2,500-mile veterans’ memorial ride rolls through Battlement Mesa
BATTLEMENT MESA — A memorial motorcycle ride honoring two dozen people killed in military service came through Battlement Mesa Wednesday afternoon to honor Army Spc. Mitchell K. Daehling.
Daehling was killed by an improvised explosive device while serving in Afghanistan on May 14, 2013.
The Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch Motorcycle Ride is a 12-day, 2,500-mile ride through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and South Dakota bringing with it the Fallen Soldiers Memorial Flame.
More than a dozen bikers, as well as members of the Parachute police and fire departments, the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office and Parachute Mayor Roy McClung rode to the Daehling’s residence in Battlement Mesa for the ceremony.
Daehling’s parents, Kirk and Brenda, and sister, Kayla, were greeted by Warren Williamson, managing director of Tribute to Fallen Soldiers NW.
Williamson handed the parents a Memorial Plaque of Distinguished Service and a portrait of Daehling, as the sheriff’s honor guard, motorcyclists — many of them former Vietnam veterans — and neighbors looked on.
“The eternal flame represents to us the soldier’s eternal spirt and love of country,” Williamson said.
The flame was lit six days ago in Eugene, Oregon.
Williamson said Daehling was a marksman and that he loved motorcycles, the guitar and was a licensed pilot.
Originally from Dalton, Massachusetts, Daehling received many accolades for his service with the 3rd Battalion, 41st Infantry regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division out of Fort Bliss, Texas. Among those included the National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and posthumously, the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
His parents and sister moved to Battlement Mesa a year ago. Williamson said it was amazing to see the outpouring of support from not just the community itself, but strangers in attendance to honor Daehling.
Daehling was married to Samantha McNamara of Westford, Massachusetts, for less than a year before his death. While she wasn’t present for the ceremony, Williamson said she said Daehling had “honor, humor and a beautiful heart.”
“Your fallen hero will always be remembered,” Williamson said.
During the presentation of the plaque and portrait, a few of the bikers were crying, as was Brenda Daehling.
“Brenda and Kayla and I would like to thank everyone for coming,” Kirk Daehling said. “He was really an outstanding young man.”
His father said Mitchell wanted to go into law enforcement since he had majored in homeland security at Daniel Webster College.
“He wanted to protect people and died doing what he felt he needed to do,” Kirk added.
After Brenda also thanked the attendees, she and her husband rang the bell above the memorial flame.
One of the bikers, George Krug from Grand Junction, is a Vietnam veteran and said the ride was all about giving the family some good feelings.
“It’s nice to able to show respect to the fallen when we were fortunate to come back,” Krug said.
Mayor McClung’s son served a tour with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan, which reinforced for him why it was important to remember Daehling’s sacrifice.
“This is the kind of stuff you live for as an elected official,” McClung said. “This is what community is all about.”
For McClung, honoring the fallen is about conveying to the community what a sacrifice serving can be.
“I would lay awake wondering if I got that phone call. Kirk and Brenda got that phone call,” McClung said.
Daehling was laid to rest in 2013 in Lewiston, Idaho, alongside his grandfather, Kenneth Sander, a Korean War veteran and also a Purple Heart recipient.
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