Patriot Guard Riders
Official Site: PatriotGuard.org
Wikipedia: Patriot Guard Riders
The following section is an excerpt from Wikipedia's Patriot Guard Riders page on 27 July 2020, text available via the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) is an organization based in the United States whose members attend the funerals of members of the U.S. military and first responders at the invitation of a decedent's family.
The group forms an honor guard at military burials, helps protect mourners from harassment and fills out the ranks at burials of indigent and homeless veterans. In addition to attending funerals, the group also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations and performs volunteer work for veteran's organizations such as Veterans Homes.
The organization is open to any persons, regardless of political affiliation, veteran status, or whether or not they ride motorcycles, as long as they have "a deep respect for those who serve our country".
Some media reports have referred to the PGR as a motorcycle club. Patriot Guard Riders' representatives state that they are "not a motorcycle club", but an "Internet-based organization" and "communication system" by which members are informed of funeral events.
The group was formed in 2005 to shelter and protect the deceased's family against protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, who claim that the deaths of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are divine retribution for American tolerance of homosexuality. PGR members position themselves to physically shield the mourners from the presence of the Westboro protesters by blocking the protesters from view with their motorcade, or by having members hold American flags. The group also drowns out the protesters' chants by singing patriotic songs or by revving motorcycle engines.
Although initially founded by motorcyclists, the organization is open to anyone, regardless of political affiliation, veteran status, or whether they ride or not. The only prerequisite is "a deep respect for those who serve our country; military and first responders. The Patriot Guard was established in Mulvane, Kansas, at American Legion Post 136 in 2005. The founder members incorporated the organization as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the State of Oklahoma on February 21, 2006.
The group's mission quickly expanded to include the funerals of law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, all first responders, and any active duty member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces from all previous wars and conflicts and is now largely focused on recognizing and honoring the sacrifices of dead service members as well as their families and loved ones. As of March 2011, PGR reported over 220,000 members. In addition to their attendance at funerals, the group also greets troops returning from overseas at welcome home celebrations, deployment ceremonies, and performs volunteer work for veteran's organizations such as Veterans Homes. The group also assists families in financial difficulties with travel and housing arrangements, and visits military hospitals to encourage and honor wounded service members of the United States Armed Forces.
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