On August 12, 2011 Sergeant Anthony Peterson of Chelsea was killed in action while on patrol in Afghanistan. A member of the Air National Guard, Company B, 1st Battalion, 279th Infantry,Sgt Peterson was 24 years old when he gave his life in the service of his country.
On the morning of August 16, 2011 the City of Claremore and its citizens prepared themselves to face the misguided wrath of the members of the Westboro Baptist Church during the funeral services of this brave soldier. The sole purpose of this organization is to spread hatred, intolerance, and strike a blow at grieving families during their most difficult hours of mourning. The lack of compassion displayed by and the message of hatred spread from this organization is almost too mind boggling to comprehend. It is wrong on every conceivable level.
When I learned that Westboro had planned to picket the funeral of a beloved member of our community my first reaction was anger and outrage. I later learned from others in our community that my reaction was a common one. So on the morning of August 16th I drove into town prepared to stand with other members of my community in support of this brave soldier’s family. My intention was to attempt to shield his grieving friends and relatives from this abomination of humanity that calls itself a Church of God.
I intended to let them know with my presence that the loud screaming voice of the few was not the same as the quiet grateful voice of the many.
I was not prepared for what I found. Lining our streets were hundreds upon hundreds of local citizens ranging from the old to the young, each quietly and peacefully waving an American flag. I had never felt such a sense of deep pride in my life.
And there standing by our sides were the members of the Patriot Guard Riders. Before I was able to fully process the scene that lay before me, my breath actually caught in my throat.
Riding behind the casket of Sgt. Peterson were at least a hundred motorcycles carrying just as many men and women who traveled from all over this country to our small town with the sole purpose of protecting one of our own. Each member wore a leather vest proudly displaying the Guard’s emblem on the back and each motorcycle bore an American flag making a trail of red, white and blue that seemed to stretch for miles.
My anger and my outrage instantly disappeared and I felt such a deep sense of gratitude to these men and women. It occurred to me that however wrong the Westboro Baptist Church is in their attempts to leech off of the rights provided to them by our fallen soldiers by disgracing their memories, there is an equally dedicated group of people who are hell bent on making it right.
Thank you to the members of the Patriot Guard Riders for your dedication to protecting those who gave their lives protecting us.
In addition to travelling the country in support of our service members The Patriot Guard Riders advocate a number of philanthropic activities. Please visit their website and learn more about this phenomenal organization.