Saturday, April 14, 2007

Neale Shank laid to rest

Rain was dripping off his glasses and pelting his leather vest, but Ron Coleman didn’t complain about the weather Wednesday morning.

The assistant state captain of the motorcycle enthusiast group Patriot Guard Riders, Coleman said even Wednesday’s weather couldn’t keep him and the about 30 members of the group who joined him away from the funeral for Army 1st Lt. Neale Shank.

Their motorcycles parked a few yards away from the doors to Memorial Coliseum, the members lined the sidewalks leading to the doors, most holding American flags that whipped violently in the strong wind.

Coleman estimated he has been to at least 50 funerals to honor fallen soldiers, he said.

“We want to show them, the troops and the families, that we love them and care about them,” he said. “We want to show them we’re here in all kinds of weather.”

At least 200 people attended the Wednesday morning funeral for Shank, who died in Iraq on March 30.

The 25-year-old Fort Wayne resident died of non-combat injuries. His death is under investigation by the Defense Department. He would have turned 26 on April 26.

A 1999 graduate of Concordia Lutheran High School, where he participated in the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program, Shank was also a 2005 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He will be buried at the U.S. Military Academy Cemetery in West Point.

Wearing an orange poncho, Patriot Rider Jeff Bowman of Greenwood said he joined the group after losing a nephew to the Iraq war Nov. 24, 2005. The 23-year-old was a member of the Illinois National Guard, he said.

“Not having a military background, I still do want to honor our soldiers. There’s lots of stress on these boys,” he said, watching a young soldier enter the Coliseum for the funeral.

Bowman, who said Wednesday was funeral number 11 or 12 for him, uses the time to think about his nephew. He wears a memorial patch to each funeral in honor of his nephew.

“You go back to the times you had the opportunity to spend with that person,” he said. “It maintains the memories.”

From the Gazette

Related Link:
Neale Shank reported killed in Iraq