. Most of the bikes were sporting large American flags. We were an amazing site as bike after bike preceded the hearse and the family’s limousine to the Kolssak Funeral Home. Villagers lined the streets as police from several communities blocked traffic as the large procession slowly rode down Milwaukee Avenue.
The assembled members of the guard took turns holding flags on the flag line for the next several hours on this very warm and sunny day. Only close family and the Marines of his unit attended the wake. Next we headed back to our bikes and lined up to serve as escorts for the funeral procession from the wake All Saints Cemetery for the grave site service.
For me the burial is the most poignant event of the process. It is often the time when a tear or two will creep down the weathered faces of the bikers lined up with their flags flapping in the breeze. A time when the warrior’s loved ones say their goodbyes. A time when a chaplain speaks the last words that attempt to make sense of this death. A time when his comrades in arms say a few words about the kind of man he was. A time when a wife places the last rose on the coffin and turns a tearfilled eye skyward. A time when parents toss a handful of dirt upon the casket and bury a child they thought would bury them. A time to hear a twenty one gun salute. A time to pray. A time to mourn. A time to say goodbye.