Pfc. Branden C. Cummings, 20, Titusville, FL - 26, 27 Feb 07
This is the "Mission Complete" report written by the Assistant Flordia State Captain of the Patriot
Guard. When I read it, I cried. It gives a much more personal view of Branden's funeral and the events leading
up to it than you will ever read in the news stories. When I asked "Daslowpoke" if I could use it on this website
his reply was that he'd be honored. Please read it. You'll be glad you did. ~Debra
Fallen Soldier Memorial Bike
by Daslowpoke, PGR Florida Assistant
This mission began on 14 February 2007 (Valentine's Day) in Baqubah, Iraq.
An IED exploded and took the life of a true American Hero, Pfc. Branden C. Cummings, 20, of Titusville,
Typically, we learn of these tragic events
through Press Releases by the Dept. of Defense but this mission started on a different footing. Branden's father, Charlie,
was notified right around that his son had lost his life doing something
that he truly believed in, fighting the war on terror. One of Charlie's first calls was to Branden's fiancÚ, Danielle, who
lives in Texas. Later that morning she sent an email via the contact link at
patriotguard.org asking us to contact her and Charlie both regarding putting together a mission to honor Branden. That email
was forwarded to us here in Florida. At about
on 15 February I found myself on the phone with what turned out to be one of the most amazingly strong eighteen year old women
that has ever walked the planet. I think she did more to get me through that first conversation than vice versa. I learned
a few things on that first call.
1. Branden deeply believed in what he was
doing in Iraq
2. Danielle comes from a military background,
her dad is a retired First Sergeant
3. Branden loved street racing, Sponge
Bob, video gaming, and had one heck of a sense of humor
4. One thing that he really wanted was
to earn the Combat Infantryman Badge
The next call was to Charlie. I had a knot
in my stomach as I dialed. What do you say to a father that has just received this kind of news? "I am so sorry for you loss"
and "if there is anything we can do" seem so inadequate but are the words that seem to come first. There are no words that
can possibly ease the pain, only words that show that we do care and are there to support. I did extend condolences of behalf
of the membership of the PGR. Although our conversation was short, I did find out that
the Casualty Officer was going to be one that we had worked with previously and who is a strong supporter of what the Patriot
Guard Riders do. It was also clear that Charlie did want us to stand in honor of his son.
Tom "Flaman" Rowell was one of many who
offered any local assistance needed in putting this mission together. I asked Tom to do a recon of the Funeral Home.
Tom did a spectacular job. He provided a 360 degree panorama of merged photos. I knew exactly the lay of the land after viewing
what Tom sent.
"OLD-Cop" Butler came out of retirement, also volunteering any assistance required.
I asked Everett to take a ride by the Funeral Home and check on a few things that
I had failed to ask Tom about. He not only did this but he also made arrangements for the Patriot Guard Riders to stand in
honor of Pfc. Cummings at the visitation Monday evening.
It was overwhelming to see the comfort
that the family took from the PGR's support Monday evening. Charlie told me more than once
that if there is ever anything he can do to help us, all we have to do is let him know. It left me speechless that this father,
who was going through an experience that I can only imagine, was already working on how he might be able to help another family
through his own experience. SALUTE!
We had the privilege of getting to know
Danielle a little bit better once we had the opportunity of meeting face to face. A moment that I will always cherish was
when we met, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "I didn't know you were old"...
We also had the opportunity Monday evening
to get to know Spc. Jason Deteso who served with Pfc. Cummings in Iraq
and who escorted Branden home. Spc. Deteso displays the strength of character and integrity that exemplifies our military.
After the visitation was over, we presented Spc. Deteso with a PGR flag that he will carry
back to the unit in Iraq.
We were also honored with a visit from
the family of Sgt. John D. Rode Monday evening. Sgt. Rode was from the same unit as Pfc. Cummings and gave all for our freedom
on Valentine's Day in a related incident. Services for Sgt. Rode were scheduled for Wednesday at ArlingtonNationalCemetery. His family felt compelled to
come from Orlando to support the Cummings family. They shared with us how much
reading the condolences posted for Sgt. Rode on the web site meant to them.
I'd like to thank everyone who came out
Monday evening. There were over forty that stood the flag line for the visitation. Most stood the entire three hour stretch
and it was difficult to get anyone to take a break.
Tuesday morning rolled around and Bobbie
and I were out of the room and on the road at . Staging was set to begin at
and I like to get there an hour ahead of time. It was a warm, clear morning.
