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Patriot Guard Riders: The Anti-WBC

When I went to Wal-Mart in Augusta today, I saw this…

And I thought to myself, “Oh BOY, this one is a REAL NUTTER!” But decided to take a few shots of the car, anyways.

Then I noticed that someone was in the driver’s seat.

A friendly elderly man rolled down the window and I apologized for taking photos without his permission. He said he did not mind at all and invited me to take more. We chatted about cars and paint jobs for a bit.

Then he told me he was a member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that attends the funerals of fallen soldiers, but only if permitted by the family. On the back windows of the car are the names of Maine’s soldiers:

I told him that I had babysat one of these soldiers as a small boy- it was the one funeral that this man’s group had been asked not to attend and they had respected the family’s wishes. It felt right to thank him for respecting the grief of my previous neighbors.

Now, he clearly supports McCain- he had a large sign on one of the far back windows. And I know he saw my “Obama” pin on my purse. We did not have a discussion about politics, but rather a very pleasant one about cars and showing respect for our country’s soldiers.

Tonight, I researched his group (which I had never heard of before) and found this:

Patriot Guard Riders Mission Statement

The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.

We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what your income is; you don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.

Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives:

1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.

2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.

We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.

To those of you who are currently serving and fighting for the freedoms of others, at home and abroad, please know that we are backing you.  We honor and support you with every mission we carry out, and we are praying for a safe return home for all.

That intrigued me- so I looked into their history and found:

Several people have asked how the Patriot Guard Riders got started. Here’s what we’ve been able to piece together. If anyone can give us more details, it would be greatly appreciated.

It all started back in early August of 2005 with the American Legion Riders chapter 136 from Kansas. They were appalled to hear that a fallen hero’s memory was being tarnished by misguided religious zealots who were protesting at funerals. They decided to do something about it. At the ALR 136 August  meeting,  Director: Chuck ” Pappy ” Barshney appointed members, Terry “Darkhorse” Houck, Cregg “Bronco 6” Hansen, Steve “McDaddy” McDonald, and Bill “Wild Bill” Logan to form a committee to strategize and form a battle plan to combat Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.

When they heard that the WBC was going to protest at the Funeral of Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea, Oklahoma, they established a Mission Statement, which included getting the families permission and contacting Law Enforcement and other Motorcycle Groups in Oklahoma. They agreed that their ultimate goal was to get veterans and motorcycle organizations involved in every state so that each state could handle the situation internally and not rely on other states to do the job.  They were very successful in mustering riders to honor Sgt. Doles and limiting the intrusion by the WBC.

The growth has been phenomenal. Within a week their membership included many riders from associations like the VFW, American Legion, Rolling Thunder, ABATE, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, Intruder Alert, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, and almost five hundred individual riders.

So, that’s a pretty concise picture of where we came from and where we are today. A great deal of credit goes to that small group of Kansas American Legion Riders, but none of this could have ever been accomplished without the patriot member who takes time out of their life to honor a fallen soldier and their family.

That’s hopefully where America starts again, post-election: finding common ground for discussion and respecting the differences. So much of that has been lost recently to a ridiculous level, as we hear about kids only getting their Halloween candy if they are McCain supporters.

ENOUGH. ENOUGH. ENOUGH. Let’s come together and work on the problems at hand.

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