TERRY LONGPRE – VETERAN AFFAIRS JUNE 8, 2012 | Born To Ride Motorcycle Magazine - Motorcycle TV, Radio, Events, News and Motorcycle Blog


Published on June 8, 2012 under Born To Ride

Sometimes it’s Personal

One afternoon back in February of 2009 the drone of rumbling motorcycles could be heard in the distance, growing ever louder riding into a quiet east county neighborhood. Who were these invading people, a large motorcycle gang?

No, they were Patriot Guard, CMA (Christian Motorcyclists Association) and other motorcyclists escorting a man by the name of Aaron Cornelius to his home from a long stay in Walter Reed Army Medical Center and a VA Rehabilitation Center in West Palm Beach.

As the procession entered the quiet neighborhood people came outside or looked out windows to see what was happening as dogs began to bark and car alarms went off.

SFC Aaron Cornelius an Army veteran of 17 years who had been blinded in an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) attack in the Dora district of Iraq in 2008 while deployed with the 4th Battalion, 64th Armor was back at home.

As each bike was parked the riders grabbed an America Flag and stood along a block or so of the neighborhood street and stood waiting for Aaron and his wife Leilani passed by.

As the minivan made its way towards the driveway each person straightened up, applauded, said ‘Welcome Home’ or saluted.

Once the Cornelius family was again back at their home in East Bradenton they proceeded to greet each rider as they walked up and introduced themselves.

That was the first time I met Aaron, his wife Leilani and the girls. It was an emotional meeting for everyone present, even a local newspaper photojournalist who had ridden with me, who was in tears with the rest of us.

Since his arrival in 2009, numerous things have happened to the Cornelius family. Aaron was the recipient of an American Flag, which had flown over Ground Zero as part of the Hearts & Heroes Flag Program. The family was adopted by AMVETS 301 in Ellenton, and Aaron rides with American Legion Post 312 on occasion.

Fast forward to May 23, 2012. Those who know Aaron, Leilani and the girls were in shock to find out Leilani had passed away in her sleep at age 46.

As word spread throughout the community about Aaron’s loss, arrangements were being made to do whatever could be done to console and comfort him and his family.

Because of Leilani not having been in the military, the Patriot Guard Riders could not be formally invited to participate in an ‘official’ escort. Having said that, 16 riders from the PGR, American Legion Post 312, as well as AMVETS 301 Riders did respond and escorted Leilani to her final resting place at Sarasota National Cemetery, where she was laid to a peaceful rest in the Cornelius plot. Rest Leilani, we’ll watch over Aaron and the family.

If you would like to contact me, please do so at PGRTerry@gmail.com and remember, “It’s not about the war, it’s about the warriors.” God Bless America and those who serve in uniform.


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