The sun was rising over the Indian River Lagoon as we rolled south on U.S. 1. The contrast of the beauty around me to the
sadness that I felt in my heart because of the mission at hand was evident. I thought of the time that Branden had spent growing
up here and how he would not be here again to see the sights that I was seeing. I saw people starting their day fishing and
enjoying the beauty of this place. I looked over my shoulder to the north and wondered how many times while growing up this
young man had seen launches over at the KennedySpaceCenter? I watched a hawk circle over the river seeking it's prey. Seeing all of
this, I understood how Branden would find it within himself to volunteer to fight, and die if necessary, to protect what so
many take for granted. It was my prayer that at the end of the day his family and friends would know that his and their sacrifice
had not gone unnoticed.
We went over a few of the last minute details
with the Funeral Director when we arrived. After just a short while the bikes began to roll in. We had been given the outer
loop of the oval in front of the funeral home to stage in along with an area in a parking lot across the street to use for
overflow. We parked three wide in the oval and were able to get about seventy five bikes on the pavement there. Bikes continued
to roll in and filled the overflow area across the street. We wound up with a total of one hundred twenty three bikes and
a handful of cages. We formed our tunnel of flags along the drive in front of the Funeral Home, cornered, and continued along
the south side. Guests walked through a virtual sea of Red,
White, and Blue as they moved from the parking lot towards the front door. About twenty of Charlie's Brother and Sister Officers
from the Department of Corrections formed an honor corridor within our tunnel near the door. Guests passed through their corridor
prior to entering the Funeral Home.
The family limo arrived. I'll never forget
watching Charlie come out first, then came Danielle with a helium filled balloon. It was none other than Branden's favorite,
Sponge Bob! I felt one of the only smiles of that day cross my face. Pfc. Cummings was known as "Jokester" to those who were
close to him and I felt that Sponge Bob's presence at this somber occasion would have pleased him. We stood the flag line
until services started and took a break.
After about fifty five minutes, the Funeral
Director gave us the heads up that the service was nearing it's end. We formed a wall of Flags around the hearse at the north
end of the building. The Pall Bearers were all Brother Officers from the Department of Corrections. They carried Pfc. Cummings'
Flag Draped Casket to the hearse with the greatest of care as we stood in silent respect. The door was closed and we moved
to our bikes and cages for the short procession to the cemetery.
The Patriot Guard Riders had been asked
to lead the procession. We placed Tim (talk2e) Ellenbecker on the front right corner of the hearse flying both the United
States Flag and the Flag of the U.S. Army. We placed Everett (OLD-Cop) Butler
on the front left corner of the hearse with his bike mounted Fallen Soldier Memorial. It took only a few minutes at parade
pace to reach the grave site. We dismounted and formed a circle of honor around the grave site with our flags. The white gloved
Pall Bearers removed the Flag Draped Casket and carried it to the grave site with the same respect and care that they had
shown previously. The guests were seated. The religious portion of the grave side service was performed by Reverend Joe Robinson.
The Patriot Guard Riders were called forward and Bobbie presented the Plaque to Charlie. Both Danielle and Charlie were presented
Mission Accomplished pins.
The Military Honors followed. Three Volleys
pierced the silence and brought many to tears. Taps was sounded, driving home the finality of the moment. The flag that had
draped Pfc. Cummings' casket was folded, passed up the Chain of Command, and presented to Charlie. Branden's medals, including
the Combat Infantryman Badge that he had wanted so badly were presented also. Pre-folded flags were placed on the casket and
then presented to Danielle and Branden's mother one at a time.
The Pall Bearers stepped forward one at
time and each respectfully placed their white gloves and a red carnation on the casket. The mission that had begun on foreign
soil nearly two weeks earlier in what one of the Sergeants from Pfc. Cummings' platoon describes as "this replica of hell"
was nearing a conclusion in this idyllic Florida setting.
I have no doubt that my prayer earlier
in the day had been answered. I have no doubt that the family and friends of Pfc. Branden Cummings understood that his and
their sacrifice not only had not gone unnoticed but is sincerely appreciated by many. Thank you...
Thank you to all of the Motorcycle Clubs
and Organizations that came together to stand in honor of Pfc. Cummings and in support of the mission of the Patriot Guard
Riders. I would try to name all of the Clubs and Organizations but am concerned that I might leave one out. You know who you
Thank you to all of the individual riders
who came to show respect for this American Hero, his family, and his community. Special thanks to those who traveled long
distances. You know who you are.
Thank you to the staff of Brevard Memorial
Funeral Home. Your compassion and caring for this family was evident throughout. Your understanding of and cooperation with
our mission is deeply appreciated.
Thank you to the U.S. Army and all Military
personnel involved. Thank you for your service and for what you did for Pfc. Cummings.
Most of all, thank you to the family of
Pfc. Branden C. Cummings for inviting us to honor your family member who is a True American Hero. Branden will never be forgotten...
Rest in Peace Pfc. Cummings, your mission
here is accomplished.