Journey of remembrance: Harley group rides to grave of WWI veteran in Italy
November 12, 2004
REVINE LAGO, Italy — The life of Mogens George Jorgensen may forever be a mystery to a group of motorcycle enthusiasts based at Aviano Air Base. They just know he once served in the U.S. armed forces.
But that didn’t stop them from paying tribute on Veterans Day.
It was the second straight year that members of the Aviano Chapter of Harley-Davidson owners visited the site where the senior master sergeant lies interred — an Italian cemetery at the base of the mountains about 25 miles northwest of the base.
“Hopefully, for next year, we’ll be able to find out more about this individual,” said Wayne Parks, who serves as the unofficial sponsor of the chapter.
The site was only discovered during a search by members trying to locate the reported gravesites of a pair of Americans who served with the Italian air force in World War I. Two of the streets on base are named for them.
“I’ve been to about seven cemeteries around here trying to find them,” said Ross Martinka, a contractor on base.
The placard where Jorgensen is interred says he was born in Denmark in 1939 and died in Germany in 1987. The group figures he married an Italian, and so is buried in Italy. It’s possible he served at Aviano in the distant past.
Parks placed an American flag amid the flowers adorning the placard, then read a few tributes to veterans before the group observed a moment of silence.
When asked what the point of spending half the day traveling through 50-degree temperatures with brooding clouds hovering overhead, Parks replied: “To honor the people who have come before us.”
“Harley groups tend to do things like this,” said Jeff Jamison.
The group was a bit disappointed by the turnout. Only eight bikes — seven of them Harleys — made the trip this year. Last year, more than three times that number were present.
But they were enough to turn more than a few Italian heads on the journey through a dozen small villages hugging the base of the Dolomite mountain range. And the weather, despite the threatening clouds, remained dry during the trip.
Parks said the group would try to make a trip again next year on Veterans Day.
“Probably the same place, unless we can find Americans buried someplace else,” he said. “In which case, maybe we’ll visit them all.”