As local residents filled up their grocery carts and gas tanks at the Camas Safeway, Friday in preparation for the Fourth of July holiday weekend, there were numerous motorcyclists gathering nearby to honor a Vietnam veteran.
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders assembled in the Safeway parking lot, prior to the memorial service for Master Sgt. Ed Spencer, 72, of Washougal.
Spencer received four Bronze Stars, two Purple Hearts and one Silver Star during his 22 years in the Army. That included two tours and hand-to-hand combat in Vietnam.
Among the motorcyclists, the hugs and handshakes were abundant after they rode in on Harleys, Hondas, Kawasakis, Victories and BMWs. In addition to Camas, Washougal and Vancouver, they had traveled from Longview, Pasco, Hillsboro and Happy Valley, Ore.
During their briefing, the participants said the Pledge of Allegiance and prayed for Spencer’s family and for a safe ride. The riders were reminded to turn off their cell phones or adjust the settings to vibrate and to not engage in any “chatter” after they arrived at Straub’s Funeral Home.
The riders were greeted by several members of Spencer’s family, including his son Bill and daughter-in-law Aida.
As veterans and Patriot Guard Riders in Virginia, Bill and Aida appreciated the local recognition of Spencer’s service.
“This is the ultimate honor for this incredible hero — to know he was loved,” she said. “He served his country proud.”
During the memorial service, the Patriot Guard Riders held flags and stood outside the Straub’s building. After the service, some of the Riders escorted Spencer and his family and friends to Willamette National Cemetery, in Portland. The Riders stood by the family with American flags during the service at the cemetery.
Earlier in the week, some of the Patriot Guard Riders welcomed home a soldier from Rainier, Ore.
Gary Everett, of Vancouver, serves as the Southwest Washington district captain for the Patriot Guard Riders. He served in the Air Force in Vietnam.
Everett’s wife Marilyn is also a member.
They attended their first Patriot Guard Rider mission five years ago to honor Petty Office Third Class Marcques Nettles.
“My wife and I were extremely humbled by the experience,” Gary said. “We have ridden many miles to stand for many of the heroes that have given the ultimate. This has given us plenty of time to reflect on the sacrifices these men and women have made.
“My father — a World War II veteran — had just passed away, and I felt this was a way I could honor him,” he added. “Our mission statement reminds us that this is not about us. What we do is to honor those that have served and to serve and protect the families. And should it ever become about us, it is time for us to do something else.”
For more information about the Patriot Guard Riders, visit www.patriotguard.org.