Posted on Thursday, August 29th, 2013 at 3:53 pm by Diamond Jim
I attended my weekly North Shore Rotary Club meeting today. Our speaker was Tom Berleth. He is an Asst. Deputy State Captain for the Patriot Guard Riders in Texas. He presented a program that touched me deeply.
The Patriot Guard Riders 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.
After the Chelsea Mission the Kansas American Legion Riders wanted all Motorcycle Groups/ Organizations to be recognized. On the 18th of October 2005 the Patriot Guard name was established and was announced on the 27th of October 2005 to the 100 + motorcyclists present at the Tonganoxie Mission to Honor Spc Lucas Frantz.
Following the missions in South Haven, KS and a later ride in Edmond, OK, Jeff “Twister” Brown, from Broken Arrow, OK, decided to do more than just ride. He saw a need to get a strong nation-wide communications and recruiting program in place. He contacted the original AL riders in Kansas and told them of his plans. They openly shared their experiences, suggestions, and encouragement. Within a matter of days, Brown had formed the Patriot Guard Riders and began a nation-wide campaign to garner support.
Similarly, after a mission ride in Greeley, CO, Hugh Knaus and Jason “Waldo” Wallin answered the call of the newly formed Patriot Guard Riders, becoming the national webmaster and communications director, respectively. Within a matter of days, a mission statement was refined and a website was built, rebuilt, and launched. A call immediately went out to individual riders and groups across the nation to join and ride with the PGR. State Captains were recruited to work more closely with the members in their area.
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. To the credit of Hugh and “Waldo”, the PGR website had received almost 566,000 hits in the first two weeks! Patriots from all over America and several foreign countries responded. Emails were pouring in from people wanting to support and join the newly formed PGR.
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.
I joined Patriot Guard Riders today, and I want to share this with each of you. Please read the following Mission Statement and Vision Statement:
“The Patriot Guard Riders is a 100% Volunteer, Federally registered 501(c)3 non-profit organization which ensures dignity and respect at memorial services honoring Fallen Military Heroes, First Responders and Honorably Discharged Veterans.”
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 including Fallen Military Heroes, First Responders and Honorably Discharged Veterans. 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.
If you would like to become a Patriot Guard Rider... as I have done today... then click on the following link and join. Freedom Isn't Free... But Membership Is... www.patriotguard.org. I did purchase a patch on the website... the patch pictured above... only $10... that I will proudly wear on a black cap to honor those who risk their very lives for America's freedom and security. Take a look... you'll want one too...