Honoring a Fallen Soldier & An Amazing Sight

Our little town recently felt the direct pain of loss from the war in Iraq. Local resident Pfc Joshua R. Anderson was killed in action on January 2nd. While I did not know Joshua, or his family - his death has affected everyone in town. Our family has talked quite a bit about the death of Pfc Anderson, and the sacrifice his family has made.

My neighbor is a lifetime resident of our town, and felt compelled to support Pfc Anderson's family by stopping in and wishing the family her condolences. After doing so, she stopped by our house (her children were over playing with ours), and she started explaining to us just how amazing the event was. She talked about speaking to Josh's father - and thanking him for their sacrifice, and what Joshua had done for us as a nation. She then described the scene outside the funeral home. She talked about the lines of people waiting to go in, lines of cars just driving by to show their support for our town, and Joshua's family. After talking it over with the Mother-of-Five, we decided that it would be a nice show of support, and a good example for our kids to get in our van in line to drive by as well.

So, last night as we drove through town and past Ballad-Sunder, I saw the most AMAZING site. It was the evening of the visitation, and not just the parking lot, but the entire area was PACKED with cars and people. Then, I noticed a site that literally gave me goose-bumps. The funeral home entrance, parking lot, and block around the funeral home was surrounded by what appeared to be big burly leather clad bikers, all standing at attention, each holding an American Flag on a pole.
Most of you that stop by on a regular (or even semi-regular) basis wont be surprised to hear that while listening to Ron & Fez on XM Radio, I have (several times) heard Shirley Phelps Roper of the Westboro Baptist Church being "interviewed" as a call-in guest. (I use "interviewed" as a loose term... It was more like oblivious, sarcastic, and well-deserved mockery.)

For those of you who are unaware who SPR and the WBC is, they are the masterminds (and I use the term "masterminds" both loosely and sarcastically) behind the "God Hates..." rhetoric campaigns. (God hates fags, the USA, US Troops, Roman Catholics, Priests, Nuns, Swedes, Canadians, Irish, British, heck.. According to the WBC, Got pretty much hates everyone and everything.) These are also the people (and I use the term "people" loosely) that protest the funerals of our fallen soldiers, shouting their vile slogans and spewing their hateful messages to the grieving survivors. But, enough about these folks (and I use the term "folks" loosely) - they do not deserve the attention they get. I do not usually swear here (I like my blog's family "G" rating... but some times... you just have to say what you feel...)

Fuck them - 'nough said 'bout that.
Anyway, talking to my neighbor about these big burly biker guys, I found out they are knows at the Patriot Guard Riders, and I found out what they were doing at Pfc Anderson's visitation and Funeral.

Have you ever heard of these guys? If you have not, please check out the above wikipedia link, and their Home Page! These guys are also HEROES in my eyes too. I went home amazed... The image of the Patriot Guard Riders standing diligent in respect and to protect the honor of the fallen Pfc Anderson (or any other fallen soldier for that matter) stuck with me, and will be with me for a very long time.

I had to go to bed early (due to an 3am start time the next morning), and after returning home from work the following day, and checking in with my kids - I found out that the Patriot Guard Riders not only honored and protected Pfc Anderson's funeral, but when the ceremony was over, many of the Patriot Guard Riders took time to visit the kids classrooms! (The funeral was held at St. John's Church - which is attached to St. John's School (where my kids attend school.))

I was utterly amazed... Both at the fact that the Riders took the time to share with the children about what they do and why they do it, but that the school made the time to work this in.

I am so very thankful to the Patriot Guard Riders, and the staff at St. John's for making this work.
You may or may not agree with my stance here but ppersonally, but I subscribe to the notion that children should not be completely sheltered from "real life". Although some details may be more than they need to, or should have to deal with - a slightly "diluted" version of what goes on in this world is both healthy and necessary as stepping stones to becoming a well adjusted, responsible, and successful member of adult society. Regarding the PGR - I chose to share with my children that they began as a group of people who felt the need to both honor our fallen soldiers, and to help protect the grieving families of the fallen soldiers whose memorial services and / or funerals were being (here is where I diluted reality just a bit) "protested" by a group of hateful people who's "mission" in life is to twist the verses of the Bible and use the name of God as a means to deliver vile and hateful messages.
From the stories my children shared with me about their visit, the Patriot Guard Riders were very respectful, and age appropriate. According to #3 of 5, they "did not talk at all about 'the riots'." (his way of refering to the protests). They (the kids) were anxious to get outside and play (it's snowing again), so I let them go, but I am looking forward to hearing more about their perspective of the classroom visits!

I don't know if they will ever see this post or not, but from both my roll of a son, and as a father - I'd like to dedicate this post to Pfc Joshua R. Anderson and his family. Our nation will truly never be able to thank them enough for the sacrifice they have made for us.

I found a link to a video of the event. You can view it HERE. (I dont know how long it will stay active...)

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Just a quick post script here. If you plan on leaving a comment sharing your commentary on the politics of the war in Iraq - save your time. It will be deleted. Regardless of your view on that subject, THIS POST is neither the time or place for that discussion. Comments left in honor of Pfc Anderson, or the Patriot Guard Riders WILL be accepted.

