Fort Hood victim who had ties to Rolla laid to rest; Service provided by Patriot Guard is ‘humbling experience’
Ensuring that a fallen hero, such as 37-year-old Sgt. Timothy Wayne Owens, who had ties to Rolla, is laid to rest with the utmost dignity and respect is a "real honor" and a "humbling experience” for one local Rolla Patriot Guard Rider.
Bill Dobkins, of Rolla, who is a member of the local chapter, was one of about 50 to 75 people who took part in a procession ride for Owens Saturday.
The soldier, originally from Effingham, Ill., was killed April 2 at Fort Hood, Texas, when another soldier opened fire. The gunman, identified as Spc. Ivan Antonio, killed Owens, two other soldiers and wounded 16 people before committing suicide.
Dobkins said he knew Owens’s wife, Billy, nee Humphrey, noting that he used to babysit her.
"They were like family," Dobkins said of the Humphreys.
Owens and his family moved to Rolla in the 1990s and he attended Rolla High School but did not graduate here. Owens dropped out of high school in 1995 and earned an equivalency diploma after joining the Army in 2004.
Rolla is where he also met his wife.
Dobkins took part in two processions Saturday for Owens — one before the service from Long-Kloeppel Funeral Home in Dixon to the First Baptist Church in Rolla, where the service was held, and a second procession after the service from the church to the burial site in Lake Springs Cemetery in Dent County near the Phelps County line. Owens was to be buried next to his late brother, Robert.
Saturday’s procession was not Dobkins's first time riding to honor a fallen soldier.
"I've done about 10 of these," he said. “I’m a hardcore patriot.”
Patriot Guard Riders, law enforcement officers and area residents stood outside of Rolla High School, near First Baptist Church on Cedar Street, paying their respects.
As the casket bearing Owens's body was brought out of the church after the funeral service, they lined the sidewalk, with some bowing their heads while others saluted. It was a quiet, somber time.
Mark Williams, ride captain of the Rolla Patriot Guard Riders, said about 50 to 75 motorcycles took part in the processions Saturday.
Some were first-time riders and others had done it hundreds of times, Williams said. Some of the riders were not even members of the Patriot Guard.
"We had combat veterans, people who just like motorcycles....if they had two wheels, they could come out to support."
Several residents turned out to line the procession route from the church to the burial site in Rolla. The route had been lined with about 2,300 flags Friday by volunteers, with Larry “The Flagman” Eckhardt leading the effort.
On Friday, members of the St. Louis Patriot Guard were at St. Louis Lambert International Airport to escort the body, along with Missouri State Highway Patrol and other law enforcement officers, along Interstate 44 to the Dixon funeral home.
Nearly 100 Patriot Guard motorcycle riders left St. Louis. They were met in St. Clair by the Rolla Patriot Guard Riders, Williams said. At that point, about 40 riders from the area led the escort through south central Missouri.
The Patriot Guard Riders were invited by Owens’s family to pay tribute to the soldier.
Owens enlisted as a motor transport operator and did some of his training at Fort Leonard Wood. He was most recently in the 154th Transportation Company in the 49th Movement Control Battalion in the 13th Sustainment Command at Fort Hood.
Owens was deployed to Iraq from January to December 2005. He later served in Kuwait from January to December 2010.
Owens had been married to Billy Lynda Kaye Owens since August 2013. He left behind three children, Loredana Veronica Owens, 17; Nathaniel Lane Rowe, 14; and Elizabeth Ann Rowe, 12.
The Rolla Patriot Guard Riders have been around since 2005, Williams said.
According to the Patriot Guard’s website, its mission is “a 100 percent volunteer, federally registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization which ensures dignity and respect at memorial services honoring fallen military heroes, first responders and honorably discharged veterans.”
Its vision states: “We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security ... We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is; you don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is respect.”