Our Patriot’s Journey


September 28, 2009 – Card found at Garden of the Gods in Colorado

Let me tell you how sorry we are for the loss of your son and how grateful we are for his service to our country and to us, people he never knew.  It is our loss that we never met him but we feel joined to him, having found his photo and your loving instructions.  As a mother of two sons, one in the military, I can understand how doing this would keep your son “alive” as he moves around the country, making new friends and having new experiences. 

We brought Robert back to Missouri with us.  Since we found his photo on our anniversary we are going to take it to the College of the Ozarks, Point Lookout, MO (right) and place it in the chapel where we got married 42 years ago (see follow-up on this below). 

I feel sad to relinquish his photo as I feel so connected to him and to you but I would not want to interrupt his travels and your anticipation of where he will be next and how he will touch more people. 

-- M.W , Springfield, MO

Williams Memorial Chapel

Williams Memorial Chapel, College of the Ozarks


This story has been updated as of Jan. 16, 2011

We were thrilled to find out that Robert played a part in helping a family win a very special trip. They found his photograph in our favorite place on earth, the Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs.  Bausch and Lomb had a contest (Inspiration in Your Eyes) as part of a new product release.  Contestants had to write a short essay on someplace inspirational they had been and describe what made it inspirational.  M & J W from Springfield, Mo wrote about visiting the Garden of the Gods, finding Robert's photograph and what it meant to them, and won the contest!  Next year they will have an expenses-paid trip to the National Park of their choice.  They think they may visit Yellowstone National Park, which is an extremely special place for us.  Our trip there just a few months after Robert was killed initiated the concept of leaving his photographs for others to find and taking us all on this incredible journey.  He would be very pleased to know that he may have helped someone visit there.
This was their essay:

On September 23, 2009 my husband, oldest son, and myself were visiting the Garden of the Gods to celebrate our 42nd anniversary.  It was a beautiful morning and we had already seen many deer and birds as we viewed the vistas of the Garden and the Rocky Mountain backdrop.  We stopped in one of the information pavilions and discovered something unexpected.  A young N.C. National Guard soldier, Robert Bittiker, had lost his life in June of that same year, and his parents had left a photo of Robert at this site.  Their simple request was that the finder of the photo place it in another location that was special to them.  They wanted Robert's memory to live on and they wanted his life to touch the lives of people he had never met but, for whom he had given his life.  They had found the Garden of the Gods to be inspirational and a place that Robert would have enjoyed.  We agreed completely with their assessment and finding his photo, and sharing in their experience in honoring Robert's life...made Garden of the Gods even more special and inspirational to us.


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Dear Mr. & Mrs. Wheat,

My name is Bonnie and I live in Overland Park, Kansas.  Last week, I was visiting the "College of the Ozarks"  which is south of Branson, Missouri and found Robert's picture at a very special place, the Williams Memorial Chapel on campus.  Now, his picture is in the hands of our Pastor at the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas and it too is a very special place.

Your son is an amazing young man to sacrifice his life to protect us and to keep us safe..... you must be very proud of him.  I am deeply touched in your effort to keep Robert's memory alive and God must be very pleased as well.

Thank you so much for sharing your son with so many.

Bless you both real good!  In Christian love,  B.G.


United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas

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