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Freep: Volunteers protect soldiers' funerals from protesters

Discussion in 'Political Zone' started by Angus, Mar 8, 2009.

  1. Angus

    Angus Active Member

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    Volunteers protect soldiers' funerals from protesters

    BY KORIE WILKINS • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER • March 8, 2009


    It doesn't matter if it is cold, hot, snowy, rainy or windy. They stand, holding American flags, hiding tears of sadness behind dark sunglasses.
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    Standing, they say, for those who stand for us. Standing for those who serve in the military and sacrifice their lives for freedom.

    Members of the Patriot Guard Riders -- all volunteers -- attend the funerals of fallen soldiers and veterans. They also welcome home soldiers and are there at airports, sending them off to combat.

    Last month, four members of Michigan's chapter took turns driving overnight to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to support the family of Spec. Byron Fouty, who was captured in Iraq in 2007. Fouty grew up in Walled Lake and Lake Orion.

    Since it was founded in 2005 to block protesters at military funerals, the Patriot Guard Riders have grown to more than 150,000 members nationally and to about 1,400 in Michigan.

    Members attend dozens of missions a month, mostly in their home states but sometimes in other parts of the country.

    "If I could join the service, I would," said member Tim McCoy, 55, of Lansing. "But I'm too old. So I do this. For other people's sons and daughters. To pay my respects."

    McCoy's son Army Staff Sgt. Gregory W.G. McCoy was killed Nov. 9, 2006, in Iraq.

    Before his son's death, McCoy had never heard of the Patriot Guard Riders. But they came to his son's funeral in Texas, where his son's wife lived, forming a wall of red, white and blue against a rumored group of protesters who never arrived.

    The national president of the Patriot Guard Riders, Bill Richart, said most of the nonprofit group's members don't like publicity or recognition.

    "It's not about us," said the 44-year-old Richart of Sedalia, Mo.

    "We're giving up a few hours of our day. They are giving up a lifetime."
    Origin of the Patriot Guard

    The guard formed in Kansas after a group of men and women from an American Legion post got wind of protests at funerals by the Rev. Fred Phelps and members of his Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka.

    Arriving as military families tried to bury their dead, Phelps and his group carried signs and shouted that the deaths of service members in Iraq were God's punishment for U.S. acceptance of homosexuality, promiscuity and adultery.

    The post decided to shield family members by standing in a line with U.S. flags.

    In 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law a ban on some protests at national cemeteries, including four in Michigan. The protests have mostly faded.

    Sam Cottle, Michigan's ride captain, said members have been spit at and taunted by protesters while holding their flags.

    "We don't react to it," said Cottle, a 45-year-old pastor from West Branch.

    Richart said that nationally, the group raises about $300,000-$500,000 a year, mostly through sales of merchandise on its Web site.

    The money goes to help offset the cost of flags and bottled water, plaques for families and other operational costs. No one gets a salary.

    The group's demographics are varied.

    Some of the group's members are Vietnam War veterans who didn't have a good welcome home. They remember the harassment and the hatred.

    Member Partnr, who declined to use his given name, said he received a cold reception when he returned from Vietnam, where he served in the Army's 1st Signal Brigade from 1968 to 1969.

    "A lot of us put it behind us and didn't talk about it," Partnr said. "But we said, 'Never again.' We don't want people to forget what our veterans do for our country."
    By invitation only

    The Patriot Guard doesn't go where it's not invited. Cottle said members contact military families through casualty assistance officers.

    Patriot Guard members say that even after the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have ended, they will celebrate the military and mourn their deaths at funerals.

    The guard has stood at funerals for veterans from Vietnam, Korea and other conflicts.

    "I hope that's what will happen when I pass on," said Richart, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force from Desert Storm, "that the Patriot Guard Riders will be there for me. And for my family. They are my family."

    http://www.freep.com/article/20090308/NEWS05/903080418
  2. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    Now these are REAL AMERICANS.
  3. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    Fred Phelps is piece of **** in my book.
  4. burmafrd

    burmafrd Well-Known Member

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    I would like to hand him over to the militants in Afghanistan for fun and games.
  5. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    I'd like to hand him over to a big old jailhouse boy so that he can have his way with him.

    I'd imagine a night with "Tons of Fun" would make him pull those "god hates ****" signs down.
  6. DIAF

    DIAF DivaLover159

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    if you ever want a good laugh, go look up the videos he and his church produce and put up on youtube. They are hilarious....in a disturbing kind of way. The Billy Graham one is especially funny.
  7. Hoofbite

    Hoofbite Well-Known Member

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    I've seen the Santa is going to Hell video or whatever it was.

    Sad to see a kid who doesn't even know any better forced into partaking in picket demonstrations and stuff.

    Dudes a scumbag. The moment he dies, humanity is better off.

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