Sunday, August 30, 2015

Woman Wears Vietnam MIA-POW Bracelet For 38 Years Until Soldier Comes Home

On May 14th 2011, I left Georgia with several other Patriot Guard Rider friends and we rode from West Georgia before daylight, to a little town named Brierfield Alabama. Brierfield is about 40 miles south of Birmingham.

We arrived about 7:30 that morning and met up with about 40 other Patriot Guards who had all arrived to honor the memory of Army Green Beret: SPC James Leslie Moreland.  SPC Moreland had been MIA since 1968 and after his remains were discovered and identified in the wreckage of his Huey UH1 in Cambodia, he was returned for identification and now he was being returned to his home town for burial next to his parents on that spring day.

To this day, SPC Moreland's memorial service remains the most poignant mission I have ever attended as a PGR member.  My memories remain clear of that day and all that I saw.  The owner of an American Van Lines truck and franchise, sent his POW/MIA graphics tractor to be in the procession.  The US Army Green Berets sent and entire detachment of Green Berets to attend the service.  Probably at least thirty of them were there that day for SPC Moreland's service and to provide his honor guard during his burial with full military honors.

There were about seventy five Patriot Guard Riders who came that day from several states, to honor the service and the memory of
Green Beret James Leslie Moreland. We were each there to stand for him, as he once stood for each of us.   It was a ceremony befitting a returning hero and the little community of Brierfield Alabama treated him as their returning hero that day.

Two of those attending that day had a special meaning to the service and to those in the community of Brierfield who came to pay their respects.  The first person I am speaking of was
Col. Paul Longgrear. Colonel Longgear had been SPC Moreland's unit commander when he went MIA back in 1968.  Colonel Longgear had retired from the Army as a full Colonel and on this day in 2011, he had made the journey to Brierfield Alabama to pay his respects and provide the eulogy for his friend Green Beret James Leslie Moreland.
The second person who was there that day was a lady named Kathy Strong. Kathy Strong had been a eight year old little girl when SPC Moreland had gone missing in action in 1968. Four years later, when she was twelve, she had asked for and received a POW?MIA bracelet as a Christmas gift. The bracelet she received had
Green Beret James Leslie Moreland's name on it. That day she made a promise and a commitment to not take the bracelet off until SPC Moreland returned home.  In spite of the odds and several personal difficulties in her life, she managed to keep that promise for thirty eight years. She finally took the bracelet off her wrist, the day before SPC Moreland's burial. She took it off and placed it on the sleeve of his uniform in the casket.

The day we left the funeral home to lead the hearse and the procession to the cemetery, I remember riding with the others, down this two lane Alabama highway for several miles.  We then turned off and drove down a narrow gravel road into a pine thicket. As we rode for about a quarter of a mile, the road narrowed and the trees seems to come closer in.  Then suddenly we reached the clearing and there stood a small white clapboard church and a church cemetery that was maybe two acres, buts the larger shock was what I saw standing around the cemetery.

I have told people many times before that Brierfield Alabama is the closest thing I have ever seen to the fictional town of Greebow Alabama, fictional home of Forrest Gump.  That afternoon when we rode into that little church clearing, I believe to this day that every individual in that little town who could be there, was there.  A little town with maybe a population of 1500 and by golly I think most all of them were there that day to pay their respects to
Green Beret James Leslie Moreland. He was one of their and they wanted the world to know that they remembered.

It took us 10 minutes just to find parking for all the bikes and to line up our flag line that day and once we had established the flag line, they brought in the honor guard carrying the remains of SPC Moreland and followed by his family.  It was a beautiful service and Colonel Longgear's eulogy was one of the most heartfelt expressions of love and sentiment i have ever had the privilege to twenty to be present for.

After the eulogy and prayers offered the pastor in attendance, the Green Beret Honor Guard performed TAPS and a twenty one rifle salute and four A4 Skyhawk attack aircraft performed a flyover of the missing man formation.  After which, the flag was folded by the Honor Guard and presented to the family. 

We broke our flag line down and greeted many of the residents who were there for the service. We spoke with a  few of the family member and offered our condolences.  We were told that when SPC Moreland's mother was still alive, her last with to family and friends, was that if they ever found him, to bring him home and have him buried next to her and his father.  On May 14, 2011, SPC Moreland's mother's wishes were fulfilled.

Today, August the 30th 2015, over four years since I attended this mission to honor the service of
Green Beret James Leslie Moreland, I was viewing the facebook page of my friend Rhonda who lives in Oklahoma.  She posted a story a couple of days ago with a link about a lady you spent thirty eight years honoring a pledge that she made when she was twelve years old.  As soon as I saw the heading, I knew immediately who it was and who the story was about.  Today In finally saw the video

What occurred today can best be summed up in one word.  That word is serendipity. 

Semper Fidelis and thank you Rhonda.

I am going to post and link a couple of videos that I took the day of the mission and a few photos. 

Woman Wears Vietnam MIA-POW Bracelet For 38 Years Until Soldier Comes Home

1 comment:

XtnYoda said...

That is awesome! Thank you for honoring this great American Hero. And Kudos to the lady!