One last salute
By Ethan Smith
Published in News on July 1, 2014 1:46 PM
Army Pfc. Andrew Sass
Air Force veteran and Purple Heart recipient Brian Volk, a 12-year member of the Guardian Brotherhood, stands in remembrance outside the memorial service held Monday in honor of Army Pfc. Andrew Sass -- a Wayne County native who was killed last week during an Army training exercise.
Members of the Guardian Brotherhood and Patriot Guard Riders stand in honor of Army Pfc. Andrew Sass outside Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church before the young man's memorial service.
It wasn't about gaining recognition for the organizations they represent.
They didn't do it for the emotional embraces they found themselves receiving.
For those who stood outside Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church Monday evening with a flag in hand, their presence was about honoring a sacrifice many of them have seen firsthand.
They know what it means to lose a soldier, a brother in arms, a friend.
So while many had never met Army Pfc. Andrew Sass, they, too, felt the loss.
Showing up to bring him home with dignity wasn't even a question.
"We're here for one reason and one reason only," said Patriot Guard ride captain Randy Bright. "That reason is to honor Pfc. Andrew Sass."
Sass, a Wayne County native, died during an Army training exercise in California last week and a memorial service for the young man was held Monday night at Stoney Creek Free Will Baptist Church.
The Patriot Guard Riders -- an organization dedicated to "standing for those who stood for us" -- got the call on Monday morning from the family requesting they form a flag line at the memorial service and funeral.
"We don't come to the services unless we are specifically requested to be here by the family," Bright said. "We come to show respect for those that committed to the possibility of giving their lives for us. No matter how hot it is, or if it's raining, this is nothing compared to what they've done for us."
The Army has released few details in the former Rosewood High School student's death.
But the branch did disclose that the he was assigned to Company C, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Seattle, and was on a month-long training mission at Fort Irwin.
The circumstances meant little to those who forged the heat with flags in hand.
A military death -- whether in training or combat -- is a blow to the nation.
And Sass' sacrifice, they said, was a significant one.
"It is important to us that the fallen soldier and their family be surrounded by people that care about them," said William Amerson Jr., public relations officer of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. "It speaks volumes to the patriotism still in this country. I think for many people this display of patriotism brings back hometown values."
But the Patriot Guard Riders were not the only organization in attendance.
"It's a conglomeration of like-minded people," Amerson said. "Standing in this flag line is just one more layer on the cake that says we're doing this for the right reasons."
The Guardian Brotherhood, The Patriot Guard Riders and M-25 -- a nationwide, Christian motorcycle organization -- all escorted Sass home from Raleigh/Durham International Airport on Saturday.
"We had 75 people and 50 motorcycles there to bring him home," Amerson said. "We set up a corridor of honor with the flags, which serves as a place for the family and the hearse to get married up at the airport."
The memorial service began at 7 p.m., but the flag line was established an hour before to welcome the funeral patrons at the church.
"It isn't only an honor to stand here tonight," Bright said. "It is our duty to be here."
Sass was buried this morning at Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Princeton.