Bulldog Hiway Express’ Bob Lewin has been on more than 100 missions for the Patriot Guard Riders. Sometimes it’s a somber occasion, such as a funeral. Other times it’s a happier event, such as a homecoming.
In all cases, it’s a moving experience – for the riders and the families of those they’re honoring.
The Patriot Guard Riders is a national organization of volunteer motorcyclists who provide escorts for funerals for military personnel and first-responders such as police and fire fighters.
The riders also serve as escorts for military personnel such as National Guard members returning from deployment, and they provide color guards and shows of support for veteran events. But their work isn’t done solely on the back of the motorcycle. The organization’s Help on the Home Front program offers assistance to military families, such as home maintenance projects, while a member is deployed elsewhere.
Bob, who works in Bulldog’s safety department, remembers a mission for a soldier who had been killed in action. The soldier’s 25-year-old widow, holding a baby in one arm and the hand of a toddler with the other, “came up afterwards and was trying to choke out ‘thank you,’” Bob remembers.
“That one tugged at my heart the most,” he says. “Those kinds of things hit home.”
Bob is now senior ride captain for the Patriot Guard Riders in the lowcountry of South Carolina, a region that has more than 300 volunteers in the organization. Volunteers are enlisted for specific missions via email alerts. A corps of retirees handles many of the weekday missions when others may be working. While Bob is a longtime motorcycle rider – he currently rides a Harley-Davidson Heritage Softail – that’s not mandatory.
“There’s really only one requirement; that’s being able to pay respect.”
He has multiple motivations for wanting to show support for military personnel and their families. He himself is a Navy veteran, having served 20 years on ballistic-missile submarines as an auxiliary machinist’s mate, working on mechanical systems including air and hydraulic and atmosphere control equipment. He retired in 1994 as a chief petty officer.
Bob’s son joined the Army in 2007.
“I was looking for something to support him,” he says. “I came across a story about the Patriot Guard Riders. It fascinated me, so I just looked them up and joined.”
Bob’s support of military personnel and veterans closely aligns to Bulldog’s own commitment to vets.
“Bulldog values hiring veterans,” says Bob. “Management believes that time spent in the service builds the kind of character that makes a better driver.” All three members of the safety department — where Lewin handles driver hours of service — are veterans.
Phil Byrd, Bulldog president and chief executive, adds.
“We’re proud of Bob and the work he’s doing with the Patriot Guard Riders, and to be associated with it through him. Those who put their lives on the line for our freedom and security have a tough job, and they deserve our respect for doing it. This is one way for us to show it.”
Bob, who has worked for Bulldog Hiway Express for 18 years, says his continued involvement in the Patriot Guard Riders is driven by the people he meets at events.
“They are appreciative of our support in difficult times,” he says. “In my mind and in my heart it’s the right thing to do.”