Who are the Patriot Guard Riders?
There were zero PGR 5 years ago. As of now, there are over 190,000. This growth has not come easy, and it is not perfect. And in case anybody misunderstands, I thought I should make it clear who the PGR are to me.
The PGR is the Hell's Angel that has held a flag for three hours in honor of a fallen solider.
The PGR is the Christian Motorcyclist Association rider that is standing next to him.
The PGR is the elderly lady with a flag draped over her walker that is standing next to him.
The PGR is the biker that will rider over 300 miles, praying to God to give him strength, so he can make it in time to have the honor of standing the flag line for the wake of a hero…Alone.
The PGR is having 250 bikes show up the next day in a town of 3500 people: Some riding hundreds of miles, staring at 0400…In the rain.
The PGR will be humbled when the color guard comes out to shake his hand for standing there alone, and tell them with confidence there will be more tomorrow.
The PGR is spending hours in a flag line in 90 degree heat, only later to find out the son of the guy standing next to you had committed suicide 6 months after returning from Iraq.
The PGR are the couple that served lunch to 286 bikers, refusing all donations. They are the grandparents of the solider that killed himself.
The PGR is “freebird57” from IL who drives around in his van, loaded with 135 flags and coolers of water and supplies for those standing the line along with him.
The PGR is the Viet Nam vet that was spit on when he returned, or the lady next to him whose brother was in the Battle of Bulge. Or it is 12 year old Taylor Batten, who had her first heart surgery at the age of 6 months. Taylor has had many surgeries in her past and will have many more in her future, which may not be that long. She is now a PFC USMC, and an honorary MI PGR Ride Captain.
The PGR is not a service group, we are not lobbyists. There are many fine organizations that do this work, and we heartily encourage your support.
The PGR is the biker that will ride over 200 miles in rain so bad he can barely see, and rides only by the taillights of those ahead of him, because the protestors will be at the funeral of PO1 Jerry Tharp in Galesburg IL. And he will not only consider it a privilege to have protestors scream in his face, shielding them form the family, but will consider it one of the proudest days of his life. And there are 329 people standing next to him feeling exactly the same way.
The PGR is the rider who could not think of any place he would rather be at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, than to stand at the gravesite of a friend’s father, on the anniversary of his passing. A father who earned the Silver Star in Korea for gallantry above and beyond the call of duty: A father whose family had no ideal what he had done and the award he had won, until they went through his belongings after his death.
If you do not fit in anywhere in the above, or you have another agenda, you might reconsider if you are in the right place. If you do, it will be my honor to stand with you anytime, anywhere.
And when the organizers of this parade ask how many PGR will be there, I will tell them there might be 100, but I will only guarantee one.
And if there is an Honor Mission for a fallen hero that I should attend, I will not be there either.
Being a PGR is not fun. It may well be one of the hardest things you will ever do.
You may have the mother of a fallen solider cry on your shoulder, thanking you for being there.
You may have a Marine, who has escorted his buddy from Afghanistan, stand at attention and salute you, with tears streaming down his f ace.
Being a PGR may not be fun, but you will never stand with better people. It may be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do, and without a doubt, it will change your life forever.