Posts tagged motorcycle club
On June 5, 2012 the small central Oklahoma town of Shawnee came alive briefly with the rolling thunder of a legion of motorcycle riders. But this was no ordinary ride by a motorcycle group on their way to a summer rally. Rather, it was a procession of bikers providing an escort for fallen sailor Eric D. Warren. Mr. Warren was laid to rest in Shawnee’s Resthaven Cemetery after a moving ceremony that honored him as both a human being and a member of the U.S. Navy.
What surprised many of the onlookers standing by the side of the road were the Mongols patches adorning the vests of many of the riders. Sure, they expected to see the Patriot Guard because that’s what that group is known for. But seeing the Mongols, and other groups like the Forsaken Few, came as a surprise.
That’s no matter to the Mongols. As a motorcycle club they are very loyal to one another under any circumstance. And seeing that many of them are former military themselves, they are also very loyal to those who currently serve. For them to come out and show respect to a fallen sailor is just a natural extension of who and what they are: a tight brotherhood of motorcycle riders who stick together through thick and thin.
After the ceremony ended many of the onlookers commented about how many U.S. flags and military patches they’d seen among the bikers. Some were wholesale patches while others seem to be custom made. At any rate, most Americans don’t think of bikers as being military men and women. The truth is, most of them support the military with zeal and passion. And that’s a good thing. I’m sure Mr. Warren’s family appreciated all who showed up regardless of the club they belong to.
As big-box DIY store Home Depot finds itself embroiled in the controversy over gay marriage, their chief competitor has gotten involved in supporting the nation’s fallen military personnel through a partnership with the Patriot Guard. The partnership, though not officially recognized by the Lowe’s corporate office, comes by way of a donation made by the St. George, Utah store to the Patriot Guard of Southern Utah. The store recently donated 12 American flags to the local chapter to be used during the services they provide the families of fallen soldiers.
The Patriot Guard is a nationwide motorcycle club dedicated to honoring the nation’s military by providing escorts and support services for military funerals. All across the country it’s very common to see legions of motorcycle riders out front, leading the way for military funeral processions as they wind down local streets and roads to the cemeteries where the soldiers will be laid to rest. The Patriot Guard also stands watch over the funerals to make sure they are not disrupted by protesters. As for the flags, they are used to drape the coffins of the deceased service members. Since the Patriot Guard is an all volunteer organization with no budget, even a small donation of 12 flags is important.
When you look at the Patriot Guard colors they are very unassuming, almost to the point of being confused for stock patches any motorcyclist could wear. The point of the club’s colors is to focus on the greater good of their mission rather than the club itself. It features a gold triangle against a blue background with white stars and the phrase “Standing for those who stood for us.” If you’ve never seen the Patriot Guard in action, trust us; it’s an impressive and humbling sight to see.
The one thing common to just about every motorcycle club is the fact that they all wear patches on their jackets and vests. But that’s where the similarity ends in many cases. Some clubs, like the Sons of the South, are very particular about their colors, other club patches, and how they are worn and by whom. Interestingly enough, Sons of the South members don’t even own their own vests (cuts); they are provided by the club and remain club property.
In addition to their colors — colors are normally defined as the club’s main patch and rockers — the Sons of the South have nearly a dozen additional patches worn by specific groups of club members for specific purposes. The club doesn’t allow any patches not associated with the Sons of the South except with the permission of a chapter president. Even at that club member must demonstrate that the unauthorized patch has some significant personal meaning.
The reason some clubs like the Sons of the South are so particular about their patches is the fact that they want to protect their name and image. So someone purchasing wholesale patches for the purposes of reselling could not simply go down to the store and purchase the “Sons of the South Collection”, if you will. The colors and other patches must be earned according to the club’s bylaws. They also must be worn and displayed in accordance with those bylaws or else a club member will be in violation.
It must be noted that not all clubs are as strict and inclusive with their patches and colors. There’s nothing wrong with that, by the way. Each club has the freedom to manage its custom club patches as they see fit. After all, bikers love freedom.
