SGT Eric Newman was killed in Afghanistan October 14th of wounds suffered when insurgents attacked his unit using an improvised explosive device. He was assigned to 1st Squadron, 38th Cavalry Regiment, 525th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps, Fort Bragg, N.C.
I have been on more KIA missions with the MS PGR than I care to count. Every time there is an out pouring of love, loss and support for the family and I know that I shouldn’t be surprised by the support a community shows for one of our fallen heros, but this time I was completely amazed. The city of Waynesboro, MS came to honor SGT Newman in a way that I have never seen before. It started at the airport in Meridian, MS on Thursday when Newman’s body arrived, and continued all along the 50 mile route to Waynesboro and the funeral home. There were officers and fire fighters from Wayne County, Waynesboro, and Meridian,as well as 47 PGR and bikers.
I don’t think there was any kind of auto moving in the city other than the procession from the time we entered till we arrived at the funeral home. I have made the comment several times that it is hard to ride my Harley with tears filling my eyes and goggles, but this time was different. There were more tears.
The city of Waynesboro had heard that “uninvited guest” were targeting this service and those same uninvited guest even had it up on their web site. I am not sure if it was one woman or several, but there were flyers being handed out as Newman’s body was being escorted through town. One concerned citizen made it a point to give the flyer to the PGR State Captain, Ed Baker and he went to work to confirm their attendance.
The “uninvited guest” have to obtain a permit to legally protest. After a bit of investigation and some phone calls, Ed sent us all and email telling us that a reporter had a direct quote from the city clerk that they had NOT gotten that permit. That allowed the PGR to focus on what we were there to do, honor a true American Hero.
Visitation was Friday evening and about 20 of us were there to stand the flag line. The city of Waynesboro sent out a message that they wanted to do something for the PGR for being there to honor it’s fallen son and the Honor Guard from Ft Bragg. Many of the churches and community members came together to set up a feast fit for a king. We ate in shifts so as to make sure there were enough PGR members there to stand the flag line and have extras to rotate out with. I was lucky enough and honored to be in the group that arrived at the firehouse while the Honor Guard from Ft Bragg was still there. What a great group of soldiers! It was an honor to meet them.
The city had invited them to attend the football game that night. As they arrived at the ball field, they announced that the soldiers were on their way in. As they entered the field, there was a standing ovation. I was told that it brought them to tear to see such a greeting.
A the end of the evening some rode home and some of us grabbed hotel rooms.
Services were held on Saturday, October 23rd. A Never Forget flag had been embroidered in honor of SGT Newman and was flown for the escort from the funeral home to the cemetery. It was presented to Newman’s mother with the hope that the Waynesboro Police Dept. will fly it in honor of SGT Newman.
There were over 100 bikers on over 90 motorcycles that came to stand the flag line, and to honor and escort SGT Newman to his final resting place.
Once again, the “uninvited guests” made a very small presents. I did not talk to her and the only time I saw her was after she had been asked to leave and had only moved her SUV to the other side of the funeral home. Once we knew she had not left, we alerted the officers there and they took care of it. When it was time for the escort to the cemitary, the officers made sure that she didn’t leave when we did.
We formed a flag line at the cemetery and presented the mother and wife with plaques in honor of SGT Newman.
I want to say thank you to the city of Waynesboro for showing such great support to SGT Newman’s family and friends and to the PGR. When a community comes together such as they did, it restores my faith in humanity.
All of the video in this post was shot by a reporter from The Wayne County News.
Pictures were taken by Gold Star Mom, Wilma Allen; Stacy Price Lee and myself.