For years, Patriot Guard Riders have been shielding mourning families of fallen military heroes from anti-military protesters at memorial services. Accordingly, the group has certainly run into members of the hateful Westboro Baptist Church from time to time.
Earlier this week, Fred Phelps, the founder of Westboro, died of natural causes at age 84. Due to the fact that Phelps has been spreading hate since he founded the group in 1955, many people’s first reaction was revenge.
Patriot Guard Riders received a number of requests asking the group to stage their own protest of Phelps’ funeral as retribution. It is what he and his followers did to so many American soldiers, after all.
On Friday, Patriot Guard Riders President Robbie Smart sent out an email in response to the requests — and it perfectly illustrates the difference between a group of patriots and a group like Westboro Baptist Church.
Let’s first remember our Nation’s true Heroes. Those brave men and women of our military and first responders who gave their life so that we may enjoy the freedom to express our differences.
While it is hard to find anything good to say about his views or actions, we do give our condolences to his family during what must be a painful time for them. We take no joy in the sickness and death of any man. We do not celebrate the death of Fred Phelps. Patriot Guard Riders hope that Mr. Phelps somehow found the peace that seemed to elude him in life.
It is true that the PGR grew out of a response to protests at funerals. That’s a fair statement.
However, that was 2005 and the PGR quickly learned that there was something powerful in a gathering of Americans who would simply stand and hold flags and let a family know that they were not alone. That powerful thing became our mission.
We are neither a protest nor a counter protest group. We honor fallen Heroes and those who have honorably served this free America. The presence or absence of a protest does not alter that mission.
If it not for this man and his family we might not have heeded the call to regularly honor the sacrifices of our nation’s true heroes and their families. Nor would we have come to know the brother/sisterhood that has become the Patriot Guard Riders.
Patriot Guard Riders
The Patriot Guard Riders website states the group’s mission is to “show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities” and “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,” the website adds.