Posted for Jeff Novak:
On November 14th at 11:45am about 15-20 Bikes and 6 cages gathered at our rally spot for the Mug and Hug of U.S. Army Sgt. Roger Ortiz and U.S. Army Major Jim Casalunova in Sewell NJ. Our Ride Captain for this mission was “Jersey Jeff” Novak. He gathered us in for our ride brief on one of the Hero’s and Big Daddy provided the bio on our 2nd Hero.
Jersey Jeff went over the route to be taken to the location where both Hero’s work together. As we began to prepare for our departure Big Daddy pulled us all together for a moment of silence in honor of the lives lost the day before – stolen by the terrorist in Paris. The moment of silence was observed and gave us all time to reflect on the loss of innocent lives, it was an extra motivator to go out and make our feelings known to the two hero’s and their families. Soon after completion of the ride brief our group safely headed out to our destination which was very close by. The Major was under the impression he was setting Sgt. Ortiz up to be honored and he was totally unaware that we were going to be recognizing his service as well, two Hero’s to Thank.
After a short ride to our Hero’s workplace we arrived and parked out front to the delight of our Hero’s wife and children and grandson. Sgt. Ortiz was quite obviously shocked and delighted by the surprise visit to acknowledge his service to our country. Jersey Jeff spoke to those in attendance about the service and sacrifice made by Sgt. Ortiz and presented him with the WWR coin and a big hug. This was followed by warm greetings and sincere expressions of gratitude by each of the WWR NJ members and a few members of OYR that were local and eager to show the respect and pride. It was a great time with lots of laughter and joking, and all while Major Casalunova was standing by with a great grin on his face celebrating the recognition given to Sgt. Ortiz.
As we began to wrap things up (so it appeared) Big Daddy began to speak about thanking Sgt. Ortiz and what an honor and privilege it had been to shake his hand, and then he turned to the Major and began the reveal – we were aware of his service and he was our other Hero of the day. Big Daddy discreetly coined the Major and let him know that his daughter was in on the plan (with her boyfriend) and we all took turns letting the Major know how we felt about his service to our country. It was our coldest ride day to date for the fall, and the wind was brisk but the group rode proud and tall and left our Hero’s with humble smiles and special memories.
I would like to thank Big Daddy for coordinating the mission with Sgt. Ortiz wife and the Majors daughter. It was an especially good time to honor these men and Big Daddy pulled it together on short notice and again showed me how to take a more active role in WWR NJ and gain confidence as an RC. Additionally he is always exceptionally nice to my 12 year old daughter and has become one of her favorites – seeing her become passionate about the missions brings something to the table for years into the future.