By Portia Williams
A host of motorcycle riders, and Community EMS rallied at Tracy Park Saturday morning to prepare to escort the body of Pike County native, Justin Helton who was killed recently in Afghanistan. The entourage was also accompanied by the Portsmouth Police Department and Scioto County Sheriff’s Office.
Michael Bell, a member of American Legion Post 471 who coordinated the escorting effort of sergeant Justin Helton’s body, said he is grateful for the opportunity to honor Helton.
“I had a lot of people from Ashland and Portsmouth and so many different areas tell me that they would like to ride. So I thought, let’s bring it together, let’s make it organized and everybody ride together. This is extremely special. I am a disabled veteran, so this means a lot to me just to have the honor of escorting this sergeant, that is the best. He is a brother, so this is the best we can do to honor him,” Bell said.
According to Bell, Saturday’s journey entails a trip to Rickenbacker Airbase by way of Portsmouth and Waverly. The final destination is to be Waverly where Helton’s body will be relinquished to Boyer Funeral Home.
“This gathering is to escort sergeant Justin Helton’s body back from Columbus to his family in Waverly.We are actually starting here (Portsmouth), and headed to Waverly for an 8:30 mandatory meeting with the Patriot Guard of the Motorcycles of Veterans. They (Patriot Guard) are the lead group, so once they get to Waverly they will have a mandatory safety meeting, and from there it’s taken over by the State and the Patriot Guard. Then then they will go to Rickenbacker Air base,” Bell said.
Bell also said the group of motorcyclists and law enforcement will also escort Helton’s family.
“These bikes will escort the family as well to Rickenbacker, and then escort them back,” Bell said.
Bob Neal, second Vice Commander of the American Legion, and Riders Director of the Legion Riders Association, said Helton deserves to be respected.
“This man has given his life, and he deserves respect no matter what his personal beliefs are. He died in combat, and died for this country,” Neal said.
John Jenkins, an EMT with Community EMS, said they are glad to be of assistance in the escorting effort.
“Mr. Mike Bell asked us to help escort the motorcycle riders to Waverly. Anytime we get an influx of a large number of motorcycle riders, we try to participate, and be on standby in case something were to happen. You just never know. We are all about safety, and taking care of the community. So, when Mike contacted us we said, ‘Sure we’d be here with no problem,” Jenkins said. “It means a lot. Without our veterans, we would not have the freedom that we have here today.”
He said he would be accompanying the group to Waverly, where MedCare, one of Community EMS’s sister companies, would assemble and resume travel with the group.
Motorcycle riders, law enforcement agents from around the state and region, and concerned citizens are expected to form a human barrier around the funeral for Helton which will be held on Monday.
Portia Williams can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 286, or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.