The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) is a motorcycle club whose members attend the funerals of US armed forces members, firefighters, and police at the invitation of the deceased’s family. Patriot Guard Riders' representatives state that they are not a chartered motorcycle club, but a group of individuals with an "unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom and security".
The group was formed in 2005, to shelter and protect the deceased's family against protesters from the Westboro Baptist Church, who claim that the deaths of American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are divine retribution for American tolerance of homosexuality. PGR members position themselves to physically shield the mourners from the presence of the Westboro protesters by blocking the protesters from view with their motorcade, or by having members hold American flags. The group also drowns out the protesters' chants by singing patriotic songs or by revving motorcycle engines.
Although initially founded by motorcyclists, the organization is open to anyone, regardless of political affiliation, veteran status, or whether they ride or not. The only prerequisite is "a deep respect for those who serve our country; military, firefighters, or law enforcement". The Patriot Guard was established in Mulvane, Kansas at American Legion Post 136 in 2005.
The group's mission quickly expanded to include the funerals of law enforcement officers, fire department personnel, all first responders, and any active duty member or veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces from all previous wars and conflicts and is now largely focused on recognizing and honoring the sacrifices of fallen service members as well as their families and loved ones. As of March 2011, PGR reported over 220,000 members. In addition to their attendance at funerals, the group also greets troops returning from overseas at welcome home celebrations, deployment ceremonies, and perform volunteer work for veteran's organizations such as Veterans Homes. The group also assists families in financial difficulties with travel and housing arrangements, and also visits military hospitals to encourage and honor wounded service members of the United States Armed Forces.
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LRS would also like to thank all those who are serving or have ever served in any capacity. You help every day to ensure that we are free and remain free to live life in any and every way we choose. Keep up the fight and know that our prayers are with you and yours every day.