When Eric finally got news of his release date from the Army, one of my bosses recommended the Southeast Texas Patriot Guard Riders http://www.setexaspgr.org/ for a welcome home ceremony for him. I found their website, submitted a request, and a representative contacted me almost immediately wanting all the particulars—they could not wait to get Eric on their schedule.
We postponed the event one week to January 3, due to a 100 percent chance of rain in the forecast and are glad we did because the weather, while cool, was bright and sunshiny.
The rider and his wife who coordinate all the welcome home ceremonies met with me in mid-December to find a place in our neighborhood to stage part one of the event which is shown in the first four photos below (thanks to Rhonda who took all the photos):
All the volunteers met in the parking lot of an elementary school and formed a flag line
which ended with the welcome home banner.
In order to get Eric dressed up and into the car in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, I told him we were going for a family photo. As our vehicle approached the school, all the veterans in the flag line saluted and the rest placed their hands on their hearts.
Eric: “What is this?”
Me: “It’s the Texas Patriot Guard Riders giving you a welcome home. Go with it.”
After the flag line procession, the local fire department led everyone back to our house for part two of the event, stopping traffic and running stoplights (hopefully Eric thought that was kinda cool).
Here’s the fire truck leading the way up the street.
The Patriot Guard Riders is an all-volunteer organization which honors military members and first responders. Many of its members are Vietnam veterans.
The man on the left in the photo below is Corky. He relayed some anecdotes about Eric to the group, the first one about knots:
Eric was out in the field on a training exercise at Fort Drum in the rain. The roads were muddy and vehicles were getting stuck regularly. Getting stuck requires getting towed using a rope but a square knot to pull a truck in the rain means that you have to cut the rope to get it undone. This means the only rope you have gets shorter and shorter. Eric is an Eagle Scout and knows his way around knots so he says, “Sergeant, I can tie a knot that you won’t have to cut to get undone.”
“Eric, do you mean to tell me that you know more than I do?”
“Sergeant, in this case I do.”
So Eric tied the knot, the vehicle was pulled, and the knot was undone without a knife.
When Eric was on leave last summer, his dad told him a story about a friend of his who had been in the Army and once had been assigned to painting already painted rocks on either side of a sidewalk. Eric listened, but rolled his eyes. One week later, he texted his father, “You will never guess what I’m doing now: painting rocks!” He was refreshing the white “A” on a hill overlooking Fort Drum.
After Corky finished telling this story, a bunch of the bikers came forward to present Eric with a painted rock.
Afterward, everyone was invited to meet Eric and shake hands.
It was a wonderful day.