BOONVILLE - A local Vietnam veteran was honored Saturday at his funeral by a special gathering of the Patriot Guard Riders. This group of motorcyclists rides frequently as part of the funeral procession for veterans.
Jeff Daniel Gentry served in the US. Navy during the Vietnam War. He died on Feb. 16 after a long battle with cancer.
According to his wife, Kathy, Jeff Gentry served aboard the USS Iwo Jima LPH2. This ship was the recovery ship for Apollo XIII, the space capsule that splashed down to earth on April 17, 1969, Gentry explained. She said her husband even had home movies capturing the event.
Kathy Gentry said his military service was important to him and he talked about it frequently with a coworker who had also been in the military. It was through this contact that the Gentry family found out about the Patriot Guard Riders.
The group was established in 2006 in response to protests at the funerals of veterans killed in Iraq, said Chick Jones, assistant district captain of the local Patriot Guard Riders.
Now the group rides at the funerals of any veteran or person who requests its presence.
“It’s all about respect and honor for the veterans that have protected this country and for their families,” Jones said.
There are more than 300,000 members of the organization nationwide and at least 3,000 in North Carolina. Jones said he rides in at least 100 funeral processions a year.
On Saturday, the Patriot Guard Riders lead the Gentry funeral procession from Boonville United Methodist Church to the cemetery at Charity United Methodist Church in Elkin.
“It meant the world to me, for them to take time out and honor my husband,” said Kathy Gentry. “I think it is only fitting to honor the loved ones that have served time in the military defending our country. I give them my heartfelt thanks, from the bottom of my heart.”
Jones said that the families of all veterans are welcome to reach out to the group if they would like to have its presence at a loved one’s funeral. Email requests may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kitsey E. Burns may be reached 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.