Patriot Guard Riders flagline
Patriotism runs deep in most motorcycle clubs and organizations, but few exhibit the patriotic committment of the Patriot Guard Riders. On this warm fall day, a group of Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) post the colors at a military funeral at the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery south of Mandan.
These moments often happen during the middle of the day during the middle of the week. Even so, when the call is put out to station a flag line at an event, you can expect a couple dozen riders to leave work, or schedule their day to be on hand. Their mission is to show the respect and honor of military personnel at military events, departures and arrivals of troops and of course at funerals.
What began as a response to the hate protests of the Westboro Baptist Church, to shield grieving families from the protesters, expanded in to a full bore show of support and respect for America and her fighting men and women. No laws, no rules, no government involvement could have produced the expanding results that the Patriot Guard Riders have accomplished. More than respond to protesters, the movement has grown to be a full-fledged military support group in many ways — from helping veterans at home to a quiet display of America’s red white and blue.
In this case, the PGR gathered at a nearby supermarket parking lot and waited for the appointed hour. They mounted their 3×5 flags to their bikes and rode staggered parade formation from Mandan, south along Highway 1806 to the cemetery. They parked their bikes out of the way and stood in position during the entire interment ceremony.
When it was done, they mounted up and quietly rode off; well, as quiet as two dozen motorcycles can be.
Susan and Norm Westbrook
Here is a father/daughter team that has the priorities right. (The father is the one with the hair on his lip, the daughter has the hair on her head.)
Norman and Susan Westbrook have thrown themselves in to being patriots. They stand with the Patriot Guard Riders every chance they get. In this case, it was the welcome home of soldiers from Kosovo. Imagine the closeness of this team focused on a good cause such as service to country and patriotism. They both ride their own bikes and fly their 3×5 flags from their bikes in escorts and parades where the PGR is invited. Susan is going to be a very well-grounded and confident woman. She is already, though she’s only in high school.
Norm and Susan visit with Vernon
The PGR rally gives people such as Norm and Susan a chance to meet with other like-minded people such as Vernon Bjerke a Marine who is from the eastern part of the state. He stands with patriots every chance he gets. These are not noisy outspoken in-your-face people. Their quiet upright strength is the kind of position that we could all emulate.
Getting ready to ride
Yesterday it was the Patriot Guard Riders honoring returning soldiers. Today, it is the Second Brigade Motorcycle Club honoring all vets but especially those in the First Brigade, our peers who served in Vietnam and were not well received when they returned in the 60’s and 70’s. (There was no Patriot Guard Riders in those days.) That generation is honored these days by clubs such as the Second Brigade Motorcycle Club, Vietnam Vets motorcycle club and Legacy Vets motorcycle club.
On this day, May 15, all who served were honored in the annual Armed Forces Day ride, and it would appear that there may be hope for the next generation to honor veterans as well. A young pair of boys waved and saluted as the riders started their ride. Personally, I found it very touching.
The day was perfect for a spring ride and so more than 100 riders covered Burleigh and McLean counties on their fun run, a ride of fellowship and of fundraising. They hit Washburn, Mercer, Wing and ended in Bismarck where they started.
The day was not only about remembering vets and socializing, it was also to raise money for the POW/MIA monument to be erected at North Dakota’s Veterans Cemetery at Mandan.
By day’s end, nearly $3,000 was raised in the fun run, the silent auction and a large personal contribution from the owners of Lucky’s in Bismarck where the ride ended.
I don’t know if this is just a local phenomenon or if it’s happening elsewhere, but I know in the Bismarck/Mandan area veteran and military support motorcycle clubs are becoming more visible and more popular. What do you see in your area?
Patriotism and motorcycles. They seem to go together, especially those whose ride is American-made. But even if the ride is made in Japan, bikers seem to be a patriotic lot, and it doesn’t seem to have much to do with age. Take Bob and Susan for example. Bob, a veteran and Susan a high school student post the colors in flag lines welcoming home soldiers who have been fighting the Global War on Terror. They’re both part of the Patriot Guard Riders, the group that was formed to shield grieving families from the evil people in that congregation in Kansas that loudly spews its hatred at military funerals. The PGR, stands shoulder to shoulder to shield the grieving families when called upon. But at all times, they’re there to show their support for returning soldiers at the Bismarck airport or wherever the PGR is organized.
Apart from the PGR, though is a strong thread of military and veteran influence. Take these three riders, members of the Viet Nam Vets mc club and Legacy Vets mc club. After a short cruise on this day to Wilton, these three headed south to Bismarck at sunset, riding in formation, enjoying North Dakota’s excellent highways and great motorcycle riding opportunities.