Originally Published: July 16, 2013 6:01 a.m.
On behalf of the Patriot Guard Riders, I'd like to thank the hundreds of people who showed up for our flag line at the Candlelight Vigil at Prescott High School, for the flag line at the county morgue when our heroes returned home, and for the flag line at the joint memorial service on Tuesday in Prescott Valley.
We had Patriot Guard Riders from throughout the State of Arizona, and some even rode in from Texas, California, Colorado, Utah and Washington State. I'm honored and humbled by the great turnout of people for our flag lines to honor our fallen firefighters and to support their families.
This has been a very trying week for the families and for the Prescott Fire Department as a whole, and I hope that the Patriot Guard Riders were able to offer some solace to the families. We will always be there for our troops, our veterans and our first responders - but will only show up if asked by the families.
The magnitude of the flag lines - and sometimes last-minute scheduling - became very hectic as the week progressed, and the PGR could not have accomplished its mission without the cooperation and help of many people and businesses willing to accommodate 400-500 motorcycles. We were graciously offered parking for staging areas in Prescott Valley by Ace Hardware, K-Mart, W & N Hyslip, Napa Auto Parts, and Brad from the Fain Signature Group.
We ultimately were staged at the Maverick Gas Station on Glassford Hill Road, and our thanks go out to Stephanie and her fantastic crew - who not only accommodated us and made us feel at home but also joined the flag line. Albertson's in Prescott Valley kindly donated tons of ice and water for us; Mary Mallory supplied 200 flags from the Healing Fields for Tuesday's flag line, and the VFW in Prescott Valley supplied 200 flags for the Prescott High School flag line and the Sunday flag line at the county morgue.
Debbie Richards, a PGR member from Queen Creek, spent hours Tuesday afternoon going up and down the flag line passing out water. Butch Hampton was invaluable in coordinating with us as our heroes returned. Of course, the Prescott Firefighters, the firefighters union, Mayor Kuykendall, and the Prescott Police Department (particularly Lieutenants Ken Morley, Tim Fletcher and Rich Gill) provided invaluable assistance; Prescott Valley PD Sgt. Scott Stebbens was very helpful, as was Mayor Harvey Skoog, Town Manager Larry Tarkowski and Town Magistrate Keith Carson in helping us accomplish our mission.
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and other police departments went above and beyond to help us, the state gang task force worked closely with us over the week to insure that the families would have the respect they deserved, and the Chandler Police Department (which was stationed at our intersection on Tuesday) were absolutely fantastic. And my PGR Ride Captains from throughout the state worked tirelessly to make it work - Dusty Salmans, Eric Johnston and Phil Whitehead from the Prescott area; Todd Harris from Overgaard; Richard Huff (and his lovely wife Carol) from Show Low; John Tompkins from Flagstaff; PGR Road Guard Sean Kriner (from Yarnell); our "unofficial" PGR Chaplain, & photographer, Gary Sheldon; and our "flag gal" (Patch Johnston) who always makes sure we have the PGR flags at missions in the Prescott are - I owe you all my deepest gratitude.
On a personal note, I would like to thank the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and its fine officers, and the police departments throughout the state who sent patrol cars and officers to our area to keep our community in Yarnell and Peeples Valley safe during the period of evacuation; the firefighters from throughout the state and nation who came to our community to save our homes and lives; and in particular the "Prescott 19" (and their families) who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us. YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.
And to our troops, veterans, police and fire personnel - you were always there for us; PGR will always be there for you.
John Moffitt is the assistant state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders and a Peeples Valley resident.