I posted this on the ADVRider forum, but thought it warranted extra coverage.
My first road trip on the "new" 2007 Burgman 650 I bought last week, and what a memorable one it was!! I don't have any photos posted here of the bike because I wanted the focus to be on Sgt Kiger. Read on, and I think you will understand.
MANNINGTON, W.Va. -- The remains of a West Virginia airman killed in Germany during World War II are coming home for burial.
Jerome Kiger of Mannington was a tail gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber that was shot down July 21, 1944. The remains of Kiger and another crewman were found in the plane's wreckage in Bavaria in 2008. Kiger's identity was confirmed by DNA testing.
The Dominion Post reports that Kiger will be buried with honors on July 21 at Mannington Memorial Park. His family is inviting active-duty military personnel and veterans to attend the service.
Today, I had the most meaningful, fulfilling ride of my lifetime. I contacted the WV Patriot Guard, and they invited me to ride along with them to escort Sgt Kiger's casket from Pittsburgh airport (where it was arriving at noon today) back to his hometown of Mannington WV. I knew it was going to be a day full of emotions, but I never guessed there wasn't going to be a dry eye in my helmet several times during the ride. This was truly one of those days you remember forever.
Sgt Jerome Kiger
A group of about 15 riders met in Morgantown WV early this morning and rode up to Pittsburgh, where we met about 30-40 other riders. It is the first road trip on my "new" 2007 Burgman 650 that I bought last week with only 2,400 miles. Smooth, comfortable, and absolutely no problem keeping up with the "big bikes".
At noon, we headed over to the Pittsburgh Airport, where we waiting for Sgt Kiger's arrival. After a brief private ceremony with the family inside, the hearse exited the facility to begin Sgt Kiger's final journey home.
It was over 90 degrees, there were no restrooms, we had to wait over an hour, and not a single complaint from anyone.
The Honor Guard preparing for Sgt Kiger's hearse to exit the building.
Talk about dedication - these guys are in full dress uniforms and gloves, and it is 90* + several more * on the pavement.
With two Pennsylvania State Troopers providing escort to the WV state line, we did not have to worry about traffic breaking up the line. Thanks guys!
The moment I wanted to catch - Sgt Kiger finally returning to West Virginia nearly 69 years after his fateful mission.
At the WV state line, we were escorted by two Sheriff cars and a Sheriff Can-Am (yes, with lights and siren!). We exited I-79 at the new downtown Fairmont exit where fire trucks and other emergency vehicles lead the procession the final 12 miles to Mannington. It was quite a sight!
It was the next 12 miles that were most emotional, as I watched families with small kids waving flags and saluting and holding their hands over their hearts as we passed by. At several small businesses along Rt 250, groups of employees stood outside the front door of their shops to pay respects to Sgt Kiger as he passed. Oncoming traffic came to a stop and sat parked on the road while the half-mile-long procession passed. People apparently stopped what they were doing to witness this moment in history and to pay their respects. Very moving.
At the funeral home, the Patriot Guard provided a flag line and stood quietly at attention as the casket was taken from the hearse into the funeral home. You could have heard a pin drop.
Wow - what a ride! It was truly an honor and privilege to have the opportunity to pay respects to Sgt Kiger, a young man who gave his life to protect the freedoms we all take for granted too often. He never had the opportunity to marry and have a family, but the crowd today shows he certainly has an extended family that appreciates the sacrifice he made 69 years ago.
SUNDAY - 21 JULY - 1:30 PM - Sgt Kiger will be taken from the Hutson Funeral Home (500 Main St, Mannington WV - Rt 250) to the Mannington Memorial Gardens for a formal military ceremony and burial, 69 years to the day he ws shot down over Germany. I'm planning to be there, and I'm sure there will be more tears.