Several people have asked how the Patriot Guard Riders got started. Here’s what we’ve been able to piece together. If anyone can give us more details, it would be greatly appreciated.
It all started back in early August of 2005 with the American Legion Riders chapter 136 from Kansas. They were appalled to hear that a fallen hero’s memory was being tarnished by misguided religious zealots who were protesting at funerals. They decided to do something about it. At the ALR 136 August meeting, Director: Chuck " Pappy " Barshney appointed members, Terry “Darkhorse” Houck, Cregg “Bronco 6” Hansen, Steve “McDaddy” McDonald, and Bill ”Wild Bill” Logan to form a committee to strategize and form a battle plan to combat Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.
When they heard that the WBC was going to protest at the Funeral of Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea, Oklahoma, they established a Mission Statement, which included getting the families permission and contacting Law Enforcement and other Motorcycle Groups in Oklahoma. They agreed that their ultimate goal was to get veterans and motorcycle organizations involved in every state so that each state could handle the situation internally and not rely on other states to do the job. They were very successful in mustering riders to honor Sgt. Doles and limiting the intrusion by the WBC.
After the Chelsea Mission the Kansas American Legion Riders wanted all Motorcycle Groups/ Organizations to be recognized. On the 18th of October 2005 the Patriot Guard name was established and was announced on the 27th of October 2005 to the 100 + motorcyclists present at the Tonganoxie Mission to Honor Spc Lucas Frantz.
Following the missions in South Haven, KS and a later ride in Edmond, OK, Jeff “Twister” Brown, from Broken Arrow, OK, decided to do more than just ride. He saw a need to get a strong nation-wide communications and recruiting program in place. He contacted the original AL riders in Kansas and told them of his plans. They openly shared their experiences, suggestions, and encouragement. Within a matter of days, Brown had formed the Patriot Guard Riders and began a nation-wide campaign to garner support.
Similarly, after a mission ride in Greeley, CO, Hugh Knaus and Jason “Waldo” Wallin answered the call of the newly formed Patriot Guard Riders, becoming the national webmaster and communications director, respectively. Within a matter of days, a mission statement was refined and a website was built, rebuilt, and launched. A call immediately went out to individual riders and groups across the nation to join and ride with the PGR. State Captains were recruited to work more closely with the members in their area.
The growth has been phenomenal. Within a week their membership included many riders from associations like the VFW, American Legion, Rolling Thunder, ABATE, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, Intruder Alert, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, and almost five hundred individual riders. To the credit of Hugh and “Waldo”, the PGR website had received almost 566,000 hits in the first two weeks! Patriots from all over America and several foreign countries responded. Emails were pouring in from people wanting to support and join the newly formed PGR.
So, that’s a pretty concise picture of where we came from and where we are today. A great deal of credit goes to that small group of Kansas American Legion Riders, but none of this could have ever been accomplished without the patriot member who takes time out of their life to honor a fallen soldier and their family.
I just received the following letter from Mike Minor, National President of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association. It goes even deeper into the roots of patriots honoring fallen American heroes. Thanks to Mike and all his members, as well as all the other organizations who led the way and continue to honor those men and women who have paid the ultimate price for our freedoms. Jeff
I wanted to take a moment to thank you for honoring our Veterans who have made the ultimate sacrifice for us and our Nation. You have come a very long way in a very short time. I hope we, together, can continue to serve as a forward guard for them and help to get legislation passed to prevent the likes of the WBC from dishonoring these Veterans or this great nation.
I have been reading through your website, I noticed on the history that no one knew exactly how the honoring of fallen Heroes started. I was there at the first funeral where Veteran Riders of several groups came together to act as a shield and to show respect to the families of the Fallen Heroes.
The Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association made the first ride in July of this year (2005) for SPC Meyers of St Joseph Mo. Because we are rather small in comparison to many of the Veterans organizations across the country we invited anyone and everyone we could think of, these included members of the VFW, American Legion, Leathernecks MC, Vietnam Vet MC and anyone who wanted to ride with us were invited to come along. I was told later we were 20 in number.
We also made the trip to Tonganoxie KS for SPC Frantz on Friday where the High school retired his number on the football team and again for the funeral the following week. It was there we met an American Legion Rider, his name now evades me. He said he would contact his chapter and return for the funeral the following week. He held true to his word in a big way.
After the funeral in St Joseph we contacted our membership through out the country, we told them to watch the WBC for protests in their area. From that start it has ballooned into something well beyond our expectations.
The Patriot Guard has done very well, together I believe we can make a very big difference, not just in thwarting the WBC but in giving some assurance to the families that their son or daughter's self sacrifice won't go unnoticed or be forgotten.
Mike (Gunner) Minor
Combat Veterans Motorcycle Assn., National President
Jeff, I would like to share with you our first encounter with WBC. Last August a young lady with a husband just back from the sandbox heard about WBC coming to Opelika to desecrate the funeral of a 3rd ID soldier killed in Iraq. She became so angry that she roused the community through the press to protect this family. I called her to ask what we, a vets group, could do to help. This smelled so much like Vietnam that we felt that we had to get involved.
Her response was joy that a Vets M/C wanted to help and she asked us to take the lead position in front of the church. We were appalled and shocked by what we saw but felt we had served our country again by being there.
Several months later we became aware of PGR when our Texas State Rep, "Thumper" issued a challenge to our Nat Pres David "Animal" Reid as to which state could have 100% membership first. As we had already met Asshole's son and daughter we jumped at this way to serve and Alabama joined. We are not a big group but we care a lot. So JuJu, Pops, Lucky, Crackle and Snap and Animal Joined up. At that point I met Kevin who conned me into becoming a ride captain. And today, here we are.
The mission of our club is "Vets Helping Vets" so PGR is a natural for us. ICVMC is well represented in PGR in both riders and leaders. I have heard stories of other groups saying we stole their thunder. I don't see how we can have too many folks standing for our fallen, helping our wounded, visiting the old vets (I'm one of them) and helping their families and communities.
Neither PGR nor ICVMC has a patent on this work. It's not an ego trip. It's not about us, it's about the vets. I don't give a damn about "who came first" or who is "already doing that". We as a club, In-Country Vets M/C, are proud to be part of PGR. I've heard some say that we are not a "Veterans Group". Well, to those folks I would say that my little brother's death outside Quan Loi RVN on April 25th, 1966 and my service in Nam from December 66 to August 68 qualifies. The first requirement for membership in ICVMC is a tour "In-Country"
So let's stop looking at "who's first" and go forward together. On every mission I've been on, we have been joined by other groups. Sometimes we lead, sometime they do. There is no conflict, we are all American Patriots.