If I mention his name, most of you will not recognize it. He was never famous, never rich. He never recorded a hit. He wasn’t an actor, or a singer, or a musician. He never won a Grammy or an Oscar. But he was a true hero, deserving of all the accolades given to him. Captain Nicholas “Nick” Schade Whitlock came home Saturday to a hero’s welcome. In his hometown of Newnan, Georgia, American flags flew at half-mast. On Sunday, by order of Governor Nathan Deal, all the flags in the state of Georgia flew at half-mast for a man who truly deserves the honor.
Saturday, yellow bows adorned mail boxes, telephone poles, front doors of local businesses. The cold winter’s breeze caused the ribbons to flutter in the wind. An American flag was attached to almost every downtown parking meter. I can’t say for sure, but there must be at least two hundred parking meters around the square. The flags furled and unfurled in the wind, as if paying homage to the hundreds of flights Nick had flown in his short life.
My dear friend, Connie, and I found a place to stand near the First Baptist Church where Nick’s body would lie in state during visitation later that day. Hundreds of people lined the streets, quietly, solemnly waiting.
Nick’s last flight brought him to the local county airport where he was met by the Air Force Honor Guard, over one hundred motorcycle riders, including members of the Patriot Guard, his wife, parents, brothers and other family members. Hundreds, probably thousands, stood alongside the processional route, waving their small American flags, honoring this American hero.
Those of us downtown didn’t have to wait very long. Although the crowd had not been noisy, total silence reigned as the red and blue lights of the lead police cruiser appeared at the top of the hill. there
Then there was the sound. In the distance, it was a low buzz, like hundreds of swarming bees. But the closer the procession came, the noise became the distinctive sound of over one hundred motorcycles, moving in formation. It was an awesome sight and sound. Never again will I hear the roar of a motorcycle without remembering this day. Most of the riders, if not all, were veterans. Many had tears in their eyes as they escorted one of their own home
The long white hearse bearing Nick’s body slowly moved forward, followed by the limos with Nick’s family.
Claire and her husband, Jimmy, are strong in their faith. It is their faith that will bring them through this tragedy. That—and the fact that they know they will reunited with Nick again someday.