This last Saturday, March 16, general news reporter Monique Ching and I covered a memorial service for Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brad Brown. This was no ordinary service. Sgt. Brown was a founding member of the San Angelo chapter of the Number One Stunnas motorsport club, an organization consisting of over 30 chapters all over the country. While riding his motorcycle with friends on March 10, Sgt. Brown lost control of his bike and hit a reflector poll about two miles west of San Angelo. He was taken to Shannon Medical Center were he died from his injuries. Sgt. Brown joined the Air Force in 2001 and had been stationed at Goodfellow AFB since 2010 where he was a firefighting instructor.
Sgt. Brown's family came in from Colorado Springs, Colorado for a private ceremony on the base, but the motorsport club wanted to pay tribute to there fallen brother in their own special way, by holding a memorial ride in his honor which we were invited to attend.
There must have been nearly 200 people gathered in the parking lot of Family Power Sports Saturday evening.The ride would be about 45 miles long ending at the crash site where a candlelight vigil would be held. But before everyone mounted their motorcycles and hopped into their mustangs, a few words were spoken by Sgt. Brown's older sister, Erin Shultz. Standing in the middle of a circle of people linked arm-in-arm, Erin expressed her gratitude to Sgt. Brown's friends, military brothers and sisters and fellow club members who were his family away from home. While addressing the crowd, she clutched an ornate, triangular wooden box that contained the folded American flag presented to the family during the private ceremony on the base.
Before Shultz finished her speech, she called to the middle of the circle Jen Tipton, Sgt. Brown's fiancee, who he was supposed to be married to this week. The two women embraced and Shultz looked directly at Tipton and finished her speech by saying, "On behalf of the President of the United States and a grateful nation, I would like to present to you this flag ..." There wasn't a dry eye in the house, me included. After the two women finished their tearful moment, instructions were given to those who would be making the ride out to the crash site. And with that, motorcycles lining the street roared to life and idled ready for the ride.
Monique and I decided that we would go ahead of the group to the crash site and wait for the them to come to us. The site was just two miles west of San Angelo on a deserted spot on FM 853 and marked with a small iron cross from which hung Sgt. Brown's firefighter instructor's helmet. After about 40 minutes we started to hear the roar of engines off in the distance and the first wave of riders came over the hill just as the light of the setting sun turned the sky a fiery red and orange.
Once all the vehicles had pulled to the side of the road, the mass of people gathered around the helmet and lit their candles. There were a few tears and some shared memories of Sgt. Brown. By all accounts, Sgt. Brown seemed to be well loved and admired. After a moment of silence, the group began to disperse, making the two mile trip back to town. The ride was a nice act of showing admiration for a loyal friend, simple and down to earth. Even in his short life, Sgt. Brown seemed to be able to touch and make a difference to those around him. And in turn, they honored him in the best way they knew how. We should all be so lucky.