On March 19 2012 Air Force Captain Ben Ward arrived in Colfax, North Carolina after completing a deployment in Afghanistan. Fully expecting to quietly head home, Ward was surprised when an entire contingent of Patriot Guard motorcycle riders met him and escorted him and his family to their house. Throughout the emotional experience and the inevitable media interviews that followed, Capt. Ward was visibly touched and had to fight back tears.
The love, honor, and show of support from the Patriot Guard that evening is nothing new. They are a nationally organized motorcycle club whose mission is to support troops and their family members by providing escorts and standing with them at funeral services, welcome home gatherings, and so on. The group is most often known for providing “protection” against disruption of military funerals. But every now and again we see them doing what they did in Colfax.
The Patriot Guard custom club patch features a golden triangle against a blue background with white stars in the middle and the slogan “Standing for Those Who Stood for US” underneath. And while there appears to be no special significance attached to his design, the use of the pyramid clearly demonstrates the group’s belief that our entire nation benefits because of the service of just a few.
Even though you don’t have to own a motorcycle to be a member of the Patriot Guard they are similar to other motorcycle clubs in that you can’t simply go down to the store and buy a patch. You must be a recognized member in good standing and you must wear it according to the organizations guidelines; a rule that is much more important for the Patriot Guard because of what they stand for and what they do.
As US Route 1 makes its way through the state of Pennsylvania it passes through Delaware County. Along the route you’ll find the businesses, offices, and residential properties typical of any major U.S. coastal highway. But you’ll also find a quiet little house being rented by the Pagans motorcycle club.
When the Pagans first moved in last year, there was plenty of concern over the kind of attention the house would draw. Right next door is a senior living community fearful that seasonal residents would not come back if the Pagans remained. Last year over Labor Day weekend, the local police even parked a couple of cruisers in the vicinity and monitored the clubhouse. As it happened, it was all for naught.
The Pagans have turned out to be pretty good neighbors in Delaware County. The clubhouse is mostly vacant during the week, and their weekend gatherings are nothing like they’re made out to be on the Internet. The biggest complaint neighbors have had is the noise of motorcycles coming and going late at night. Beyond that, all has remained relatively quiet. There’s even a sign on the clubhouse door prohibiting drugs, guns, and bad attitudes. What more could you ask?
It’s easy to be concerned by organized motorcycle clubs, especially when you see the custom club patches they wear on their vests and jackets. It’s not uncommon for a club patch to feature flames, skulls, and other such symbols of male motorcycle bravado. But in reality, the Pagans are a group that likes to keep to themselves. They have no website, no media relations officer, and no desire to make a name for themselves. And as the residence of Delaware County have found out, there’s no need to be afraid. The Pagans are good neighbors after all.
On a warm, Southern California day last month, a group of riders from the Mongols motorcycle club took to the road on the way to a club Christmas party. As they rode the colors on their vests clearly indicated their identity – despite the fact that their identity was almost lost last summer. In a court case that tested the very nature of free speech, the Mongols found themselves defending the use of their name and logo before a federal judge. In what could only be described as a monumental victory for motorcycle clubs and their freedoms, the judge ruled in favor of the Mongols.
The dispute arose after the Mongols’ former president was successfully prosecuted in federal court. After the prosecution the government tried to seize control of the club name and logo on the grounds that they were the property of the disgraced president. Mongols lawyers fought back, claiming that as club property, the name and logo belong to the entire group. The court agreed and the rest is history.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion of motorcycle clubs, the one thing they all stand together on is freedom and liberty. As the position of the Mongols so clearly stated, no government has the authority to abridge the free-speech rights of an entire group based on the actions of one individual. This very issue was central to the establishment of this country more than 230 years ago.
Had the Mongols lost their case the club would’ve undoubtedly continued on anyway. But after 40 years wearing the pony-tailed Mongolian chopper rider on their backs, going without their traditional colors just wouldn’t have been the same. It just goes to show how important custom club patches are to motorcycle clubs. Fortunately, the Mongols got to keep theirs.