Patriot Guard Riders -Rusty and Christie
I became a Patriot Guard Rider along with my wife about 2 1/2 months ago. The Patriot Guard Riders are a group of people from all walks of life and from all over the country, who stand in support of our great military heros’ both past and present. The Patriot Guard was initially formed to protect the families of soldiers who have passed on from protesters who attempted to disrupt memorial services and funerals and provide a peaceful safe presence while they honor their deceased. Since its’ inception the Patriot Guard has grown to in excess of 200,000 members. I am very proud to be counted in that great number. My experiences with the Patriot Guard Riders began with my first mission of standing a flag line and escorting a Korean War veteran to his final resting place. Thus began a continuing journey of service that for me has been both humbling and extremely fulfilling. I have stood at the side of my brother and sister members, some of us motorcycle riders and some not, some of us veterans and some of us not, as we as well as family and friends, honor the fallen. I have stood at the gravesites of both young and old. One mission I had the privilege of attending was for 9 year old Odie Harris. This young man lost his battle with cancer at an all to young age. It was Odies’ dream to beat his cancer and live to become a career Marine. His dream was fulfilled when he was made both an Honorary Young Marine by The Bossier Parish Louisiana Young Marines and by The United States Marine Corp. When Odie made his final roll call, his family requested the presence of the Patriot Guard to stand for him and escort him to his final resting place. What an honor it was to stand for this young man. Over 100 Patriot Guard Riders were in attendance. On this day I had both the American flag and The Marine Corp flags displayed on my bike. I was given the honor of being the lone rider to separate from the group and be placed directly in front of the coach carrying this Young Marine and escort him on his final mission. At his gravesite I was asked to bear the Marine Corp flag in his flagline. What a humbling honor! I have stood a flagline in above 100 degree heat on Memorial Day at The Northwest Louisiana Veterans Cemetary to honor the fallen heros’ from all wars who have given their lives for this country. What a blessing. I have also taken part in services for recent fallen heros. One of these was for SSGT. Michael Garcia. SSGT. Garcia was KIA in Afghanistan on 4 July 2011 after his vehicle was struck by an I.E.D. The Patriot Guard was called upon by his family to retrieve the remains of this American Hero at the airport and provide escort for him to the funeral home. There were again close to 100 riders present for this escort. As we returned to Bossier City to the funeral home, we were greeted by hundreds of people lining Airline Drive from I-220, some 2 miles to the funeral home. This public display with flags and banners waving put a tear in my eye. What a deserving show of respect for this unselfish young man. I experienced this same feeling as we stood a flagline for SSGT. Garcia the next day and as we escorted him to his final resting place the following. I have also had the honor of standing for veteran soldiers from wars past. One such veteran was Air Force Sgt.M.C. Gray, a Korean War vet from Plain Dealing,LA. How amazing it was to watch literally a whole town turn out to honor this man who had given many years of service to his country. Another mission I would like to share was for SGT. Christopher Soderlund. SGT. Soderlund was KIA 9 July 2011 by RPG fire in Afghanistan. He is from DeVille,LA. This young United States Army soldier was only 23 years old. We made a ride of over 150 miles to stand for him. He left behind a wife a two very young children. This was one of the toughest missions I have been on. My heart still grieves for this young soldiers family. It is truly heartwrenching to stand as you watch honor guard members present memorial flags to these young soldiers children under the age of 10. Some may ask why we in the Patriot Guard Riders do what we do and I can only answer for myself. I do it to stand in honor and respect for all my Brothers in Arms who have gone before me. I stand in honor and respect for their families who have made many sacrifices so that we may be free. Whenever we are called upon, no matter how far, no matter what kind of weather I will continue this journey until I complete my final mission myself and they stand for me.