Marine Cpl. Christopher Ebert's name was called at Arlington National Cemetery Saturday morning by a group of military personnel based in Eugene, Oregon. Saturday's patriotic ceremony marked the final destination of the Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Northwest motorcyclists that traveled over 4,000 miles this year to honor soldiers who paid the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Among the stops along the 2020 route was Forest City. Last Monday morning, July 27 the motorcyclists paid tribute to Christopher Ebert who died on Sept. 17, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq. His twin brother, Lance Cpl. Brian Ebert, and their father, Gail Ebert, were the honored guests at the Marine Corps League headquarters on Trade Street that is named for Christopher Ebert.
The trip marked the 11th Annual Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch Motorcycle Ride as the military personnel paid tribute to the families of 68 fallen soldiers along the route, including the Ebert family.
The founder and executive director of the group, Warren Williamson, was greeted by Sgt. Major Don Barrett in Forest City who expressed his appreciation to everyone who had taken the time to make the annual ride and for honoring one of their own.
Ebert, who grew up in Rutherford County and graduated from Chase High School, died nearly 16 years ago when his Marine Corp unit came under enemy fire. He lost his life while doing a block to block cleaning of buildings looking for insurgents who had earlier killed four American security guards, Williamson said.
Outside the Marine headquarters "Amazing Grace" was played on a stereo system as motorcyclists, family, friends and military personnel stood reverently. A few motorists passed along Trade Street, traveling slowly and observed the ceremony.
A lit torch that has burned throughout the ride across the county was also observed during the outdoor ceremony. Wiliamson said the group promises each family it will protect the tribute flame until they reach Arlington.
"It represents the spirit of all fallen service members," he said.
On the motor coach that is driven by Williamson was a list of all 68 soldiers honored in the 2020 ride. Ebert's family stood quietly as they found Cpl. Christopher Ebert's name.
The group spent about an hour with the Ebert family inside the Marine headquarters. Williamson told those gathered that their primary purpose is to make sure the families know the sacrifice of their family member and they are remembered and appreciated.
"We want to wrap arms around the families and let them know we will never forget," Williamson said.
Ebert's brother Brian told the group when he first received an email from Williamson regarding a desire to honor his brother he started to delete it thinking it could be spam. Upon receiving another he opened the email.
"I'm so glad I did," he said.
Brian said his brother could light up a room as soon as he entered the room.
"He always pushed me...he made this world a better place," Brian said.
The twins' father expressed his appreciation to the Fallen Soldiers group for taking the time to recognize his son and others.
Emotional, Gail Ebert said, "We just appreciate this."
Their mother, Shirley Ebert, who passed away in 2012, wrote in a letter that she encouraged her sons to join the Marines.
"I thought this was something they really needed to do," Williamson read from the letter. "I never one time thought they'd be going to war," Shirley wrote.
While serving with the Marines, Marine Cpl. Christopher Ebert received the Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Overseas Deployment Medal, Combat Action Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expedition Medal.
"Chris was loved by and respected by so many of his friends," Williamson said.
"May we never forget the service and sacrifice of Marine Cpl. Christopher Ebert who was just 21 years old at the time of his death," Williamson said.
Gail Ebert and Brian Ebert were presented a Memorial Plaque of Distinguished Service in honor of Ebert's service and sacrifice to the country and a painting of Ebert. They also received a patch with Cpl. Christopher Ebert's name signifying he is among the 2020 fallen soldiers honored by the Oregon-based motorcycle group.
A large American flag was displayed on a long table at the Marine headquarters for family members to sign. Representatives of family members of the 68 soldiers honored this year were given an opportunity to sign the flag in memory of their loved ones.
Due to COVID-19, the motorcyclists were not allowed to go up into Arlington Cemetery Saturday morning but were allowed to enter the front gates to conduct a brief ceremony. After the 68 names of fallen soldiers were called out and bells sounded for each, the flame was extinguished.
Marine Doug Jackson of Forest City wrote a poem, "Arlington" that was also read during the ceremony in Arlington. He also read the poem last Monday.
The Arlington tribute ceremony was streamlined by the group in order for all family members to view.
At the conclusion of the annual ride on Saturday, a total of 800 fallen soldiers have been honored by this group during the past 11 years.
Each year a different route is taken by the Fallen Soldiers reaching out to new families.