Saturday, February 21, 2009

Letter from the new State Captain - Doug Bley

Thank you to the membership of the Minnesota Patriot Guard for entrusting this position to me. It is an honor to be holding a position that is entirely a reflection of those people holding a flag in honor of our fallen and in support of our military, families, and veterans.

I want to thank Monica Mead for her selfless devotion to helping this organization become what it is. I also wish to thank her daughter Erin for sharing her Mom with us. Many days Monica would have preferred to be, and maybe should have been, with her family but made the choice to somehow “figure it out” and be with us. Butch… you have a keeper and the genuine happiness we have for you both is huge!

The Minnesota Patriot Guard is a small part of the national organization called the Patriot Guard Riders. We are one and the same… we are all members of the larger movement across this great land who have stepped up and said “I want to help.” We might have a name and patch that helped us develop pride for our statewide efforts but our hearts are with the 160,000 people across America. I am proud to be a member of both!

Since 2005 we have been on a marvelous journey. Recognizing what the three State Captains I have known helped us achieve: Jim Bono helped us grow, Cooch helped us stabilize, and Monica helped us strengthen. We are in the best position we could have imagined in our ability to help people, accomplish our mission, and be ready to take the next step.

We will never forget what the core of our mission is; to be ready to answer the call of a family who invites us to stand in honor of a military hero who has made the ultimate sacrifice. It is what drew us together in the beginning and will always be at the center of what we do.

We have added many other honorable duties to that mission. We stand in honor of veterans who have passed away, the Send Offs and Welcome Homes, the Help On The Homefront programs, Family Readiness Days, Heroes United, The Patriot Ride, donations to military members who have been wounded, and education funds for children of the fallen.

A very talented person whom I consider a friend said it best - We are about our hearts and hands and not our checkbook. Many other organizations focus on raising money for different causes but our mission is about people touching other people. I cannot envision it being any different in our future.

We can and will in the future do more, though. I don’t think we yet understand the impact we can have with over 4,000 members here in Minnesota. The challenge we all have together is to find that direction for us. A wise man who is on his way to Iraq right now said it best - “You ride motorcycles and make people feel good.”

What makes our organization different is that no one person has control or is in charge of our activities. Every person who has a position of leadership serves with the permission, and at the pleasure, of the members. Positions such as State Captain are appointed in a democratic process that allows the will of the members be represented by the Ride Captains across this state. This will never change.

The reason we call it “being promoted to the flag line” when you step down from a leadership position is that we really do want to go back where we started. The countless people who come out in all weather are what make us great. No person from Ride Captain to State Captain is nearly as important as the person holding the flag. And the person holding the flag is not nearly as important as the reason we are standing there holding a flag.

I joined the Patriot Guard in 2006 and my first mission was 3Jul06 to Ladysmith, WI, to stand in respect of the sacrifice made by SSG Patrick Lybert. Like many of you, my life and perspective were changed on my first mission day. At least once per year I find my way back there to remember that day. The people I met. The reason I stay involved.

Over the next few months we will communicate not just what we have done but also where we think we can take this organization together. The ability to lead and communicate will be something we evaluate going forward when looking for Assistant Ride Captains, Ride Captains, and all positions of leadership. If you have the interest and the skills to do those please let your Ride Captain and Senior Ride Captain know this. We want to use the talents we have already as members to help us move to even greater heights.

I invite all of you to be part of this journey. Money isn’t needed... motorcycles aren’t needed… a lot of time isn’t needed. Just that feeling in your heart that you have something to give of yourself.