***  KIA  *** 

Illinois Patriot Guard

SSGT Justus Bartelt, USMC

Polo, IL

July 23, 24, 25, 2010



Born in 1983.  On the Fourth of July.






click for Justus Bartelt Mission information












Justus Bartelt’s funeral will be handled by the Polo Family Funeral Home which three months ago handled the funeral of Lucile Wales who attained a triple-digit age.  Her obituary reads, in part:


She was preceded in death by her children Margaret Brown and John Hiatt, grandson Greg Bowman and great grandson Tim Bowman.


Our Ride Captain for the Justice Bartelt KIA Mission is Mike Bowman, father of Tim and brother of Greg.  Tim served his country as a soldier and Greg served his country as a Senior Ride Captain of the Patriot Guard Riders.





O’Hare staging instructions follow in red:


Staff Sgt. Justus S. Bartelt, 27, of Polo, Ill., died July 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.


The family of Justus Bartelt has requested that the Patriot Guard Riders help them honor their fallen hero through all aspects of his escorts and services. 


Arrival: Chicago O'Hare Airport


Date: 23 Jul 10


O'Hare Location:           United Air Cargo




O'Hare staging: 0945

 Map for United Air Cargo O'Hare





Friday escort info immediately follows in blue:


Staff Sgt. Justus S. Bartelt, 27, of Polo, Ill., died July 16 while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan.  He was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune, N.C.


The family of Justus Bartelt has requested that the Patriot Guard Riders help them honor their fallen hero through all aspects of his escorts and services. 


Arrival will be tomorrow Friday July 23, 2010 at O’Hare Airport


The Patriot Guard will gather riders at the Polo High School north parking lot, North Union Street, Polo, IL. at 0800 hrs.  Pre-ride at 0830 hrs and take off at 0900 hrs with the family.


Since we are going to O’Hare, we are going to have only bikes escort the family, no cages.  Anyone that wants can gather at the Polo Family Funeral Home in Polo to prepare a flag line for the arrival there.  We are guessing that we should return sometime around 1500 hrs.  There will be flag support at the Funeral Home.


Just to clarify the route of the escort, we are now going south from Polo on IL Rt 26 to I88, on to 294 to the O’Hare rest area for fuel and meet our final leo escort.


We are NOT going to O’Hare via I90 and will not be stopping at Belvidere.


Visitation will be on Saturday July 24th from 1400 till 1900 hours at the Polo Community High School in Polo, IL. 


Staging will be at 1200 hrs to put up flags before the arrival of the family at 1300 hrs.  Parking for the visitation will be on the north side of the high school at the loading dock entrance.  Look for the bikes.


Funeral will be on Sunday July 25th at 1300 hours, also at the Polo Community High School


Staging will be at 1100 hrs.  Parking is to be determined yet.  





Okay, look:  I know being a biker is not the same as being an infantryman.  But I am sewing my 4 by 6 that I expect to be consumed tomorrow and I was thinking about the movie Patton.


The family will leave Polo with a nice send-off, be escorted 100 miles by a contingent of flag-flying motorcycles, arrive at O’Hare to find a flagline waiting, be surrounded by many respectful people who never met their Marine as he is transferred from jet to hearse, be escorted 100 miles by a contingent of flag-flying motorcycles, arrive back at Polo to find another flagline waiting and again be surrounded by many respectful people who never met their Marine as he is transferred from hearse to home.


All on 12 hours notice with National AWOL and other local KIA missions the previous and the following weeks.


“This is where it pays off.  The training and discipline.  No other outfit in the world.  Pulled out of a winter battle, move a hundred miles.  Going to a major attack with no rest, no sleep, no hot food.  God! God, I'm proud of these men!”


That’s it.  I’ve got more sewing to do.






My experience of the escort:


I went to O’Hare cargo.  It was another sunny day.  I adjusted the camera for the harsh light and started.


This next photo is not what it seems.  If you take lots of pictures, some of them will be misleading.



Ray is a Marine.  You can read on his lanyard if you can’t read in his face.  He had to work or he would be standing with the rest of us.



All the United Cargo people are very helpful at times like this.  She brings the young Marines over to us.



The Leatherneck greets the supplenecks.



And then we stood.



We formed facing ranks at the base of a truck ramp that leads to the cargo transshipment area.  Soon, a bus arrived from Polo.  It contained the immediate family, other family and other people.  They walked through our corridor and up the ramp.  We followed and the hearse followed us.


Inside the feeling was industrial.  It seemed dark because the day was so bright.  One long wall was a bank of truck bays.  In every other direction were narrow forklift paths that ran through nondescript equipment.  Ray told me that this building would be razed within a year, so maintenance on it had (obviously) been suspended.  It was all vaguely threatening.


But it was quiet.  The garage doors and the forklifts were stilled.  The hearse was pointed to the top of the ramp – its rear opened to at a small clearing that served as a junction of forklift paths.  A single rank of PGRiders formed an arc extending from one rear fender of the hearse into the darkness of the building.  The bus passengers formed an arc several ranks deep extending from the other rear fender, roughly facing us.  There was an opening between the ends of our arcs that communicated with a path that disappeared behind a wall.


Cargo handlers from all over the freight section of O’Hare had converged on our formation.  We waited.


