Patriot Guard Riders Assist Hoosier Homecoming Celebration
By Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Cloward
Special to American Forces Press Service
INDIANAPOLIS, Feb. 2, 2009 Members of the Patriot Guard Riders participated in homecoming ceremonies for Indiana National Guard units at Lucas Oil Stadium here Jan. 31.
More than 100 volunteers and Patriot Guard Riders from the 120th Public Affairs Detachment participate in homecoming ceremonies for Air and Army National Guard units at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Jan. 31, 2009. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Darren Salzer
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
More than 100 volunteers from the group walked the perimeter of the field carrying U.S. flags before standing guard as more than 3,100 Indiana soldiers and airmen marched in review.
Vietnam War veteran Lloyd Valentine of Fairland, Ind., said he participates regularly with the Patriot Guard Riders. “It puts closure to 38 years of nightmares of ‘Nam’ for me,” he said. “Doing this allowed me to come out and help bring closure to the faces I see every day of those I served with.”
Attending the events gives him the opportunity to send other servicemembers off with honor and bring them home with the respect they deserve, he added.
The Patriot Guard Riders started in August 2005 with Chapter 136 of the American Legion Riders in Kansas who heard protesters were disrupting funerals of fallen warriors and decided to do something about it.
When they heard of a planned protest at the funeral of Army Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea, Okla., they established a mission statement that included getting the family’s permission and contacting law enforcement and other motorcycle groups in Oklahoma. They agreed that their ultimate goal was to get veterans and motorcycle organizations from every state involved. They were very successful in mustering riders to honor Doles and limiting disruption.
After participating in two fallen warriors’ funerals, Jeff “Twister” Brown from Broken Arrow, Okla., wanted to do more than just ride. He contacted the original American Legion riders in Kansas and told them of his plans to start a nationwide communication and recruiting campaign. Within days, Brown had formed the Patriot Guard Riders and began to garner support.
Within a week, the group’s membership included riders from various veterans organizations and motorcycle clubs, as well as individual, nonaffiliated riders.
Damon Gastineau of Avon, Ind., is one of the Patriot Guard Riders who participated in Indiana’s homecoming event.
“I’m not in the military, but I work with law enforcement at the police academy in Plainfield,” he said. “I think it’s the right thing to do, to thank them.”
(Army Staff Sgt. Patrick Cloward serves in the 120th Public Affairs Detachment.)