Connecticut Cruise News – May/Jun 2012

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Patriot Guard Riders

The Connecticut Patriot Guard Riders started off this issue standing a flag line on Apr 14th in New Haven for the Welcome Home for the “4th Marine Logistics Reserve Group” that was returning from a deployment in Afghanistan. We joined family and friends in welcoming home these heroes and thanking them for their service. It’s always heart-warming watching the children greeting their father, or mother, after they’ve been gone for a year or more.

On Apr 17th, we had a pair of  Honor Missions on opposite sides of the state. The first in Taftville and Norwich for Gerald Lattin, a Volunteer Firefighter for many years with the East Great Plains Fire Department. The second was in Bristol for John Yalanis, an Army veteran of the Vietnam War who was awarded the Bronze Star for his service. John was a good friend of our own Senior Ride Captain Bruce “Santa” Eble.

This might be a good time to remind people that the Patriot Guard’s main mission is “to attend the funeral services of fallen American Heroes as invited guests of the family.” The “American Heroes” include all those that risk their lives for American’s Freedom and Security, including Police, Firefighters, EMTs, etc. So if you have a Firefighter that has died, request a PGR mission, we’ll be proud to stand a flag line and pay our final respects for them also.

Our next Honor Mission was Apr 18th in Ellington for John Ike Eichler, another Army veteran of the Vietnam War. A few days later, on Apr 20th, we had an Honor Mission for one of CT PGR’s own. We stood to pay final respects for Tom Comfort, who served in the Navy and the Army National Guard. Tom was a CT PGR member who was killed in a motorcycle accident returning from the Welcome Home mission just a week ago.

Our next Honor Mission was on Apr 24th in Bristol for Stephen Zaremski, a WWII Army Air Force veteran who served in the China-Burma-India Theater. Stephen was an aerial engineer who completed over 50 flights on Curtis C-46 Commando aircraft delivering troops and supplies over the Himalayan Mountains from India to China. After his military service, Stephen served in the Bristol Fire Department for over 30 years, ending his service there as “Acting Fire Chief.”

For our next mission, we were honored that the CT Air National Guard requested we stand a flag line at the send-off for the “103rd Air Control Squadron” at the Hartford Armory. We joined family and friends at the ceremony for these heroes. One of these heroes was the son of one of the CT PGRs active members, Beth Ann, and we presented him with a PGR flag to fly over their “home” while on deployment, to remind them that there  are people across the world thinking about them and that we are grateful for their service. At this ceremony, as at past ones, as soon as the troops are dismissed some come over to shake our hands thanking us for being there to see them off. It’s very humbling to be thanked by these heroes going off  into “harms way” when all we did was stand a flag line to show our respect.

Apr 26th brought another Honor Mission. This one in Glastonbury for Alan Mockus, an Aviation Ordanceman on the aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk during the Vietnam War. Alan purchased his first motorcycle at the age of 20, and was a proud PGR member in the state of Georgia. On Apr 28th, we had a Honor Mission in Greenwich for Eric Omdahl, who served in the Army in Vietnam, earning a Purple Heart for wounds suffered during operations against enemy forces. Eric went on to serve in the Navy and then the Greenwich Special Police Division.

Also on Apr 28th was the CT PGR’s annual fund-raiser, the Chili Cook-Off in Somers. We stood a flag line there, provided judges, provided check-in services, and generally helped where ever needed. A good time was had by all, and funds were raised to continue doing what we do. Besides replacing our flags periodically due to normal wear and tear, funds are required to purchase the plaque that is presented to the family of the heroes we stand for. The plaque reads in part “On behalf of a Grateful America and the Patriot Guard Riders, Please accept our sincere Condolences on your tragic loss. May your pain be tempered by the knowledge that <name,rank> is a True American Hero.”

On May 4th, we stood a pair of Honor Missions on opposite sides of the state. The first in Norwich for Victor Dee Johnston, a Lt Colonel actively serving in the Army. The second was in North Haven for Patrick Massaro who served in the Army during WWII on the 11th Hospital train stationed in France.

That’s it for the missions since the last CT Cruise News issue deadline. We hope we provided some peace to the familys 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.

The CT Patriot Guard has a new website, that we’re extremely proud of. Go to to check it out or to join up.                                                                                                         (Article by Jay D Koonz)