Patriot Guard Riders
The Connecticut Patriot Guard Riders started off this issue with a Special Mission on May 11th in Groton, a “Honor and Remember” flag presentation to relatives of Marine Cpl Kemaphoom Chanawongse, who was KIA in Iraq on March 23rd 2003. A week later, on May 18th in Mansfield, we had another “Honor and Remember” flag presentation. This one to relatives of Army Staff Sgt Joseph Ed Phaneuf II. That same day, we had an Honor Mission in Windsor Locks for Kenneth Hamilton, who served in the Army during the Vietnam Era. On May 19th we had another pair of missions. The first was a flag line at the opening ceremony of the “Iwo Jima Survivors Victory Ride” in New Britain. The proceeds from this ride went to the Maintenance Fund for the “National Iwo Jima Memorial” in Newington. The second mission on that day was another “Honor and Remember” flag presentation in Prospect. This one was for Army Warrant Officer Michael Kight, who was killed when his helicopter was shot down returning from patrol in Vietnam. This ceremony was held on the anniversary of Michael’s death, and the Cobra helicopter at the Prospect VFW is dedicated in his honor.
On May 23rd, we stood a flag line at the annual addendum ceremony at the “CT Wall of Honor” in the Legislative Office Building in Hartford. This year, there was a single honoree added, Army Capt Andrew Pedersen-Keel who was killed in Afghanistan in March. Also on May 23rd, we stood a flag line at a memorial for Capt Pedersen-Keel at the James H Moran Middle School in Wallingford. This was part of a Memorial Day Tribute for the school’s 700 students, and included a wreath laying ceremony. A tribute to Capt Pedersen-Keel and several guest speakers. Kudos to the school system in Wallingford for organizing this memorial to educate their students about the real reasons behind this holiday.
On May 24th we had a Honor Mission in West Haven for Stephen Tiddei, who served in the Navy during WWII, fighting in the North Pacific. After the war, he served in the New Haven Police Dept as a SWAT Team commanded, sub-commander of the Bomb Squad, and as the fire arms training officer. Over the Memorial Day weekend, several members participated in multiple parades, notably in Ansonia, Old Saybrook, Derby/Shelton, and Norwich, where our own CT PGR Assistant State Captain Jack Casey was honored as Veteran of the Year and served as the parade’s Grand Marshall.
May 30th brought another Honor Mission. This one in Somers and Enfield for Michael Okraska, who served in the Marine Corps, completing three campaigns in Vietnam and retired as a decorated veteran after 23 years of service. On May 31st, we had a Honor Mission in Hamden and North Haven for Peter Joseph Mrowka, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam. June 1st brought another Honor Mission. This one in New London for Frederic Stutzer, who served in the Air Force for 22 years and was a Vietnam veteran. June 3rd was our last Honor Mission for this issue in Seymour and Oxford for James Burns, who served in the Army during WWII with the 5th Infantry Ranger Battalion. It was a rainy day but we were still there standing proud to show our respect for this hero’s service.
That’s it for the missions since the last CT Cruise News issue deadline. We hope we provided some peace to the families of the heroes we paid our final respects to. As always, we invite you to come out and join us in our mission to honor this country’s veterans at their funeral services. Come out to one, grab a Flag and stand alongside us, experience the same satisfaction the rest of us do. You’ll be back.
Go to our website www.ctpatriotguard.org to check it out or to join up. (Article by Jay D Koonz)