Archive for October 3rd, 2009

The Return of Our Native Son


From September 15th through the 17th The New York Patriot Guard Riders were intimately involved in a historic mission to return the remains of an unknown New York Soldier, who sacrificed his life at the Civil War battle of Antietam, to a final resting place at Saratoga National Cemetery.

Bill Schaaf, who worked tirelessly on this mission, now tells the story of how this history was made:

It’s has now been two weeks since the Patriot Guard participated in what was one of the most impactful Missions that we shall ever see. Over three days the PGR was there to escort home to New York a Union Soldier who lost his life on the Antietam battlefield on September 17, 1862 – A Soldier Known But To God.

These last 14 days I’ve had my regular job to do as well as being a part of three other PGR missions but I didn’t want another day to go by without remarking on this wonderful experience.

The Background:

This mission actually started some 5 months ago when I learned that Saratoga National Cemetery would most likely have a Civil War soldier to bury sometime this year.  I thought to myself – if ever there was a Patriot Guard Riders mission to be a part of, this would be it.  I broke a cardinal rule of the PGR – we don’t “mission shop” – we don’t request of others Patriot Guard Rider involvement in a funeral, we must be asked.

Ed. Note:  In Bill’s defense, since the soldier was ‘unknown’ with no family to contact, Bill, in effect, ‘adopted’ this soldier into the PGR family.  Therefore, the PGR family stood in for this soldier’s natural family whoever and wherever they may be.  In the end I think they would be proud of his efforts.

I started to make inquires to learn more about the Civil War soldier slated to come home to New York.  I met with Mike Aikey, the Director of the Saratoga Military Museum who in turn directed me to Don Roy, Director of the Military Services Honor Guard.  I introduced myself and explained who we were (PGR) and asked if they would consider having the PGR provide an escort from Antietam.

It wasn’t as much of a long shot as I had thought – Don Roy was in charge of bringing the soldier home to New York and I saw a picture of his Harley behind the desk.  I was honored that he invited me to be a part of the planning for this ceremony.

We waited a long time for the Smithsonian and/or the Antietam Battlefield Park professionals to tell us something about whether we were ever going to get this soldier home.

Late in August we got word to come and get our soldier. Continue Reading »