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Old 05-11-2022, 1:33 PM
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BC9696 BC9696 is offline
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Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: South OC
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Default My Unexpectedly Exceptional Day with the PGR

The Patriot Guard Riders are not your average bunch. What you see on the surface (in videos and social media posts) is frost on the tip of the iceberg…to understand the depth of these people, you must first attend a PGR mission. Though I had joined months ago and with the best of intentions, I had not actually participated in a mission until today, the day I wrote this. I made excuses. The missions were 90-120 miles away. I’m uncomfortable riding for hours on the freeway in commuter traffic on a newly purchased motorcycle. I have to work. I’m short on time. I’m not a veteran or law enforcement…just an average Joe who cannot relate to what these people have seen, done, endured. I probably won’t fit in. Yeah, I had all kinds of bovine excrement excuses.

Then I injured myself on the job and was unable to ride for months…or walk or sit or even lay down with any comfort (spinal trauma) but during my down time I thought about PGR daily. I made a promise to myself that once I was able to get back on my bike…I would make attending a PGR mission a priority. And so it went, one week after regaining my ability to walk like a human again…I rode to a local mission for the burial of a young man who had passed at the age of 26. I won’t reveal the mission location or the family’s name out of respect for their privacy, but this military family has a number of members buried at the cemetery we traveled to and this young man was being laid to rest with the others who had served and passed.

I thought I knew what to expect, I didn’t. I thought I knew what to do, I didn’t. I thought I could handle it with ease, I didn’t. I was right about one thing, being in the presence of the Patriot Guard Riders did make me feel uncomfortable at first. These were men who had seen, done and survived things the rest of us “civilians” are incapable of imagining. Most were vets, some were also law enforcement who had previously served in the military, a few were like me, average guys. Being in the company of these real men made me question myself, who was I to think I could fit in with heroes? I felt a bit stupid in my brand-new riding vest and flags that had never seen daylight before. I was the FNG, someone who has never been tested in battle, who never “served” in any capacity. I was merely a beneficiary of the lives of these men and women, of the sacrifices they had made.

Then the time came and six PGR guys (clearly in their retirement years) donned white gloves, removed the casket and carried the young Army soldier to his burial site. I stood in line holding a flag and witnessed a carefully orchestrated act of reverence. Suddenly a bunch of bikers in jeans and leather vests became something else, something that transcended the average folks. They became the heart & soul of a grateful nation and each one KNEW PERSONALLY what the family was feeling. As the mother spoke beautifully moving words of strength and love, the gravesite was blanketed in a deep and genuine empathy. We were one. As I listened to the words I found myself staring at the casket, unable to imagine being able to speak eloquently had my own child been inside it. The fortitude required to do what this mother was doing seemed unattainable. My composure was truly tested and three times I tried to wipe my welling eyes without being noticed. I felt honored to be here. I was surrounded by people who lived to serve, people who put the welfare of others first. People who acted for the greater good. People who understood loss in a way most can’t. I have attended funerals…this was different. This had a deeper meaning. This mattered.

Afterwards the family invited everyone to lunch which is not a normal thing but this military family convinced everyone to go and I didn’t wanna be the sole holdout, how would that look? Unlike most of these Patriot Guard Riders, I had a job to get back to. I’m not retired. But after the ceremony I felt an odd tie to these folks and went along. And that’s when I began learning. I listened as I sat with this bunch and their stories were amazing. Who jumps on a bike and rides across the country to Arlington? Turns out, a surprising number of people do. But what was really stunning to me after such a deep and moving ceremony was the irreverent banter that ensued at the restaurant. OMG! These guys were razzing the crap out of each other and I watched as the mood transformed from reverence and empathy to joy and appreciation. They celebrated the young man’s life. There was laughter and joking and I watched as once again, they all became one. And that I could never have predicted. And as I listened to the banter, watched the family engage with the Riders and just sorta absorbed the entire scene…I realized something. I wasn’t the odd man out. I no longer felt "outside the group” or somehow lacking. I had somehow magically become one of them. I felt it. I was honored to be a part of this event and with the Patriot Guard Riders…there’s only one prequalification. Showing up. Once you’re there the rest takes care of itself. I shoulda done this ages ago.

I left this mission filled with a profound gratitude. I have been blessed in my life. I hung out with a class of people I admire and appreciate to my core. All the little things that bothered me yesterday don’t today and won’t tomorrow. I came away from this PGR mission feeling much more optimistic, grateful and well…just better. I am looking at the 1st mission dog tag the Ride Captain gave me, the blue wristband given to me by the mother to honor her son, and the printed memorial proudly proclaiming the “Celebration of Life” of the fallen young man. These simple things washed away the minutia of my day-to-day life and brought the important things of life into clear focus. I urge every person, regardless whether you’re connected to the military or first responders or ride a motorcycle or not…join the Patriot Guard Riders and show up once. Go in your car or truck, go when times are hard, go when you are filled with hesitation like I was. It’s your opportunity to surround yourself with good. The kind that changes you for the better. Don’t worry about whether you’ll fit in…just show up. Like all the important things in life…being present is all that matters.

These Patriot Guard Riders…they have the kind of friendships most do not. A lot of us civilians have plenty of fair weather friends, they’ll join you for Happy Hour or a party but won’t be available to help you paint or move. Facebook friends are tiny points of light on your monitor. These people have friends that matter, that are there for one another. Real friendships. The reliable kind. The kind that make a difference in your quality of life. It’s there, you can see it. you may even envy it a bit. I’m hoping a little of that rubs off on me. Today, during my first mission, I think I got a good start. Join PGR. Not because they have more missions than people to attend. Do it for yourself, so you can feel the empathy, the reverence, the joy and the appreciation. All you need is some denim, leather and respect. Trust me, you’ll be very glad you did. Just show up. You’ll leave with a much better outlook. Thank you all! God Bless the Patriot Guard Riders and watch over them.
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Human beings only have two ways to deal with one another: reason and force. Force has no place as a valid method of social interaction, and the only thing that removes force from the menu is the personal firearm, as paradoxical as it may sound to some.

The U.S. city with the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, Washington, D.C., has the highest murder rate at 24 per 100,000.
The state with the most unrestrictive gun regulations, Vermont, has the lowest murder rate at 0.48 per 100,000.
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