Riders honor fallen soldiers

Family Living Editor

Register/Jenelle Johnson
Members of the American Legion Riders, who escorted the cremated remains of three soldiers for burial in Arlington National Cemetery in Wshington, D.C., are, from left, Gene Gardner, Nancy Gardner and Dana Moodie. They rode with the funeral caravan from Limon, Colo., to Topeka.
Photo courtesy of Dana Moodie
This three-wheeled motorcycle carried the cremated remains of the soldiers that were taken by the Missing In America Project to Arlington National Cemetery for inurnment.

American Legion Riders Dana Moodie and Gene and Nancy Gardner’s hearts were touched when they heard of the Missing in America Project — a veterans recovery program that retrieves ashes of servicemen and provides them with a military burial.
The project is a combined effort of the American Legion, other volunteer service and veteran organizations, funeral homes and state and national veterans agencies.
Moodie and the Gardners have been members of American Legion Riders for three years. They joined the organization through American Legion Post No. 13 in Yates Center.
On Memorial Day weekend they set out on their motorcycles to Limon, Colo., so they could ride back to Topeka with a group of Riders transporting the remains of three soldiers whose ashes were to be inurned in Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. The ashes were those of Johnnie Franklin Callahan, who served in World War II, James William Dunn, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam, and Isiah May, a Buffalo Soldier who served in the late 1800s.

CALLAHAN’S DREAM was to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors, including a 21-gun salute, Gardner said.
Callahan was a boatswain’s mate first class in the U.S. Navy on board the USS Aulick 569 when a Japanese bomber dropped a live bomb on the deck. Callahan picked the bomb up and threw it into the ocean saving the lives of his shipmates. He received a Silver Star for his courageous act.
His family was unable to fulfill his wish to be buried in Arlington due to lack of funds. Through the Missing In America Project, Callahan’s daughter Patty took her father’s ashes with the escort team to be buried.

DUNN’S service as a combat medic in Vietnam earned him a Silver Star. During heavy attack by mortars, grenades and small arms, Dunn repeatedly left the safety of the bunker to help fellow soldiers who were wounded by the attack.
He died in 2008 and his family asked MIAP to escort his remains to Arlington.

MAYS RECEIVED a Medal of Honor in 1890. He was a Buffalo Soldier escort for a paymaster when the party was attacked by highwaymen. The bandits took more than $28,000 and wounded eight of the 12 men in the escort. Mays was shot in both legs but crawled more than 2 miles to a nearby ranch for help.
Mays applied for a pension in 1923 but was denied. He was eventually committed to the Arizona State Hospital for the mentally ill and indigent when he had nowhere else to go. He died in 1925 at age 67 and was buried in a pauper’s grave in the hospital’s cemetery.
He was finally given proper recognition when his ashes were taken to Arlington for inurnment, Moodie said.

THE SOLDIERS’ remains left Sacramento, Calif., on May 21 for Arlington National Cemetery.
“We were so honored to be members of the honor guard escorting the remains of these soldiers,” Gardner said.
The funeral escort of about 35 riders was joined along the way by Legion Riders, swelling the numbers to 70 or more bikers, Moodie said.
“I think one of the most touching moments for me was when we reached Topeka and the overpasses were lined with Legion Riders waving American flags,” Gardner said.
“We wanted to honor our fellow soldiers. We wanted them to have the recognition they deserve for giving their service to our country to help preserve our freedom,” Moodie said.
Moodie, who lives in Iola, served from 1973 to 1979 with the U.S. Army in the military police. Gardner, a resident of Moran, had a career in the Kansas National Guard, serving with 891st Engineer Battalion in Iola from 1978 to 2002.