Six Marines carrying a flag-draped casket came around the corner:  “Present arms!”  Everyone – PGRiders, bus passengers, cargo handlers – moved their right arm, but absolutely nothing else.  The small detail moved through our midst to the rear of the hearse.  The casket holding Justus Bartelt was let into the vehicle.


“Order arms!”  Justus’ mother collapsed.


She didn’t fall – she just couldn’t stand.  The momentary solemnity of the dignified transfer had held her up but when the door closed, there was nothing left.  A few of the bus passengers went to her aid.  Everyone else held their position.  Then followed a short space of time.


This was the moment that Justus was returned.  Years earlier he had been transformed from a private American to a GI, “government issue”.  He had been made into a part of our military machine.  Like a cog on a gear, he moved in concert with other private Americans who had volunteered to give the Commander-in-Chief the most potent tool of foreign policy the world has ever known.  If Justus had ridden a motorcycle without a helmet and injured himself while in service, he might have been punished for “damaging government property” – himself.  He was not a private American anymore; he was a GI.


Until this moment.  The military machine had used him until he was used up.  So now he was returned to his family.  Justus had been transported to Dover, cleaned-up and dressed, placed in the casket of his mother’s choosing and escorted by a brother Marine to the O’Hare cargo terminal.  And now, his care had been transferred to the Polo Family Funeral Home, the agent for his family.


Most private Americans who volunteer to go to war come back alive.  Some are damaged in ways we can see and some are damaged in ways we cannot see.  But nearly all are able to return to a relatively normal private American life.  At the same time, however, everyone of these private Americans who volunteers is fully aware of the dark possibilities.  And their families know them too.


For those few minutes after Justus had first been returned to his mother, I stood with a flagpole steadied in my left hand as my eyes studied a distant garage door.  His mother was kneeling, her face inches from a concrete floor that had been smoothed by years of forklift wheels.  For those few minutes I thought about this magnificent moment.


We will not carve his image into Mount Rushmore, but Justus ranks as a great American.  And any other American warrior might have fallen in his place, so they are all just as great.  But where do these great Americans come from?  Where do we find warriors who are strong enough, smart enough and moral enough to shoulder the huge burden we demand of them?  It is the families of our warriors who make them strong, smart and moral.


And then they put them at risk for the benefit of millions of others who may not appreciate their courage and their sacrifice.


And then we left.  The busload of country folks, especially the younger ones, must have felt uneasy coming into a dense urban area and then the cargo area of the world’s busiest airport.  Now they were going back and they had several layers of security wrapped around them.  First is the bus.  A little piece of Polo was packaged in that steel container.  Just before them they could see the hearse and beyond the hearse, the PGRiders.


The bikes were led by State Police who routed our procession along utility roads until were entered the O’Hare Oasis by a service entrance.  We descended the ramp to find I-294 emptied for us.  All four lanes had been stopped.  The only people using this piece of the Interstate Highway System at this time were Justus and his party.


Then we turned westward onto I-88 and found that it too had been made available for our exclusive use.


We took a break at the Dekalb stop.  Some people from the bus walked toward the building.  A few of the bikers got gas.  Mostly we just waited.  Then we were joined by more bikes that had come from our destination to meet us and take us in.



Most of the bus riders stayed near the bus.



And then we started moving west again.  On to Dixon.  And then north to Polo.


As we got close, Shield MC fell in.  And then we all rolled into town.  The streets were lined with people.  Justus was back to stay.




I had lunch in a nice restaurant.  This was the view from my booth.



On my way out of town, I located the high school.  They were cutting the grass.



I stopped at the first cornfield east of town.  According to the traditional metric of these pages, this was the height of the corn the day Justus returned to Polo.





POLO, Ill. - In a one-time only deal, the mother of Marine Staff Sergeant Justus Bartelt spoke out Thursday.

"We all stand before you as Justus' family whether by blood or bond," said Jeannie Kyker, Justus' mother.

A battalion of support in family and friends surrounded Kyker inside Polo Community High School as she talked about the loss of her only son.

"He was a best friend to those who knew him as a friend. He was a true and loyal family member and he was a true and loyal marine."

Bartelt, a 27-year old from Polo, Illinois was killed Friday in Afghanistan, in what the U.S. Department of Defense calls a "hostile incident."  Bartelt had been overseas since February serving his third tour of duty.

"I am proud of the fact that he died in combat, protecting yours and my freedom and future generations of freedom," said Kyker.

News of the tragedy spread quickly through the close-knit community. Flags fly at half-staff. Ribbons in yellow and red, white, and blue wave in the wind on nearly every street.

"In times of trouble, tribulation, a small community rallies," said Kyker. "They know you, they know your life. They know your loss. They feel it also."

Inside Polo Community High School, family and friends filled the mostly empty gymnasium with love and support. They will return again Sunday when Marine Staff Sergeant Justus Bartelt is laid to rest.

"His legacy is one of charm, humor, wit. He was strong. He loved his country. He loved his family. He died for both."

Funeral services are set for Sunday at 1 p.m. at Polo Community High School.
















I would return for the funeral two days later – I was not there for the visitation the next day.  I am informed that we drank 28 cases of water, in addition to ice tea and lemonade.  And then I did return:



Funeral Day in Polo.


Flagline on Funeral Day.