On Sunday, 10 August 2008, the Patriot Guard joined Spc. Ronnie Schmidt's family and representatives of the Kansas Army National Guard at Yingling Aviation to receive Ronnie from Kalitta Charters. Over 80 riders and about two dozen cages showed their support despite the rain, fog, and mist. We escorted Ronnie and his family to Downing & Lahey Mortuary in Wichita, KS. The family extends their sincere thanks to everyone who participated.
On Wednesday, 13 August 2008, approximately 300 bikes and 40 cages arrived in Newton, KS, drove to Grace Community Church, and provided an avenue of flags to greet the arrival of our motorcycle escort team who brought Ronnie and his family to Newton. We stood in line until after the church service started. The funeral attendees included Governor Kathleen Sibelius, Major General Tod Bunting and his staff, and Kansas Army National Guard soldiers. The military honor guard that guarded Ronnie's casket and were pall bearers were outstanding. The Newton Fire Department parked a ladder truck, attached an American flag, and extended the ladder over the street in front of the church.
Ronnie's family invited everyone to join them for lunch at the church following the service. The day changed from cloudy and cool to sunny and hot, but the Patriot Guard did not waiver from their task. Following lunch, we formed two processions and rode to Eureka, KS for the graveside services. The first group set up the avenue of flags in the cemetery. The second group escorted Ronnie and his family. The family again invited everyone to join them at the El Dorado American Legion Post 81 Hall for a catered dinner following the graveside services. Many were unable to attend due to the need to ride many miles home. We presented the family with our plaques, two US Army flags (one signed by the members of the Patriot Guard, one embroidered with Ronnie's name, rank, and Kansas Guard unit), and an additional casket flag in the flag case lovingly handmade by Rider Jerry Armstrong. We also present the family with the three American flags flown on the lead bikes from the airport mission to the cemetery mission. The family expressed their heartfelt appreciation for our support on this sad day.
The family also mentioned how moving it was for them to see people in the small towns and out on the highway standing with flags, saluting, holding signs saying "Thank you Spc Ronnie Schmidt", and showing their support. The streets of Ronnie's hometown of Eureka were lined several people deep. The show of love from the communities was overwhelming, and they will never forget that.
We thank all Patriot Guard who took time to support the mission today, and particularly those who came from north-central and northeast Kansas. Many had to leave very early to arrive in Newton at 6am. There was another mission at Fort Leavenworth, and it would have been an easier day for many riders from the northern part of the state to support that mission instead of riding to this one. Thank you for being here.
We thank the staging crew and road guards for their hard work. The mission runs smooth when everyone works together. We also thank Ron "Doc" Herndon for his outstanding ride prayers and Fallen Soldier prayer at the staging area.
We especially thank Wal Mart for donating coffee, donuts, and water. Thanks go to Deb Fuller for hauling the water from Wal Mart, and for the ice chests to keep the water cold and refreshing, and to Richard and Joyce for providing water and Krispy Kreme donuts which were enjoyed by all. These folks walked the line with their helpers and distributed water and donuts throughout the morning and again at the cemetery.
Special thanks go to the Kansas Highway Patrol, the Police Departments of Wichita, Newton, Maize, Park City, El Dorado, and Eureka, Fire Departments of each town, and the Sheriff Departments of each county in which we rode.
Terry "Darkhorse" Houck