Clyde Beal: Standing up for the veterans who stood up for all of us
This past October an organized group of patriots helped form a sendoff line as a sign of respect for veterans as they boarded an aircraft in Huntington airport heading to Washington, D.C.
They were present again for the return trip to properly welcome them back home. Even when Honor Flights departed from Clarksburg Airport, they were there showing their respect.
That’s what this group does and they’ve been doing it all across this land of ours from California to the East Coast for over 13 years. Volunteering their time for events like Honor Flight is just part of their involvement with veterans and their families.
The Patriot Guard Riders were formed in 2005 to shield families of deceased military veterans from those with intentions of creating a disturbance during funeral services for their loved ones. Since their inception they have grown to include thousands of members.
They have now become a nationally chartered 501(c)(3) organization operated totally by volunteers who have a deep respect for those who served honorably and are willing to become involved because they believe their mission provides a vital service.
Longtime member Ed Hicks said the Patriot Guard Riders are involved with more than Honor Flights leaving for Washington.
“Patriot Guard Riders were formed originally to shelter and protect a deceased family member against protesters from a religious group in Mulvane, Kansas, during 2005,” said Hicks.
“This incident is a matter of record and can be read in depth online. It’s not important to mention who they were, only to address the fact that there are left wing radicals and groups that actively exists for the sole purpose of disrupting our American way of life while showing respect for proper military protocol.
That altercation in Mulvane, Kansas, at American Legion Post 136 in 2005 resulted in the formation of the Patriot Guard Riders by Chuck “Pappy” Barshney. Since that date, membership in the PGR now totals in excess of 300,000 members. Our motto is: “Standing tall for those who stood for us” and the only prerequisite for membership is an unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom. This not only includes fallen military heroes but first responders and honorably discharged veterans as well.”
Hicks said that in addition to being an all-volunteer force, they receive no compensation for travel expenses, lodging or meals. There is also a misconception that members of the Patriot Guard Riders must own a motorcycle. It is not true. They use personal vehicles like cars and trucks to provide escort service in inclement weather. While most members are indeed military veterans, it is not a requirement. There is also no restriction to male membership only. They welcome both males and females who range from the teenage years up to and beyond the retirement age.
“As our membership has grown so has the scope of our mission,” said Hicks. “In addition to our honor missions, we are involved with a program we call Help On The Homefront, or HOTH. This includes events that are meant to honor a single individual or group such as Veterans Day ceremonies, parades or a sendoff for a military unit being deployed overseas. Basically it’s any military or first responder event that is not a funeral.”
PGR members often get asked about the requirements and procedures to join their organization. It’s really quite simple, according to Hicks.
“If you’re interested in becoming part of Patriot Guard Riders, just go online to our web page and fill out an application while you’re there,” said Hicks. “Let me try and explain how membership works. Once you become a registered member you will begin to receive periodic notifications of events that we participate in within the state or Tri-State area. You just sign up online for those you plan on attending. If you are not a member and want our services, then you just go to our web page and request our participation using the appropriate preprinted form.”
Hicks said requesting their assistance online is the best way to notify them because they do not ask if you need their help. As far as membership protocol, clothing that contains written messages that may be considered offensive is not permitted by members. They also do not tolerate disrespectful behavior, inappropriate language or any conduct that would discredit the very reason they are present. There are no annual or monthly dues and no monthly meetings to attend. They do have a national meet each year, and you’re not required to attend. Their objective is plain and straightforward: If they are asked to attend a function honoring a fallen hero and you’re not there for the same reason, then the Patriot Guard Riders believe that you should be somewhere else.
“As a final thought,” said Hicks, “we need younger members. It’s the younger generation that will one day take over for us old-timers, and we need to get them interested in military matters. Also, most funeral home directors have experience contacting us; if you want us there for you just tell the funeral home, they know what to do.”
Clyde Beal seeks out interesting stories from folks around the Tri-State. Email email@example.com.