Thank you for your respect.

12 comments:

  1. Sir, this was well spoken.
    I have had the heartbreak of loosing a son in Iraq also.
    The Patriot Guard are an awesome group of men and women who have served our country and whom I am so very proud of. Each and every one of them give total honor and respect to others who have given their all for each of us so we can enjoy our freedoms that we have in the United States of America.
    May their contribution of this honor continue and God grant them peace as they stand for the fallen heroes.
    Hopefully their services will not be needed as we go forward in our triumph of peace in the world.

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  2. Thank you for your kind words, and thank you too for the sacrifice of your son, so that my sons can continue to enjoy the freedoms this country provides.

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  3. Gentlemen,

    I was sent a link to this blog by a brother Minnesota Patriot Guard Rider. We silently stand for those who stood for us to pay tribute to the Fallen and to show our support for their families. I do not presume to speak for the nearly 4,000 Patriot Guard Riders in Minnesota, but I think I can say on behalf of my brothers and sisters that we will remember their sacrifice and honor them always.

    Minnesotans like the son of "Anonymous" and SPC Joshua Anderson (promoted posthumously) are responsible for helping those of us who served throughout the Cold War, and especially during Vietnam as I did, to "rejoin" a nation we assumed had abandoned us. We will be forever grateful to them, their families, and to all those who publicly support America's Armed Forces.

    About 50% of PGR members are Military Veterans. We stand as one with Law Enforcement Officers, Firefighters, EMS personnel, family members of Veterans, and patriotic citizens from every walk of life.

    We wish we were not needed, but we are. We consider it an honor and a privilege to be invited by families in whatever capacity is requested. We hope our presence offers some comfort.

    Jeff Seeber, MN Patriot Guard

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  4. As one of the people who spoke to the kids on Friday, I would like to say it was a privilege to be asked by the Principle to explain what we were doing outside in the parking lot.

    SPC Joshua R. Anderson gave his life protecting our freedoms. For us to stand for a few hours holding an American Flag and show Honor and Respect for Joshua (a true American Hero), his family, friends and his community, is the very least we can do. Joshua's ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten.

    George Winslow, Jr., MN Patriot Guard

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  5. I was the 2ed MN-PGR that had the privileged to go into the Classrooms of the k-6 graders.

    These kids are America’s future and to be able to share with them what we were doing there, in their small Town, Honoring SPC Joshua Roland Anderson a True American Hero!

    Josh, you will not be forgotten, these kids, your town and the Minnesota Patriot Guard will remember your sacrifice.

    From a Navy Vet, I Thank You!

    Indian John

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  6. Indian John - you were mentioned by name by my children.

    I hope you realize what a lasting impression you and your group has on these young minds!

    Thank you for your past and present service to this country.

    An honored father.

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  7. It is the voices of people like yourself that are needed to bring out the goodness of what America offers. SFC Joshua Anderson made the ultimate sacrifice that so often goes unrecognized throughout our great Nation. Those of us who stand the Honor Flag Lines recognize that a true Hero has gone before us and that only by action can he be remembered for his gift of Freedom that has been passed on to all of us by the blood of our Veterans. Blessed are we who have people like yourself who will tell the story often ignored. Thank you and may Joshua and his family have peace in the knowledge that he will not be forgotten.

    David Woodward, MN Patriot Guard

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  8. This is a beautiful post.

    As I have a brother-in-law who was in the UK Armed Forces and served in the first Gulf War and Bosnia I feel very strongly that no matter what your religious or political beliefs the ultimate disrespect to your fellow man is to disrespect those who serve, to disrespect their families when they die in our service is intolorable.

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  9. George - I too would like to thank you too for having spoken to my children at St. John's.

    As I mentioned to Indian John - you folks left a lasting impression on my children, and my family for many, many years.

    David - I am glad to be just a small part of that voice.

    Gary - Thank you - That means a lot. These sentiments also go out to our friends across the Atlantic who's fathers/sons/brothers are fighting side by side with our fathers/son/brothers.

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  10. Thank you for your kind words regarding the Patriot Guard Riders. I had the honor of standing in the flag line for Joshua's funeral and was there when his Mother came down the line and hugged all of us. What a spectacular sight to see the street lined with flags as the hearse was escorted back to the funeral home. My thanks to the family for inviting us and to my PGR brothers and sisters who attended.

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  11. I was unable to attend this sad occasion but I am proud to be part of such an amazing group. As has been stated, standing in line for a couple hours is nothing compared to the sacrifices that have been given. I appreciate your forthright and honest attitude about the WBC, and I think you expressed your opinion well :) We will be standing until the last one comes home. Thank you for this wonderful letter/blog you wrote. God bless you and your family.

    Starr Marshall
    Brainerd Sector RC
    MN Patriot Guard

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  12. As a Patriot guard member and a 6yr US ARMY VET 79-85, I cannot think of a better way to pay respect to a Fallen Hero,Husband, Father,Son,Brother,Grandson,Nephew, And Fellow US ARMY Vetran, I was there Thursday night for Josh's Funeral,It was truly an Honor to stand guard for Josh.His sacrafice for our country will never be forgotten!

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