Connecticut Cruise News – Feb/Apr 2013

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Patriot Guard Riders

To start off, let me mention a change in CT PGR leadership. Assistant State Captain Jeff Hartke has decided to step down due to work demands, including working at a location without access to personal email which makes it difficult to handle mission preparation. Jeff will continue to join us on the flag line as his work schedule permits. Senior Ride Captain Jack Casey has accepted the role of ASC. Jack has been a relentless advocate for our veterans and a regular fixture on most (if not all) of our missions. We wish both Jeff and Jack the best of luck in their new adventures. Mac McArthur continues as the other ASC. The only difference between the two is Mac’s motorcycle that he rides to missions has 2 wheels, whereas Jack’s has 4.

The Connecticut Patriot Guard Riders started off this issue with an Honor Mission on Jan 7th in Derby and Ansonia for Nicholas Vulcu, a WWII Army veteran who served in the Philippines. Jan 12th brought another Honor Mission. This one in Windsor Locks for Clifford E. Mathews Sr, who served in the Marine Corps in WWII in the Pacific Theater. We had another Honor Mission on Jan 14th for Edward Creaser in West Haven and New Haven. Edward served during WWII aboard the Essex-class aircraft carrier USS Randolph (CV-15).

The next day, Jan 15th, brought another Honor Mission. This one was in Enfield, East Windsor, and Broad Brook for Nelson Joseph Taylor who served in the Navy aboard the Haskell-class attack transport USS Rockbridge (APA-228). Another mission the following day in Rocky Hill for Sebastain A. DiMauro, an Army veteran of WWII in the Pacific Theater, where he received the Purple Heart with two bronze stars during his service with the 169th Infantry 43rd Division Company G. For the 4th day in a row, we had an Honor Mission. Jan 17th we stood an Honor Mission in Bridgeport and Trumbull for Frank Ortiz who served in the Marines during the Korean War as a Corporal in the 9th Infantry Division.

Jan 19th brought a pair of missions. The first was a Honor Mission in Gales Ferry and New London for Willie Julius Heath, who joined the Navy at the age of 15 and served in WWII and Korea. The second was to support a Chili Cook-Off in Somers to benefit the Sandy Hook Fire Department. It was a special atmosphere at the Sandy Hook FD cook off at Pleasant View in Somers,CT, as everyone was reminded of the reason for the event. It was also an inspiration to see the number of cooks, sponsors, volunteers, and public who turned out to support the Sandy Hook Fire Department. It is truly amazing what can happen when everyone works together for a good cause. There were cooks from 6 states with 18 salsa entries, 27 chili verde, and 26 red chilis. The PGR stood a flag line and also assisted in parking/admissions/raffles/judging/etc. CT PGR Ride Captain Mad Mike Freedman was the driving force behind this cook-off that raised over $7,000 for Sandy Hook.

After a quiet week, we had another Honor Mission in Waterbury for John J. DePinto Sr, who served in WWII in the Merchant Marines and then the Army in Central Europe. Feb 4th we stood a Honor Mission in Uncasville for Vincent Lajoie who served in the Navy for 20 years including WWII. On Feb 5th we were honored to stand a flag line at the SendOff Ceremony for the “143rd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion” at the Hartford Armory as they prepare for deployment in support of “Operation Enduring Freedom. We will be even more pleased and honored to stand again with them during a Welcome-Home Ceremony next year when they all return safely.
.           The next Honor Mission for this issue was Feb 12th in Windsor for James Kuszik, who served in the Air Force in Vietnam and then in the CT Air National Guard, retiring as a Master Sergeant  from the 103rd Fighter Group. While in Vietnam, he served as an aircraft mechanic, notably working on the C-47 Gunships known as “Puff the Magic Dragon.” Two days later, we had a short-notice Honor Mission in Groton for Robert Perry, who served in the Navy for 33 years, including WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Feb 16th brought another Honor Mission. This one at the Middletown Veterans Cemetery for Edward Barry who served in the Air Force in Korea. Edward went on to serve veteran’s needs as the Assistant Administrator and then Administrator for the “Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines Fund” also serving in the American Legion for many years.

On Feb 19th, we had an Honor Mission in Cromwell for James Lee who served in the CT Army National Guard. James’s brother is a PGR Ride Captain from Tennessee which made this mission especially rewarding. We had another Honor Mission on Feb 22nd in Derby for Peter Reynolds who served in the Army in Vietnam. On Feb 22nd, we also had one of those missions we really like, a Welcome Home Ceremony at the Hartford Armory. This one was for the “142nd Area Support Medical Company”, the “246th Engineer Detachment (Firefighter)” and the “103rd Air Control Squadron” returning from Afghanistan. On Feb 26th we had another Honor Mission in Rocky Hill, Cromwell, and Middletown for Doug Blowers, a Marine veteran of Vietnam who conducted Search & Rescue missions with the “Ugly Angels” a Marine heavy helicopter squadron during his service. The first mission in March was a Send-Off in Colchester on Mar 2nd for Nolan McNair, who is deploying with the Army to Afghanistan. We wish him a safe journey. Mar 4th brought our final Honor Mission for this issue. This one in Rocky Hill, Portland, and Middletown for John Bednarz, an Army veteran of Korea, who also served in the Army Reserve (working on the Nike Missile System) and in the CT National Guard.

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 to check it out or to join up.                                                                                                                                                                              (Article by Jay D Koonz)