Sabine Pass Honors Hero’s Return Home

by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Taylor, USCG Station Sabine

SABINE PASS, Texas – On Jan. 17, 2007, I had to privilege of attending Army Spc. Ryan Berg’s home coming. I’ve never experienced anything like it nor will I ever forget it.

I was one of several service members from Coast Guard Station Sabine that were waiting at the airport for Spc. Ryan Berg’s plane to arrive. I was amazed by the number of people there; his family and friends, television and newspaper crews, over 20 Patriot Guard Riders, Coast Guard and Army personnel, members of the Port Arthur Police and Fire Departments, as well as many supporters.

As the airplane pulled into the hangar, a fire truck showered it with a large stream of water. After the plane came to a rest and the cabin door opened, I saw Berg’s parents and close relatives for the first time. My heart went out to them as they watched their son, brother, cousin, and husband lowered from the plane in an American flag draped coffin and carried to a hearse. The only sound that could be heard was that of people quietly sobbing, welcoming a fallen hero home.

“Sabine Pass is proud of you”
The Patriot Guard Riders, a group of motorcycle enthusiasts who honor and shield mourning military families from protestors during funeral processions, led the motorcade to the Clayton Funeral Home.

The road leading from the airport to the funeral home was lined with hundreds of people paying their last respects, all traffic had stopped. Men, women and children raised posters of Berg’s picture with prayers and condolences for the family. Local businesses even used their billboards to pass along words of kindness to Berg’s family. One flag covered billboard read, “God bless our hero, Army Spc. Ryan Berg. Sabine Pass is proud of you. Rest in peace. Amen.”

Service men and women, both active duty and retired, rendered salutes as the procession of waving American flags passed by.

We rode in silence to the funeral home. We were all moved by actually witnessing the large number of people that had been affected by his heroic sacrifice.

A serving of reality
It was late afternoon by the time we left the funeral home, so a group of us from Station Sabine stopped at a restaurant to eat, still in uniform. After finishing our meal, we asked for the bill. To our surprise, the waitress told us it had already been paid for by a woman sitting a few tables from us. Upon hearing our conversation with the waitress, the woman walked over to our table. She thanked each of us with a hand shake and a smile for our military service then walked away. A few minutes later the woman returned carrying an 11-month old girl.

“This is who you are protecting and I can’t thank you enough,” she said.

It had been a very emotional day already and it took everything in me not to fall apart. At that moment I realized I have a responsibility greater than I imagined. Even though I don’t know her and may never see her again, I am in some way responsible for her safety. It was humbling that she took the time to let me know she appreciates it.

Final resting place
On Jan. 19, we attended Berg’s heartfelt funeral. One of Berg’s cousins gave a beautiful speech about who he was, how people looked up to him and how much he will be missed. Some of his classmates, wearing shirts that read “My Soldier, My Friend, My Hero”, spoke about his character and the kind of person he was. It was amazing to hear how Spc. Berg had touched so many people in so many ways and in such a short amount of time. He was only 19 years old when he died.

After the service, the Patriot Guard Riders once again led the nearly 6-mile procession, this time to the cemetery where Spc. Berg remains would be placed. Once again the streets were lined with people, enduring the cold to hold signs and American flags to honor Berg and support his family during this difficult time. Students from Memorial High School lined up outside, the Port Arthur Fire Department displayed a huge American flag over the street as the procession passed under, and all the Valero refinery employees were standing on the curb showing their support. A 10-year-old boy stood alone in front of his house holding a Texas and American flag as we drove by. The impact that Spc. Ryan Berg had on this community was overwhelming.

I was not prepared for the emotions of the traditional military funeral service. It felt like an overpowering wave of sadness. During the gun salute and playing of taps, Spc. Berg’s final roll call, it felt like thunder in my chest. This experience has given me a new prospective and appreciation for what I do and the organization that I’m a part of.

I’m sharing this with you because I hope it touches you the way it touched me. We are all a part of this country’s defense and protection. Some of us may never have the chance to go over seas, but that does not mean that our jobs are any less important or should go unnoticed. Spc. Ryan Berg was a hero who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and we need to remember that everyday. Take pride in everything you do and wear your uniform with honor because if you look around, there might be someone who thinks you’re a hero too.

SABINE PASS, Texas - Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Sabine, Texas, stand at  attention as the procession accompanying Army Spc. Ryan Berg's body passes by.

SABINE PASS, Texas – Crewmembers from Coast Guard Station Sabine, Texas, stand at attention as the procession accompanying Army Spc. Ryan Berg’s body passes by.
U.S. Coast Guard photograph

SABINE PASS, Texas - A nearly 6-mile procession of cars, including Coast Guard members from Station Sabine, Texas, travel to the final resting place of Army Spc. Ryan Berg. US Coast Guard Photo

SABINE PASS, Texas – A nearly 6-mile procession of cars, including Coast Guard members from Station Sabine, Texas, travel to the final resting place of Army Spc. Ryan Berg.
U.S. Coast Guard photograph

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One Comment

  1. John Aguilar says:

    I live in Port Arthur Texas,a few miles outside Sabine Pass. I remember reading the article in our local paper on Spc. Ryan Berg’s visit home. He was going to spend Christmas with his wife and family. Little did anyone know it would be his last. It’s sad that his young life was cut short. We should be thankful to all our servicemen and women. They are the reason our flag waves proudly and free. Spc. Berg,your task on earth is done and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We should all remember,Freedom Is Not Free.