“Standing For Those Who Stood For Us.”
That is the motto of the Patriot Guard Riders. The Patriot Guard is a diverse group of motorcycle riders from all over the United States, with a particularly active chapter here in Los Angeles (and surrounding counties.) From the Patriot Guard Riders’ mission statement:
“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.”
I first learned of the PGR when researching Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church (most famous for being the Christians hateful bigots who carry signs that say “God hates fags.”) It turns out that Phelps & co. also protest military funerals with signs such as “God loves IEDs” and “God loves dead Marines.” Can you imagine anything more hurtful to a grieving family?
You don’t have to ride a motorcycle. Join me after the jump to learn more about the PGR and how you can get involved.
Patriot Guard missions (at least the ones that I’ve been on) typically have anywhere from 20 to 50 (sometimes as many as 100+) motorcyclists and a couple of support vehicles. The mission often begins at an airport, with the PGR forming a flag line from the plane to the hearse.
The Patriot Guard raise their flags and salute as the family grieves their fallen hero, and a military honor guard carries the casket to the hearse. The PGR then mount their motorcycles and fall in behind the hearse and the family vehicles, escorting the group to the mortuary.
The Patriot Guard Riders also escort fallen service men & women from the mortuary to the cemetery, again forming a flag line as the honor guard carry the casket to the grave site for military honors.
The funerals and military honors are sometimes the hardest part. You have never heard a more mournful sound than the cracking report of the shots fired by a military rifle squad, followed by the anguished cries of a mother whose son or daughter has made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
While the Patriot Guard’s main mission is the funerals, they are there for the happy times, too. For instance, earlier this week 90 Marines came home from their tour in Iraq. The PGR met them as their plane landed at Camp Pendleton in Oceanside to welcome them home, then escorted their buses all the way back to San Bruno (near San Francisco.)
It seems that in recent history the word “patriot” has been hijacked by those who would use it to exclude, even vilify fellow Americans. They call themselves patriots, and imply that if you do not agree with them that you could not possibly be patriotic yourself; in fact, you may even be un-American. This is not true of the Patriot Guard Riders. The PGR are a group that not only use the word, they are in fact, truly patriotic.
Also from the PGR’s mission statement:
“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.”
While it is true that many of the Patriot Guard Riders are themselves veretans (I’m not,) and many do ride Harleys (I don’t,) those are not requirements. All that is required is a desire to honor those who gave all they had to give.
Ride captain Craig “Gunny” Donor, GySGT USMC (ret.,) summed it up for me, better than I ever could. He said, “There are a thousand things I’d rather do. None are more important.”
Would you like to join us? I and all of the Patriot Guard Riders would be happy to have you. Just go to PatriotGuard.org and follow the link that says “Click here to join.” It’s free, and while you will be doing something for someone else, you’ll get more out of it than you ever imagined possible. I have.