19 May 2012
The following is a little lengthy, but tells the story of how one family found closure and peace of mind:
You know as a member of the Patriot Guard Riders what to expect as far as what is done behind the scenes and along the flag line at a Mission and the emotions that come with what the PGR stands for, but I would like to share with you my experience at my first Mission that I was a part of on May 19th 2012. I have heard stories of Missions my parents have been a part of over the years. My father, Warren Schlicker, is a Ride Captain
and when I come up from North Carolina to visit them, I hear all about the runs, and how beautiful and emotional these services are. This visit was a little different for me, as this was the first time I rode with my Dad on his motorcycle. When we got back from the ride, he mentioned that there was a Mission he was doing on Saturday, May 19th 2012, and if I wanted to come along I can ride with him. I accepted, and was excited that I was going to be a part of what my parents have been doing for the last couple of years.
6:15am Saturday morning I was suited up and riding with my Dad to Ruland Funeral home, 1 of 14 which were participating in Veterans and their Dependents Interment Service at Long Island National Cemetery put together by the Nassau Suffolk Funeral Directors Association. Being that I don’t have a family member currently active in the military, I didn’t know what to expect emotionally, when I got to the funeral home. I walked into the funeral home and saw the American flag laying over the cremains of 6 brave heroes that in some way or another have been forgotten over the years. I did not know the names of these individuals, but the intense sense of pride and gratitude brought tears to my eyes. As 7 am approached, I heard my father directing the other PGR members to gather the flags and stand the flag line. I thought I was going to stand to the side and just watch, until my Dad handed me a flag and showed me what to do when he says “Present Arms”. Now I get stage fright standing a flag line with several other PGR members who have done this before, not knowing just what the day was going to hold for me. Watching my father salute the 6 cremains into the Hearse, I was left speechless. When it was time to depart to the meeting spot with the other funeral homes, I was amazed as I watched other groups ride in ready for the ceremony. I recorded the PGR members leaving, and awaited the Ride Captains turn to follow. My Dad was appointed to lead the several other Ride Captains and cages into the cemetery, and within a few minutes, there I was first in line with a Police Escort heading towards the cemetery! As we passed police who had closed down the road, I couldn’t help but tear up at the amount of respect and honor that was shown for these Veterans that the PGR were escorting to their final resting place.
It finally hit me, how BIG this event really was, when the road was lined with fire trucks hanging the American Flag the entire way to the cemetery. This was an experience that I will never forget. I can tell you I had no idea what to expect from the mission, but to be a part of this historic and Honorary Ceremony, I still cannot express it in words. At one point while presenting arms, I needed to wipe away tears because of how touched I was. I was in utter awe all the way up to each Ride Captain escorting a Hearse to the final resting place. I followed my Dad, and he said I could help if I wanted to bring the ashes up to the wall. At first I stood to the side just taking in the scene. It was when my Dad pointed at me and mouthed “one more” that I approached the Hearse and took a glance at the name engraved in the urn. Philip Klingenberger. As I walked the ashes up to the Memorial Wall, I kept thinking “Remind me to ask Chris if this could be his relative.” The rest of the ashes were put in the wall and I was able to take pictures of the men’s names I had presented for burial. The day went on beautifully, and all I could think of was how awesome and humbled I felt for being a part of what PGR stands for. I went home saw the news coverage on News 12 and a few hours later I got a text message from my friend Chris. Instead of answering his text, I sent him a picture with the caption ‘Could this be your relative?’ The response I got sent chills up my spine and confirms that God works in mysterious ways.
“Oh my God… that is my Grandfather, I have only heard stories about him, I don’t even have a picture! Where did you find this?”
My friend, Chris Klingenberger, whom I have known since 7th grade, just was given a picture of his Grandfather’s ashes and engraved stone. As I told him of the days’ events, he put on News 12 and told his Dad about what I just sent him. It was also around this time that fellow PGR Member Carlos Varon had emailed my Dad that the pictures were up from the ceremony. As I went through the pictures I also came across another miracle. Carlos had taken a picture of roses in front of four engraved urns. In this picture of the 4 cremains the first name was Philip Klingenberger. I immediately sent that to my friend, then noticed another picture of me accepting ashes from a Hearse. In the picture you can clearly see the name of the urn PGR Member Karen Wirth was holding, and as I grabbed the bulletin I realize that Carlos had snapped yet another picture of my friends’ Grandfather. Carlos had no idea just how meaningful these pictures have just become not only to me, but to a close friends family.
Upon talking to my friend, he and his family were in awe that I came to be a part in bringing their family together. After his Grandfather died in 1969, his Grandmother died shortly after and Chris’ Dad was only a child. All this time they never knew his ashes were even at the funeral home. His father was upset that he was never notified about the event, or the recovered ashes, but was so grateful that I was there to give them this information. I saved my bulletin and memorial card to give to Chris as a small token of the miracle that had taken place earlier that day.
Now I know not every mission or ceremony goes this way, but there is no denying that I was supposed to be there at this particular Ceremony. I was meant to finally ride my Dad’s motorcycle, and it was fate for me to be called over to the Hearse by my Dad saying there was one more. Then to find out I was carrying my friends Grandfather in one of the most beautiful ceremonies I will ever be a part of, was breathtaking. Another member of the PGR, Alice Johnson, put together an excellent video that she had shared online Monday morning. As I watched the opening scene, I realize she was at Charles G. Schmitt Funeral Home in Seaford. The funeral home where Philip Klingenberger was resting for all these years, awaiting the moment that I would be able to share this incredible experience with his family. I wanted to personally thank you and all the men and women that made this event possible. Not only was this ceremony beautifully put together, but to be able to give a family a final resting spot to visit, pictures and a video of a forgotten loved one is something you just cannot plan for. I wanted to tell you my story to share with you a miracle that you and the Patriot Guard Riders have given not only to myself, but to the Klingenberger family. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. God bless you, God bless the troops, God bless America, and God bless the PGR!
New Patriot Guard Rider Member