I want to touch on a couple military / motorcycling topics today. First - a few words about an excellent organization called the Patriot Guard Riders. The PGR was formed several years ago, when the bodies of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan began returning home. Though many folks perhaps have forgotten, or maybe weren't aware in the first place, the funerals of many of those soldiers were desecrated by protestors from a fundamentalist church that claimed that the soldiers died because of government policies relating to abortion, homosexuality, and other contentious social issues. They chanted that God was happy that the soldier had died and that more would and should die because of America's "sins".
Obviously such protests made an extremely difficult situation for the soldiers' families even more unbearable.
A small group of Vietnam veterans had a marvelous idea. They would form a corps of veterans who also happend to be motorcyclists that would appear, if the family approved, at funerals to silently block out protestors, and to separate the protests from the family and the funeral service. It proved very effective. The PGR role has become much more than just separating protestors from the family, however (fortunately such protests have become less common than they were several years ago). The presence of PGR members is to serve as a flag-bearing honor guard, as a demonstration of respect to the soldier and his or her family, and to send a visible public message that never again would one generation of American veterans allow returning war veterans to go unnoticed and unappreciated as had been the case forty years ago when Vietnam veterans returned home to an unappreciative and uncaring nation. The PGR role has also expanded to providing an honor guard at the funeral of any veteran, regardless of age and time of service, and to honor returning soldiers and military units upon completion of overseas duty. I'm proud to stand with these men and women whenever I am able. Check them out at patriotguard.org. You don't have to be a veteran or a motorcyclist to be a member of the PGR.
On a related military topic - if you live anywhere near Cleveland check out the big USO fundraising event to help military families. It's July 25th at the Sheffield, OH Quaker Steak & Lube, with the fun starting at 4:00 p.m.. Big name entertainment, music, lots of motorcyclists to rub elbows with, and I'll be there selling books if anyone is interested in motorcycle or military topics. Go to usocleveland.org for more info. The USO is an under-appreciated organization that has been working hard for military personnel and their families for many years.
Finally - a few words about the annual Rolling Thunder ride to Washington DC every Memorial Day. If you haven't participated, please do at least once. It is one of the most moving and powerful experiences you'll have. There are close to a million motorcycles around town, with folks standing on overpasses and front porches watching and waving. The parade from Arlington to the Mall is amazing with a couple hours worth of motorcycles and veterans displays noisily passing by, and the overall feeling of the event is one that'll never leave you.