Saturday, May 28, 2011


Maybe you haven't heard about the Patriot Guard. They are a group of mostly older, often retired motor-bikers, most of whom are veterans. Their service - call it a patriotic ministry - is to provide a highway escort and flag honors for deceased veterans from the mortuary to the cemetery. These riders do this all on their own time and on their own dime, often several times a week. Their intent is to recognize every American military vet with a dignified, ceremonial, and special send off in a caring and honorable way.

Assembling at the funeral home, the Patriot Guard will lead the procession to the site of internment, no matter how far it may be. They lead the line of mourners, blocking the intercessions so the convoy does not have to stop for lights or signs. (This is a privilege granted them by the State of California, in this case) As each team completes that task, it races to the front of the line to be assigned again to another intersection.

Although I did not get all the pictures of every activity, the typical events which occur at the cemetery include a flag line through which the coffin and mourners can pass to the site of the services. Also provided may be members of the appropriate military branch to present taps, a gun salute, folding and presenting the flag on the coffin to the spouse or a family member. The Patriot Guard riders present stand by holding flags (each provides his own); at the event I attended, in addition to the twenty or so riders which led the convoy, another thirty or forty riders followed the group and stood patiently and reverently through the ceremony

At one side sat these four Patriot Guard leaders who were all submariners, one of the the Commander of a nuclear sub. Like all the others, these men make time in their lives to honor American personnel who have died.

Here is a shot of the line up of a portion of the motorbikes the Patriot Guard rides to each of these events. It is a thrill to see them fired up and in motion, carefully shepherding the procession along the roads and highways and ridden with skill and respect, wearing gear which is festooned with patches and badges and ribbons and awards and such indicating their own military involvement and their participation in similar organizations to the Guard. It's quite impressive to see the patriotic heart these gentle warriors wear on their sleeves and vests.

Finally, I've included a shot of my brother, Marty (red shirt), and his buddy Tony, who are only a couple of the sometimes more than 200 riders who participate in these escorts in the Redding, California area. The day Betty and I rode along (in the comfort of our Subaru) I really began to understand the passion and intense commitment Marty and his friends have devoted to their participation in the Patriot Guard. There are chapters of this special organization all across the country. Wherever you are, look them up and go along for a touching and precious experience. After all, honoring our fallen veterans, is not exclusive to bike riders. we can all honor our vets, living and deceased.

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