Niagara Gazette

Local News

June 6, 2014

EVENT: Local VFW post to honor Patriot Guard Riders.

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette —

The riders formed in 2005 to shelter and protect family members during the funeral of an American soldier due to harrassment by members or the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas who claimed that the war deaths were divine retribution for American tolerance of homosexuality.

Since then, around the country, the riders gather whenever there is a funeral or ceremony to honor American soldiers.  

The riders also take seriously the notion of "no man left behind," and work to locate the unclaimed remains of American soldiers left at funeral homes, to give them a proper burial.

"We do a veteran recovery program, going to the funeral homes and recovering the remains of fallen shoulders left behind," he said. "We gather them up and take them up to Bath, New York for a proper ceremony."   

During the ride to a military cemetery in Bath, the riders are often greeted in small town and villages by residents and school children, waving American flags as they pass by. "It really makes you proud to be an American," he said.

Johnson said that some may not know that members of the riders don't have to have to be a veteran or ride a motorcycle. "All we ask is that you stand with us and hold a flag."

Niagara Falls resident Wayne Bridgeman joined the riders seven years ago when he heard about the funeral of a local soldier.

Bridgeman, a Vietnam veteran, said he went to pay his respects to the soldier and saw the Patriot Guard standing in a flag line outside. Altough he does not own a motorcycle, he asked them if he could join them, "and I've been standing ever since."

He carries 12 American flags and PVC pipe in the trunk of his car so he can display the the flags outside funeral parlors when services are held for U.S. soldiers. "I couldn't do that if I had a bike," he said. "I'm just as happy with my four wheels."

There will be a table set up at the VFW post today to provide information about joining the Patriot Guard Riders. For more information, visit online at www.pgrny.org.

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