Not long ago I was having a conversation with a retired Naval captain, die hard conservative republican, who has many sea hours under his belt, including but not limited to, command of Air craft carriers and being on alert off the coast of North Korea. His career was wide and varied and he currently serves as consultant to a military contractor. He was not very familiar with the Patriot Guard as he has not seen it in his area. Hard to believe that there are still many areas where there is no active PGR and the question is still asked, "who are the Patriot Guard and what do they do?"
As we were discussing the mission of the PGR and how in some areas it has been expanded to include police and firemen which has resulted in some controversy among members, his response was, "you are suffering from "mission creep." He went onto explain how mission creep creates problems in the military.
My mind went "Bingo"! Mission creep. A term that perfectly describes what I and others have had frustrations over for a time now.
When I first started riding with the PGR it was a very loose amalgamation of riders who attended the funerals of those killed in combat in a effort to non violently protect the families from protestors such as those from the Westboro Church.
The current mission statement from the "official" PGR website reads as follows:
As time passed, although the above statement hasn't changed much, the mission has been very much changed. In some respects I fear to the extent of threatening (if not destroying) PGR's integrity.Patriot Guard Riders Mission StatementThe Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We have one thing in common besides motorcycles. We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America’s freedom and security. If you share this respect, please join us.We don’t care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you’re a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you’re from or what your income is; you don’t even have to ride. The only prerequisite is Respect.Our main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives:
- Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.
- Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.We accomplish the latter through strictly legal and non-violent means.
Some of the changes I accepted as a normal evolution encompassing some thing that should be done.
For instance I felt Welcome Home missions were equally important as some studies have indicated that the way the Vietnam Vet was sent home contributed to readjustment problems.
It also seemed that Korean era vets up to the present did not get the deserved welcome home that veterans of previous wars had received.
Following a natural progression it seemed only fitting that the funerals of those who did not receive a welcome home should also be shown the respect they never got.
Send offs then became "missions" I could reconcile myself to just as I have argued that every returning KIA needs to be escorted right down Main street so that"joe public" be forever reminded that we are engaged in actions that are resulting in the deaths of Americans sons and daughters under the American flag.
From there, in this writers mind, things began to deteriorate.
To raise funds PGR banners and patches were sold to anyone who had the coin. Never mind that many of them would wear the patch and fly the banner having never ridden a PGR mission and had little intention of ever riding one.
We felt this unwise as our experience has been, that in the biker world, someone engaging in certain activities while wearing a particular patch can bring unwanted problems to the group. And true to form
incidents did occur.
We also found it disconcerting that many who refereed to themselves as being PGR riders were only riding when maybe something more exciting wasn't happening somewhere else or if it was known that a large news presence would be there. In other words, it was becoming more about the rider, than about the mission. It was becoming more about being seen than demonstrating respect. We were becoming furniture. Just another pot of flowers at the grave site. Because for the most part, the threat of protestors showing up is greatly diminished.
Then a development occurred that that insured more camera coverage for PGR. Some mission statement were rewritten to include attending the funerals of first responders such as Police and Firemen. This writer found this development particularity disturbing as along with it I started to identify "PGR" speak. Every funeral attended was for a "HERO"?