Patriot Guard Riders
|Motto||"Standing For Those Who Stood For US"|
|Founder||Chuck "Pappy" Barshney|
|Activities||Voluntary honor guard|
The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) is an organization in the United States which attends the funerals of members of the armed forces, firefighters, and police at the invitation of the deceased’s family. The organization is open to any persons, regardless of political affiliation, veteran status, or whether or not they ride motorcycles, as long as they have "a deep respect for those who serve our country". In addition to attending funerals, the group also greets troops returning from overseas at homecoming celebrations and performs volunteer work for veteran's organizations such as Veterans Homes.
Some media reports have referred to the PGR as a motorcycle club. Patriot Guard Riders' representatives state that they are "not a motorcycle club", but an "Internet-based organization" and "communication system" by which members are informed of funeral events.
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 founder members incorporated the organization as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in the State of Oklahoma on February 21, 2006.
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[update], 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.
In 2007, the Patriot Guard Riders attempted to register the name with United States Patent and Trademark Office. One of the club's founder members and first president, Jeff Brown, who previously operated the PGR merchandise store, filed an objection. PGR rebuked this, stating in papers filed with the Patent and Trademark Office that Brown had been ejected as a director of PGR in November 2006, and had therefore relinquished all rights to the store and the organization's name. After resigning, Brown filed a trademark request, but this was rejected since the PGR had submitted its own request. PGR contacted all its members asking for donations to establish a defense fund for the lawsuit.
They stated: "The record further reflects that during Brown’s tenure as Executive Director, despite his use of personal funds, he was acting in his official capacity when ordering the collateral merchandise to sell on the online store. Consumers who bought the goods prior to Brown’s departure and the subsequent creation of “Twister’s Store” were led to believe the goods originated from the PGR. Hence, Brown cannot prevail on his claim of priority since he cannot show by a preponderance of the evidence a prior proprietary interest in the word mark PATRIOT GUARD RIDERS for collateral merchandise. Decision: The opposition is dismissed."
- As of April 23, 2011 Patriot Guard Riders, Membership: Overall (user accounts registered at web site)
- Patriot Guard honors fallen soldiers at funerals. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. By Erin Gibson Allen. 1-3-2008.
- Guard' pays respects, shields spectators at funeral. By BRET LIEBENDORFER. 9-23-2009.
- Westboro Baptist fuels free speech debate. By Byron Wilkes. 9-23-2009.
- Gay Haters Protest at Funeral of Female Marine Killed in Iraq. By Patricia Murret, Capital News Service. 2-16-2007.
- "NBC 4 to Present Coverage of Veterans Day Parade, 11/11 2010/11/10". WNBC. Retrieved 5 January 2011. "hundreds of Veteran motorcyclists including the Rolling Thunder, Nam Knights, Patriot Guard and Legion Riders Motor Cycle clubs."
- "Deadline for Honor Flight Birmingham approaching fast for vets". al.com. Retrieved 5 January 2011. "The Patriot Guard Riders -- a motorcycle club that often attends military funerals"
- "Trip to Arlington National Cemetery special for Bern Twp. couple". Reading Eagle. Retrieved 5 January 2011. "the Patriot Guard Riders motorcycle club"
- Wright, Kimberly. "Ride of respect: Patriot Guard Riders comfort the living, honor the dead". Maxwell Air Force Base. Retrieved 4 January 2011. "Mr. Reynolds emphasized that the organization is not a motorcycle club."
- Sullivan, Julie (2009-12-05). "Patriot Guard Riders make sure those who serve are honored in life -- and death". The Oregonian. Retrieved 4 January 2011. ""We're not a motorcycle club," Loun said. "We're an Internet-based organization that comes together when it's needed. After that, we all go back to our own lives."
- Ruggles, Rick (2010-08-15). "Thunderous tribute". Omaha.com. Retrieved 4 January 2011. "It's not a motorcycle club but rather a communication system, Knudsen said, by which members are informed of funerals, sendoffs and other events."
- Spitz, Julia (2009-03-08). "The leader of a very proud pack". The Milford Daily News. Retrieved 4 January 2011. "We're an organization, not a motorcycle club. We have no meetings. We have no dues. The only time we get together is for mission planning or missions. Almost all our communication is through the Web site or e-mail."
- "Amended Answer submission". TTABVUE. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Inquiry System. United States Patent and Trademark Office. 30 January 2008. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- Nickerson, John (August 18, 2011), "Notorious church group threatens to protest SEALs funeral", Connecticut Post, retrieved 2011-08-19
- Neville, Anne (July 23, 2011), "Riders get to shine in film", Buffalo News, retrieved 2011-08-19
- Feur, Alan (May 29, 2006), "Revving Their Engines, Remembering a War's Toll", New York Times
- Borger, Julian (18 April 2006), "Anti-gay church hounds military funerals", The Guardian, retrieved 2011-08-19
- www.al136.com - Paul Stewart Irwin American Legion Post 136 Homepage
- "Motion for Summary Judgment" (PDF). United States Patent and Trademark Office. 22 January 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Opposition: Number: 91181448". TTABVUE. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board Inquiry System. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved July 16, 2013.
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