Thursday, October 21, 2010
Today I had the honor of escorting an American hero home after being killed in action in Afghanistan. As part of the Patriot Guard Riders we met the Kalitta Air jet, carrying the body of Army Sgt. Carlos Benitez (Carrollton, Texas), at the DFW airport. After transfer of the casket to the hearse was complete, the DFW Airport Police and the Irving, Texas, Police Department escorted the hearse and family to the road where approximately 60 motorcycles and 10 vehicles had staged for the escort. The Irving Police Department’s motor units led the way for the entire 15 mile trip to the funeral home. They did an absolutely perfect job in watching traffic and blocking roads, where needed, to ensure that this hero did not have to stop enroute to the funeral home. Along the way I noticed many people looked puzzled as to why the police and all these motorcycles were there. Hopefully they figured it out as the hearse approached. It was certainly noticeable when we saw people pulled over to the side of the road or standing on the side of the road and saluting out of respect for this fallen soldier. One of the most memorable moments was as we were driving down the freeway and at each overpass at least one Irving PD unit had stopped and the officer was out of the vehicle saluting our hero as the procession passed. On a couple of the overpasses there were citizens doing the same thing. This was an appropriate showing of respect for a fallen soldier’s final trip home.
Once we arrived at the funeral home all of the Patriot Guard Riders parked our bikes and stood tall and silent by the hearse while they prepared to take the coffin into the funeral home. The Funeral Director asked our Ride Captain if we could assist with bringing the coffin into the chapel. Six of us were chosen and we lined up at the rear of the hearse to receive our hero. It was my honor to carry this soldier the last few feet of the day.
Seeing his young wife, two young children and small extended family standing there as we started to walk away drove home the fact that while we get to go home, to work or wherever we may want to go, his family will be living this tragedy for the rest of their lives and will never truly be able to ride away from it. As we left, an older lady that I believe was his mother thanked each of us for honoring him in this way. It was our honor to be able to do it.
While I hope that the need for us to be called upon again never arises, I know that it is likely that it will. I will be honored to escort any of our soldiers and American heroes whenever called upon.
May God be with the family, friends and colleagues of Sgt. Carlos Benitez.