Patriot Guard Riders Comfort and Strengthen Grieving Military Families by Laura Bush Jenkins

 
You may remember emotional television segments from a decade ago highlighting tough bikers in red bandannas and black leather jackets appearing at military funerals, revving engines and standing at attention with American flags, intercepting distracting protesters.  

Today, volunteer motorcyclists in our area known as Patriot Guard Riders show an active presence at military funerals, respectfully supporting fallen soldiers and mourning families who sacrificed not only in this current war, but during the Vietnam War and World War II.

It may not be as dramatic as highlighted on TV, but under-the-radar acts of service eliminate isolation grieving families sometimes experience and provide closure and acknowledgement one's service was remembered and understood.

"We're like a mist," says District Captain Roy Hankinson, a U.S. Navy veteran of Elizabeth City.  A motorcyclist since age 16, Hankinson participated in at least 500 funerals with Patriot Guard Riders over 8 years.

"We are welcomed in the morning, like the sun coming up, then we disappear [to help another family.]"

Hankinson personally became involved when his future son-in-law was killed serving in the line of duty in Afghanistan.  While at a local McDonalds in Virginia Beach, he noticed Patriot Guard volunteers preparing for a mission and became curious.  The group later came out to support Hankinson and his family during a difficult time, and he realized more could be done to make an impact using an enjoyable hobby.

The group is open to anyone regardless of his or her political views, religious background, or affiliation with military service.  Unlike formal clubs with attendance and uniform requirements, there is no criteria for participation besides agreement to an honor code demonstrating respect to fallen service members and their families as well as to first responders and law enforcement, whom they also stand for.

Volunteers need not own a motorcycle.  Vehicles are needed to store and transport flags and water, as well as render assistance to bikers in the event of a potential breakdown.  With advance communication, children and families can show their support by holding flags at a funeral, cemetery, or church service.

Hankinson estimates Patriot Guard volunteers in his chapter have the capacity in which "we could do one funeral mission a day" upon invitation and request.  Patriot Guard riders do not refuse attending a funeral for any veteran, even in the unfortunate event a veteran commits suicide.

Funeral directors, clergy, and family members are often unaware the Patriot Guard is available at no cost.  You can contact the group and request their presence by completing an online request at patriotguard.org or calling Roy Hankinson personally at 757 553 2470.  

"It's my way of giving back," Roy Hankinson says," noting how a small act of kindness can speak into a person's life and multiply to make a difference.
Patriot Guard Riders Comfort and Strengthen Grieving Military Families by Laura Bush Jenkins  Patriot Guard Riders Comfort and Strengthen Grieving Military Families by Laura Bush Jenkins Reviewed by kensunm on 7:00:00 PM Rating: 5

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