Marine Cpl. Richard Bennett’s life was cut short in Iraq when his chopper crashed. The Marine died in a horrible accident while he was just 25 years old. As his bereaved family and the little community of Girard, Kansas, gathered to bury their loved one and bid farewell to the dead soldier, news reached the Westboro Baptist Church. The extremist members of Westboro Baptist Church chose to protest Cpl. Bennett’s burial because the unhinged organization thinks that God murders military personnel because America accepts homosexuality.
Obviously, Bennett’s already bereaved family was saddened to learn that the extreme Westboro Baptist Church would protest the burial, chanting the hateful and violent things that this organization is known for. But, happily, Westboro’s planned protest of the Marine hero’s burial did not happen as planned because another organization learned about it ahead of time and knew just what to do. Bennett’s family had some decent individuals on their side, ready to defend them, as the Westboro thugs quickly discovered.
The Patriot Guard Riders serve a vital role. These patriots, many of whom are veterans and motorcycle enthusiasts, attend the funerals of members of the United States military and first responders who have died at the request of the decedent’s family. The Patriot Guard Riders organization protects mourners from abuse by organizations such as the Westboro Baptist Church by forming an honor guard at military graves.
The Patriot Guard Riders organization offers invaluable assistance. When a family loses a loved one, the last thing they want or need is to be confronted with a horde of irreverent, nasty, disrespectful, and simply insane radicals waving filthy banners and slogans. During these times, the Patriot Guard Riders demonstrate their respect in the most effective and protective manner. They establish an impenetrable wall against picketers by using their bikes and bodies.
Marine Cpl. Richard Bennett’s family was relieved that the Guard would attend their fallen hero’s burial and keep members of the Westboro Baptist Church at bay, allowing those mourning their loss to have the tranquility they deserved at such a terrible time. And the Patriots who made up the Guard were more than pleased to do this one modest and last act of kindness for a fallen friend.
Hundreds more bikers came and drowned out the noise the Westboro members were frantically attempting to make with their filthy chanting. They were no match for the Guardsmen’s thunderous motorcycle motors. Fortunately, the rumbling of the motorcycles and patriotic music from their motorcycle radios were all that could be heard.
Even better, the bikers constructed a wall, so Richard Bennett’s bereaved family couldn’t see the protesters. The Patriot Guard Riders built a human wall around the property during Bennett’s burial, with each member waving an American flag, blocking the picketers and their absurd placards from view. “No family should have to face this type of hatred on the day that they’re putting their loved ones to rest,” Ken Van, a United Methodist minister and Patriot Guard Riders member, remarked gently, and he’s right.
Cpl. Richard Bennett and countless heroic troops like him perished safeguarding our inalienable liberties. Yes, these brave men and women die so that extreme, fringe members of the Westboro Baptist Church may protest and picket the funerals of the heroes who gave their lives so that a spiteful organization like theirs can assault funeralgoers with furious shouts. But simply because Westboro has the right to speak does not imply that we must provide them with a forum. We don’t even have to listen, and these bereaved families don’t have to either, due to the Patriot Guard Riders.
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