Pride Ride: Patriot Guard Riders preserve dignity of military funerals
By Mitch Shaw, 75th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
/ Published May 11, 2007
HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah --
Members of the Patriot Guard Riders have two things in common: motorcycles and an unwavering respect for those that risk their lives for America's freedom and security. The Patriot Guard Riders are a unique group of motorcyclists spread across the nation dedicated to preserving the sanctity of military funerals.
The PGR attend the funeral services of fallen military members and through strictly legal and non-violent means, shield mourners from any interruptions created by protesters.
"As long as we are around we will do everything in our power to make sure our military members are welcomed home as heroes," said Staff Sgt. Kelly Crouse, 388th Maintenance Group, and member of the PGR since 2005. "We want to make sure no one disrupts the services for those members who have paid the ultimate price."
In fact, the PGR are so dedicated to serve military families, owning or riding a motorcycle is not actually required for membership into the group.
"We have members who ride motorcycles, some who drive cars, and even have one ride captain who rides a Segway," Sergeant Crouse said. "This is definitely a diverse group of people. We don't care what you ride or even if you ride, the only prerequisite to join is to have an unyielding sense of respect."
Sergeant Crouse, who serves as the state captain of the Utah PGR chapter, said the chapter has seen enormous growth since it's inception in November 2005.
"I joined the PGR in December 2005, and when I joined there were just over 3,000 members in the nation and only 12 in Utah," he said. "We now have over 91,000 members nationwide with just over 500 in the state."
The Utah PGR chapter served its first funeral mission in March 2006 and is also available to serve at other events like conventions, memorials, military honors.
"Since there aren't many protesters in Utah, our main mission then is having many people come and pay their respects to the families of those fallen," said PGR member Master Sgt. Kris Braddock, 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron.
Sergeant Crouse said the PGR is proud to serve in whatever capacity it can.
"We will only perform these missions when we are invited," he said. "If the family of our military members wants the PGR, all they have to do is ask."
Sergeant Crouse said that serving those missions of the past few years has been and continues to be a tremendous privilege.
"The PGR is one of the most rewarding organizations I have ever belonged to," he said. "The men and women I have ridden with on our missions are truly of the highest character. Every person has one goal and that is to take care of the family and show respect to our military."
For more information on the Patriot Guard Riders, go to www.patriotguard.org.