GREENSBURG, Pa.--Don Clayton knows what it means to fight for one's country, from his days as a Soldier in the Vietnam War to his current role as a ride captain with the Patriot Guard Riders.
On Feb. 25, he carried out one of his most important missions -- to honor the Families and Soldiers of the Army Reserve's 14th Quartermaster Detachment during a memorial ceremony held at the Army Reserve Center here.
The event commemorated the 25th anniversary of the single-most devastating attack on U.S. forces during the Persian Gulf War when 13 of the detachment's Soldiers were killed and another 43 were wounded by an Iraqi Scud missile attack.
"The point of the whole event is to honor these families," said Clayton, who has supported more than 80 funerals in Western Pennsylvania with the Patriot Guard Riders, a volunteer organization that, "ensures dignity and respect at memorial services honoring Fallen Military Heroes," according to the organization's website.
The fallen Soldiers of the 14th Quartermaster Detachment certainly qualify as military heroes, having been mobilized and deployed in January 1991 to support the coalition ground offensive to liberate Kuwait as part of Operation Desert Storm.
These Warrior-Citizens were in Saudi Arabia for only six days, trained and ready to move forward to their operational positions, when a single Scud missile hit their barracks building in Dhahran.
In that moment, the detachment suffered the most casualties of any allied unit during the entire war, with 81 percent of the unit's 69 Soldiers killed or wounded in the attack.
"There's nothing more patriotic than to give your life for (your country)," said Clayton, who fought during 1968's Tet Offensive."We sleep well at night because of (service members) and people don't realize that."
The event's audience of more than 200 Soldiers, family members, veterans, elected officials and community leaders understood the importance of honoring those who serve and remembering those who have paid the ultimate price.
That remembrance was epitomized by the newly refurbished 14th Quartermaster Memorial monument, which recently underwent a top-to-bottom renovation.
"If you didn't have the monument, people would forget," said Clayton, speaking over future generations. "Never forget history -- if we ever forget, where are we going to be?"