About a year and a half ago I was researching a story about Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church (most famous for being the Christians hateful bigots that carry signs that read “God hates fags.”) Digging a little deeper into the story, I discovered that Phelps & Co. believe their God has a lot of hate to spread around, so they also protest military funerals with signs like “God loves dead Marines” and “God loves IEDs.” I could think of nothing more hurtful than a family seeing signs like those as they buried their son or daughter.
As I described what I’d learned to an acquaintance, she suggested I look into a group called the Patriot Guard Riders. She knows I ride a motorcycle, and thought this might be a group for me. To be honest, I was a little worried about what I might find when I clicked on that link. Recent history has seen the word “patriot” 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 then you could not possibly be patriotic yourself; in fact, you may even be un-American. Luckily, that is not at all what I found.
In the event of protesters at a funeral, the Patriot Guard will park their motorcycles between those with signs and the ceremony, and raise their flags so as to screen off the protesters from the view of the mourners. I am happy to say this has not yet been necessary on any of the dozen or so missions that I have been on with the PGR.