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Missing in America Project (Sgt. Donald Gordon Wylie)

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This is a letter writen by my cousin a Vietnam 67/68 Marine. I thought it appropriate to share this Memorial Day weekend. I know many of you ride and may or may not know of the Patriot Guard. Thanks cuz you continue to be a great Marine.

This a story about a US soldier, Sgt. Donald Gordon Wylie, but first a little background to put it in perspective.

Most of you are aware that I ride a good old "all-American iron" Harley-Davidson motorcycle. My lovely wife Loretta gave it to me for Christmas in 2006 because she knew I loved to ride & it's become a pretty important part of my life. Shortly after that a friend of mine discovered another all-American thing that has also become a part of my life, the Patriot Guard Riders. When he & I both understood what the organization was about we both became members. I have been riding with the PGR whenever I could, mostly in support of their primary mission, which is to honor & respect the veterans of this country. The PGR performs honor escort missions for the funeral services of fallen warriors, whether they were active duty & recently were killed in combat in Iraq or Afghanistan, were stationed stateside or were survivors of WWII, Korea or Vietnam & died of natural causes. One aspect of the missions has always been to shield the family members from outside war protestors like the Westboro Baptist Church bunch & their terrible posters & chants to draw attention to their sick cause..............certainly not my idea of what a "church" is supposed to be about, regardless of denomination. Our mission is to honor the veterans as well as to support & protect their familes in their time of greatest loss & hardship.

In the 4+ years I've ridden with the PGR I've had some memorable experiences, over & above the reason for being there to start with which is to honor their lives & service to their country as a US veteran. Some of those positive memories have been due to the tremendous size of the escort group, the large number of riders that gave their time to be there regardless of the weather or road conditions.......some were due to the overwhelming support of thousands of people that lined the route from the funeral home or church to the cemetery, or the absolute precision of the military Honor Guard rendering a rifle salute & Taps. Once, due to a very small family funeral with few attending the local services, I even had the distinct honor of being a pall bearer for a US Army WWII veteran that fought from Normandy through Germany & was awarded the Medal of Honor for his courage & dedication to his men & country. I helped tp carry that warrior to his final resting place.

That's the background part, forgive me but I've never been accused of being brief, but I want you to understand this, so stay with me here.

This past Monday, May 24th, I rode another PGR honor escort mission, the most memorable so far. This one was for Sgt. Donald Gordon Wylie. Sgt. Wylie was born in 1878 & died of apparent natural causes in St. Louis in 1928. During that time he served as a US Army Sergeant during the Spanish American War, was honorably discharged after & subsequently joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a journalist during WWI in France & Belgium. Again he was honorably discharged & lived for some time in California & Oklahoma before moving to St. Louis. Not many details or records are available on Sgt. Wylie. When he died in 1928 those that knew him knew of no family members to contact upon his death. As a veteran the policy was to cremate his body. With no one to claim his remains they were placed in an urn (basically a copper coffee type can container), label it with his name & what details were available & place it on a shelf in the basement of the mortuary that "processed" him .

Fortunately there is another terriffic all-American organization called the "Missing In America Project". One of their objectives is to search the funeral homes & mortuaries in this country that have these unclaimed veterans remains on their shelves, & research as best they can with the internet resources currently available, to see if there are any surviving relatives the remains can be turned over to. Sgt. Wylie was discovered on a shelf in a local St. Louis mortuary in 2008 & research began on him. Partly due to the fact that the Canadian government was involved, due to his service during WWI, it took the better part of 2 years to bring closure & the fact that there were no relatives that could be located. The Missing In America Project people arranged for proper burial & the Patriot Guard Riders volunteered for an honor escort. After 82 years on a shelf in a mortuary, (probably more than several shelves & mortuaries, as some closed & the veteran's remains were transferred to others) Sgt. Wylie was about to be on his way to a formal burial service.

12 PGR riders met at the Debo Funeral Home in Fulton Missouri & escorted Sgt. Wylie some 80 miles to the Jacksonville Veterans Cemetery in Jacksonville, Missouri. This is a state of Missouri Veterans Cemetery located just of US 63 between Macon & Moberly, & is a truly beautiful place, manicured & immaculate. It was a hot late spring day, cloudless bright blue sky & a gentle breeze blowing. There were about 50 people attending the service, including other PGR members, a PGR Chaplain, a representatives from the Missouri Governor's Office that presented Sgt. Wylie with a WWI medal, Missouri Veterans Commission staff, local residents, a St. Louis news team & a full US Army Honor Guard rifle detail & bugler. After 82 years in a dark basement Sgt. Wylie is now in a small crypt in a wall close by other US military veterans, out in the open air surrounded by green grass & American flags.

There are many negative stories everyday that hammer us senseless.........political curruption, corporate bailouts, high % unemployment figures, economic decline, stock market losses, global environmental disasters, US casualty rates...........gloom & doom on almost every front. But this is a story of what American people can do if they have the will to take care of their own, if they imagine an organization of like minded people that will volunteer to help. There are probably thousands of small "grass roots" stories like this every day across the country somewhere, but they really don't make too much impact on the world as typically reported by the main stream media.

Regardless of that fact, this is what America is all about...........this story of finding lost veterans & providing an honorable resting place for them & having other proud Americans escort them there on their last journey...... & all the other stories with similar sacrifices & displays of respect. This country has definitely seen better times, but we've also seen worse times.............American people are still strong & we will prevail. God bless America!

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I only found out about the Patriot Guard 3 days ago and spent a great afternoon honoring a fallen soldier in Columbia, Mo. it was just the organization and cause i have been searching for. I heard the story about Sgt Wylie on the radio for several days but didn't know about the guard riders. You can bet I'll make every mission i can from now on to honor our fallen Heroes. PS way to go Loretta, shes a keeper.

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  • 3 months later...
  • 4 weeks later...

Pisser is that I cant ride anymore, next to losing my FE seat that was the thing that really really hurt.

Especially with some of the gorgeous days here in NW Indiana right now, no humidity, temps in the low 70's --- ouch.

(for some reason, chronic vertigo causes problems with riding a sled - go figure)

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  • 4 years later...

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