By Ted Lutz
Ken VanGiesen is home again.
The body of the 30-year-old soldier killed in Afghanistan last week arrived in Kane shortly after 11 a.m. Tuesday following an emotional procession from the Bradford Airport in Lafayette Township.
An estimated 85 patriotic motorcycle riders accompanied the cortege, which included two military vans for the soldier's family and a hearse that carried the body to the Ronald McDonald II Funeral Home along South Fraley Street.
There are no public calling hours at the funeral home, where National Guard personnel are maintaining an around-the-clock solemn vigil outside the South Fraley Street entrance.
Public visitation will be held from noon to 3 p.m. Thursday at the auditorium at Kane Area High School. The funeral service will begin at 3 p.m. and is expected to last about one hour.
The Rev. Chad Troup, pastor of the First Church of God in Kane, will conduct the service. The Comcast cable TV network is expected to telecast the service on local Channel 5 in Kane.
Following the service, the soldier will be laid to rest at the Gibbs Hill Cemetery near Ludlow in a grave near his maternal grandmother, Beverly Witherow Proashas. She died in 1999-- the same year her grandson graduated from Kane Area High School and joined the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
The ceremony at the cemetery is private.
Friends and well-wishers are welcome to say their final goodbye to the brave dedicated soldier by waving American flags along the route of the procession.
The soldier, who would have marked his 31st birthday a week from today, is the son of Tom and Sue VanGiesen of 137 Lincoln St., Kane. He lived in his own house in Mill Creek Township near Erie with his longtime girlfriend, Erin Sirianni. Large crowds gathered Tuesday along the route from the airport to the funeral home in Kane to wave American flags and salute the soldier, who was killed July 18 when an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated near his truck in a supply convoy in eastern Afghanistan. Two other Guard soldiers in the same truck also were killed by the blast.
Members of the National Guard often are called "citizen soldiers" because most hold regular jobs and attend monthly training programs. The Guard has supplemented "regular" Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan.