17 July 2005

Godspeed SGT Brian Romines

American Pride

This is about the homecoming of a young soldier lost about 3 weeks ago. It was written by the commander of the unit back home, and read to SGT Romines’ company in Iraq. It is posted here with permission.


I just wanted to give you a brief about the return of the body of Brian Romines last night from St Louis, MO. At the St Louis airport, the fire fighters and the department showed up with their trucks and in respect, they fully extended their ladders and crossed them with a flag in memory of SGT Romines.

They left there in a motorcade and travelled on I64 to I57 in Mount Vernon. In Mount Vernon, IL as the motorcade drove down the interstate they were greeted by what appeared to be several hundred people on the Mt Vernon overpass each supporting a US flag and each person was either saluting or had their hand over their heart. It was an awesome show of respect.

Once the motorcade passed under the overpass, they were met by 50 to 60 motorcycles, which lined the shoulder of I57. Once the hearse passed, all the motorcycles fell in behind the motorcade becoming one massive convoy. Semi trucks and cars were pulling over to let us pass and some got out of their vehicles on the side of the road and in various ways showed their respect. It was truly a very emotional experience to see all the bikes two wide and in one long convoy and it was even very surprising to see that no cars travelling on the interstate broke the line. I noticed that many guys from the unit were in the motorcycle convoy in civilian attire. We travelled down the interstate with the state troopers in front and behind, lights flashings.

About 10 miles into the trip we encountered an overpass that was lined with police cars, lights flashing and the police officers were on the edge of the railing saluting our convoy as we passed. Each overpass for many miles was very similar; they were lined with people, law enforcement, or fire fighters each doing what they could to show the Romines family and their son Brian Romines the utmost respect.

As we travelled, the convoy grew. At many entrance ramps, motorcycles were waiting and they joined us as we passed. Starting at the West Frankfort exit, it was very similar to the Mt Vernon experience, fire trucks lined the overpass, signs were posted, flags were flying, lights flashing, and a large crowd had gathered. Every 10 to 15 miles police cars were in the Interstate medium with their lights on as well, officers were either waving or saluting.

Once we changed from I57 to I24, we ran into a major car accident, which had the traffic backed up for many miles. Our police escort drove on the shoulder of the road passing the 3 mile long traffic jam with, at this point, about a 100 bikes in tow. Reaching the accident scene the fire fighters and officers at the accident stopped what they were doing and held their helmets and hats over their hearts as we maneuvered through the wreck. At this time, it was getting dark and being at the back of the pack it was impressive to see the long trail of motorcycle tail lights flowing back and forth, up and down with the curves and hills of the road.

The trip from the interstate to Anna was equally impressive. Many residents on the motorcade route had gone through the trouble of putting up signs and flags. Each little town that we travelled through reminded me of a night time parade; the only difference being that the people lining the streets were somber and for the most part, were holding their hand over their heart or holding lit candles. Cars lined the night streets with their flashers blinking. For the country roads between the small towns, we encountered many residents that had set up near the road and waved as we passed, again many with lit candles.

We entered Anna around 10:30pm and it appeared as if the entire community had come to be present for the arrival of SGT Romines and his family. Channel 3 and channel 12 news were present with their big trucks and cameras. The long line of motorcycles converged into one very long line, each bike took his turn stopping at the side of the crying mother, and each received a hug from a most grateful family.

From there the bikes parked in an assembly area and the riders formed a horseshoe mass around the front of the funeral home. Our uniformed soldiers then appeared at the back of the hearse and very professionally removed the coffin from the car and proceeded to move it into the funeral home. They did an outstanding job, you would have been proud of them. Once inside the crowd of several hundred remained outside and you could have heard a pin drop for the first 30 minutes.

I was awestruck from the entire experience. At some point around the 30 minute mark, an older woman just could not hold it any longer and she just started balling. Loud enough to be heard for blocks. That is all it took to start a chain reaction that opened up the watery flood gates. It only took one split second and it seemed as if the entire crowd teared and up and begin to cry. I had to walk away to keep from being overwhelmed by the event myself. I noticed many tough-guy types walking away for the same reason, each looking uncomfortable in the process.

I would say that the entire experience from Mt Vernon to Anna was the most humbling experience that I have ever had.

Godspeed, SGT Romines. Our thoughts and prayers are with your family.

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