Most of you know a reasonable amount about Veterans Day. But how much do you know about an organization that was founded in 2005 in response to misguided, reprehensible protests at the funerals of fallen heroes, the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR)?
For openers, let’s clarify some things. These are motorcycle riders. In August of 2005, the American Legion Riders from Chapter 136 in Kansas heard about a planned demonstration by Minister Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church at the funeral of fallen hero Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea, Okla., and they decided to devise a peaceful plan to divert this disrespectful initiative.
They coordinated their plan with the family of Sgt. Doles along with Oklahoma law enforcement officials and thwarted an otherwise disgraceful intrusion. Following that “mission,” the Kansas chapter was determined to ensure the sanctity of the funerals for fallen heroes across the country and, after countless hours of contacting veterans’ organizations nationwide, the Patriot Guard Riders was officially formed on Oct. 18, 2005.
Within a week after this founding, their growth expanded beyond their wildest expectations due to voluntary participation by motorcycle riders from the other chapters of Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, ABATE, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, Intruder Alert, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, and thousands of individual riders.
These veterans and everyday citizens take the time to honor fallen heroes and help to peacefully ensure that the families are not disrespected and the burial ceremonies are not disrupted. These people are true patriots and deserve recognition for their ongoing action.
I’m fortunate to have a lifelong friend and fellow veteran, David Walters, who’s been riding with the PGR almost since its inception and talked with me about some of his 52 missions.
He explained and showed me an actual notification called a mission statement that he received via email. It contained the what, when, where and why about an upcoming ride for a fallen hero. The riders are genuinely motivated, well organized and networked, and voluntarily respond when called upon.
David said, “It would take a very serious personal matter to override a call to duty from the PGR; most riders consider the mission to be an essential part of their lives. It’s something we do because we want to, and also because it’s the right thing to do for the fallen hero and their family.”
It should be noted that these riders arrive at each ceremony armed with 3-foot by 5-foot American flags. Many have altered their (bikes) to accommodate flying flags.
While Veterans Day is primarily intended to recognize and thank living veterans and service members for their service, to acknowledge the value of their contributions to our national security, highlight our appreciation, and to underscore the fact that all those who served honorably then and now, it is evolving into an unanticipated day of recognizing those who continue to quietly defend the sanctity of those who have fallen in combat and their families and friends.
The unprecedented, voluntary actions by the Patriot Guard Riders continue to ensure dignity for those who gave their all, their lives, in defense of our freedom.
On Veterans Day, we will continue offering our thanks to those who are serving and have served freedom’s cause. We will salute the members of our Armed Forces who are confronting our adversaries abroad, and we will honor the men and women who departed America’s shores but didn’t live to be thanked properly as veterans.
They should and will always be remembered by our country. Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans.
Officially, there are national ceremonies for Veterans Day, focusing on the Tomb of the Unknowns. To honor these men and women, symbolic of all Americans who gave their lives in all wars, an Army honor guard – the 3d U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard at Fort Meyer, Va.) – keeps day and night vigil regardless of the weather.
At 11 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, a combined color guard representing all military services executes “Present Arms” at the tomb. The nation’s tribute to its war dead is symbolized by the laying of a presidential wreath and the playing of “Taps.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Patriot Guard Riders, information is available by going to www.patriotguard.org. This site offers a diverse amount of information including contacts for PGR Regional Support National Captains in each state.
We’re free, so let’s all observe that moment of silence at 11 a.m. on Veterans Day again this year.