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Motorcyclists honor families of soldiers

COVINGTON - They're called the Warriors Watch Riders of Georgia. Their mission is best summed up in their motto: "We have your backs at home!"

Some are military veterans and some are not, but one thing all the members have in common is a deep respect for soldiers serving overseas and the families left behind.

"We try to do everything we can to call attention to the fact that we've got a lot of brave men and women serving to keep us safe," said Warriors Watch Riders member "Papa" Joe Blasingame of Covington.

Members often form a caravan on their motorcycles to escort military units or individual soldiers returning from war or deploying.

Most recently, the group honored a McDonough family that sent three sons off to war.

Blasingame and about 15 others from various parts of Georgia rode their motorcycles, with American flags flying, to the Callaway home on Sunday.

Mark and Karmen Callaway's three sons - Jared, Ryan and Seth - deployed to Afghanistan with Company B 1/121st Infantry of the National Guard's 48th Brigade about a month ago. The Callaways are all based at the Covington National Guard Armory.

"It just kind of touches you," Blasingame said. "Here's the greatest family in the world. They're so humble. They just think they're a normal family whose kids are off serving in Afghanistan. It's just really special. There are so many families like them out there. It just hit something with me, and I said 'We need to ride over and see them.' We try to call attention to things like this so people don't forget or take for granted. Here's a family whose sons are over there in harm's way to try to make our world safe."

Mark and Karmen Callaway, along with their 18-year-old daughter Anna Katheryn, greeted the Warrior Watch Riders with open arms.

"We chatted and exchanged a lot of hugs and smiles and learned more about the boys," Blasingame said.

The group also presented the family with a certificate of appreciation and Warrior Watch Rider coins.

"It was neat to have them come and just show us support. They were all really patriotic," Karmen Callaway said.

One of the riders was a soldier who just returned from Iraq.

"He had not seen his own family, but he said this was real important to him," she said.

The Warriors Watch Riders have pledged their support and assistance to the Callaways any time they need help, Blasingame said

He said he wants the family to know, "There are many, many people out there that feel the same way that we do, and their service and sacrifice doesn't go unnoticed."

Karmen Callaway said she's thankful for the support. Her sons call - and occasionally Skype - home, but their messages are getting more infrequent, she said.

"They've already had several deaths and they've only been there about a month," she said, adding that her sons knew two recent war casualties - 1st Sgt. John D. Blair of Calhoun and 1st Lt. Brian N. Bradshaw of Steilacoom, Wash.

"Some days are harder than others. We pray a lot and trust God is going to bring them home safe," she said.

To learn more about Warriors Watch Riders, visit www.warriorswatch

.org.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.