Welcome Home, Sgt Jerome Kiger
The week of July 18-21, 2013 was a most memorable one for me. It started when I read the following news article:
MANNINGTON, W.Va. -- The remains of a West Virginia
airman killed in Germany during World War II are coming home for burial.
The remains of Kiger and
another crewman were found in the plane's wreckage in Bavaria in 2008. Kiger's identity was confirmed by DNA testing.
I immediately knew I wanted to attend the ceremony and burial on Sunday 21 July, so I started researching a bit more.
I found out Sgt Kigers casket would be arriving in Pittsburgh Airport on Thursday, 18 July,
and would be accompanied by the Patriot Guard and State Police. I contacted the Patriot Guard,
who were very gracious and invited me to ride with them, knowing that I was retired USAF.
I just bought a new motorcycle the week before, and had only ridden it to work and locally.
I was anxious to try it out on the open road. What better reason than this?!!
On Thursday, 18 July, I met up with about a dozen riders in Morgantown. We left at 9am and arrived in
Pittsburgh at a Sheetz gas station, where we met about 50 other riders from around PA. It was quite
a sight! After filling our tanks with gas, getting a bite to eat, and drinking lots of cold water and
Gatorade (it was 90+ degrees!), we headed over to the airport at noon. In spite of the fact the plane was delayed,
there were no restrooms, the sun was blazing and we had to wait over an hour, there was not a single complaint.
After a brief private ceremony with the family, Sgt Kiger was ready for the final part of his trip home to WV.
PART 1 : Thursday 18 July 2013 Pittsburgh PA to Mannington WV
Today, I had the most meaningful, fulfilling ride of my lifetime. I contacted the WV Patriot Guard, and they invited me
to ride along with them to escort Sgt Kiger's casket from Pittsburgh airport (where it was arriving at noon today)
back to his hometown of Mannington WV. I knew it was going to be a day full of emotions,
but I never guessed there wasn't going to be a dry eye in my helmet several times during the ride.
truly one of those days I will remember forever.
the hearse exited the facility to begin Sgt Kiger's final journey home.It was over 90 degrees, there were no restrooms,
we had to wait over
an hour, and not a single person complained.
not have to worry much about traffic breaking up the line. Thanks guys!
We exited I-79 at the new downtown Fairmont exit where fire trucks and other emergency vehicles lead the procession
the final 12 miles
to Mannington. It was quite a sight!
holding their hands over their hearts as we passed by. At several small businesses along Rt 250,
groups of employees stood outside the front door of their shops to pay respects to Sgt Kiger as he passed.
Oncoming traffic came to a stop and sat parked on the road while the half-mile-long procession passed.
People apparently stopped what they were doing to witness this moment in history and to pay their respects. Very moving.
could have heard a pin drop.
a young man who gave his life to protect the freedoms we all take for granted too often.
He never had the opportunity to marry and have a family, but the crowd today shows he certainly has an extended family
who appreciates the sacrifice he made 69 years ago.
PART 2: Sunday 21 July 2013 : Ceremony and Burial Mannington WV
Sgt Kiger was buried today (Sunday 21 July 2013 69 years to the day he was shot down) between the graves of his mother and father,
who planned ahead and saved that spot in case their son was found. The town of Mannington (Population 2,000) was out in full force
to show their
appreciation for Sgt Kiger's sacrifice and to
welcome him home.
cover of service bulletin.
cover with order of ceremony.
Mannington - residents lined the streets to say goodbye. The Fire Dept made a
nice flag display with their trucks.
- the population of this town and surrounding area is only 2,000 and there
were several hundred in the funeral procession.
I was in my car today since I came directly from church in Morgantown.
I wore my Air Force dress blues for only the 3rd time since
retiring in 2004.
though, Marcus Mooser (the German citizen who found
the wreckage and reported it) is seen in the dark gray suit talking to the
can be seen flying near the middle of the photo.
Links to Local TV News Reports:
Part 1: July 16 Introduction to background of the story (WDTV)
Part 2: July 19 Reports the procession from Pittsburgh Airport to Mannington on July 18th (WDTV)
Sunday night (July 21) After burial ceremony (WBOY)
(I make a brief cameo appearance at 1:33 in this video in US Air Force dress blues saluting in background)