Yellow bows, American flags and dozens of people transitioned downtown Saturday in Hammond from a bustling business corridor to a red, white and blue welcome home for National Guard Chief Warrant Officer George Wayne Griffin Jr.
“This man is fighting for our freedom,” said Laurie Ledet from Gretna. “He gave his life so that we could be free and we want to come here and be here for him now.”
Will Frederick wasn’t in Hammond for the homecoming, originally. But knowing the 37-year-old guardsman was leaving behind a wife and four children made him stay for it.
“I have four kids myself and I was thinking now that those kids don’t have a dad. And that’s a big deal,” he said. “Those guys died in the line of duty and so I think it’s important to show some support and honor that.”
While the community waited to show their thanks and support, Griffin’s family, fellow guardsmen and their families stood watch as his casket continued the journey to his final resting place. As the military honored Griffin with salutes, his son did the same.
“It kinda hits home when something like this happens,” said Linda Smith from Hammond, whose son is also a guardsman in the 1-244th Assault Helicopter Battalion. “You’re always waiting for that phone call and you hope it never comes but in this case we lost some good friends and heroes.”
The hero’s procession through town was led by area law enforcement and the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of mostly veterans who make it their mission to be part of bringing soldiers home with honor. Saturday’s task was an especially tough one for them.
“A lot of our members are in the guard, some of them are retired guard and a lot of them knew these guys on a personal level,” said State Captain of the Louisiana Patriot Guard Riders Kenny Case.
With prayers and support being shown far and wide, many are hoping this grand gesture will bring even the smallest bit of comfort to Griffin’s family and friends as they prepare to say their final farewells.
A wake is scheduled at Brandon G. Thompson Funeral Home in Hammond on Sunday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Funeral services will be held at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in Hammond Monday, starting at 11 a.m., following a two-hour visitation. The services will move to Lafayette for internment with full Military Honors at Fountain Memorial Cemetery following the funeral.
Griffin was originally from Delhi, Louisiana, but was a recent resident of Hammond.