By SALLY SEXTON
At funerals all over the world, one might occasionally hear the distant hum of a motorcycle prior to the procession.
The sound is usually a sign of the Patriot Guard Riders, who show up to help out and support at various funerals held for military and fire or law enforcement officers.
“Anyone that puts their life in danger, we’ll stand for them,” said Rick Crabb, a ride captain for the North Texas chapter of the Patriot Guard.
The organization, which was formed in Kansas in November of 2005, helps out by riding with the funeral procession, placing flags around the funeral home or burial site, forming a protective wall against possible protestors and generally aiding all of those, including family, involved.
“There are several of us that ride motorcycles, but people have some misconceptions about us and what we do. A lot of people assume that, A, we’re all bikers and, B, that we’re veterans,” Crabb said. “We are patriots, just Americans from every single walk of life — single moms, people that drive their vehicles, young men who have never served — just people that want to share honor and respect.”
While funerals are the primary scene for the Patriot Riders, the group, all strictly volunteers, will also occasionally take part in community events, such as Memorial Day celebrations.
“The only issue now is that a lot of people are finding out about us and call, so we’re always busy,” Crabb said. “In the DFW area, I’m out there almost six days a week and I’ve been to about 110 funerals this year.
“But the remarkable thing about being at funerals is that it never gets old. When the family walks up to you afterward and thanks you for helping, and you know they’re walking away from the worst possible thing, you can’t believe that they take the time to come up and shake your hand. It truly is our honor to be there and share respect.”
Earlier this year, the group did something a little out of the ordinary, attending the funeral of Chad Littlefield. Littlefield was killed, with neighbor and ex-Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, at a gun range by Marine veteran Eddie Ray Routh, who the two had taken to a gun range to help cope with PTSD.
“That was the only time in North Texas that we ever honored someone who was not military, law enforcement or a Patriot Guard Rider,” Crabb said.
In an effort to show support and honor the organization, the R.D. Nelson VFW Memorial Post 4746 in Weatherford will be holding Patriot Guard Riders Appreciation Day Saturday, at 224 Zion Hill Road.
The event kicks off at 9 a.m., with breakfast served until 10 a.m. A dart run, at a cost of $15 per rider and $10 per passenger, will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a lunch of brisket, sausage, chicken, hot dogs and chips.
A live band, ELIXIR, will also be on hand from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. to conclude the festivities.
The event is especially personal for the post, who has seen several members pass away within the last year.
“We’ve had at least three members pass away the last several months, and the Patriot Guard showed up for their funerals,” commander Vick Graham said. “We’re very appreciate of the support they’ve shown and their commitment.”
To further honor the group, the VFW will also host a pool tournament, silent auction and bake sale, as well as several games and events for children. All proceeds will benefit the Patriot Guard Riders.
“This is the least we can do to show our appreciation for all that they do,” Cindy Graham, ladies’ auxiliary president, said. “They’re always there and they take so much of their own time to go out and help others.”
With more than 300,000 participants across the country, about 2,200 individuals are involved with the North Texas chapter.
“It’s amazing that from starting off with such a terrible thing, it’s turned into a healing thing,” Crabb said.
“Everybody is there with the same goal — to show up and honor and respect.
“We strongly encourage everyone in the community to join because it means so much to the families.”
For more information about the Patriot Guard Riders, visit www.txpgr.org.