It all started back in early August of 2005 with the American Legion Riders chapter 136 from Kansas.
They were appalled to hear that a fallen hero’s memory was being tarnished by misguided religious zealots who were protesting at funerals. They decided to do something about it. At the ALR 136 August meeting, Director: Chuck ” Pappy ” Barshney appointed members, Terry “Darkhorse” Houck, Cregg “Bronco 6” Hansen, Steve “McDaddy” McDonald, and Bill ”Wild Bill” Logan to form a committee to strategize and form a battle plan to combat Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.
When they heard that the WBC was going to protest at the Funeral of Sgt. John Doles in Chelsea, Oklahoma, they established a Mission Statement, which included getting the families permission and contacting Law Enforcement and other Motorcycle Groups in Oklahoma. They agreed that their ultimate goal was to get veterans and motorcycle organizations involved in every state so that each state could handle the situation internally and not rely on other states to do the job. They were very successful in mustering riders to honor Sgt. Doles and limiting the intrusion by the WBC.
After the Chelsea Mission the Kansas American Legion Riders wanted all Motorcycle Groups/ Organizations to be recognized. On the 18th of October 2005 the Patriot Guard name was established and was announced on the 27th of October 2005 to the 100 + motorcyclists present at the Tonganoxie Mission to Honor Spc Lucas Frantz.
Following the missions in South Haven, KS and a later ride in Edmond, OK, Jeff “Twister” Brown, from Broken Arrow, OK, decided to do more than just ride. He saw a need to get a strong nation-wide communications and recruiting program in place. He contacted the original AL riders in Kansas and told them of his plans. They openly shared their experiences, suggestions, and encouragement. Within a matter of days, Brown had formed the Patriot Guard Riders and began a nation-wide campaign to garner support.
Similarly, after a mission ride in Greeley, CO, Hugh Knaus and Jason “Waldo” Wallin answered the call of the newly formed Patriot Guard Riders, becoming the national webmaster and communications director, respectively. Within a matter of days, a mission statement was refined and a website was built, rebuilt, and launched. A call immediately went out to individual riders and groups across the nation to join and ride with the PGR. State Captains were recruited to work more closely with the members in their area.
The growth has been phenomenal. Within a week their membership included many riders from associations like the VFW, American Legion, Rolling Thunder, ABATE, Combat Vets Motorcycle Association, Intruder Alert, Leathernecks Motorcycle Club, and almost five hundred individual riders. To the credit of Hugh and “Waldo”, the PGR website had received almost 566,000 hits in the first two weeks! Patriots from all over America and several foreign countries responded. Emails were pouring in from people wanting to support and join the newly formed PGR.
So, that’s a pretty concise picture of where we came from and where we are today. A great deal of credit goes to that small group of Kansas American Legion Riders, but none of this could have ever been accomplished without the patriot member who takes time out of their life to honor a fallen soldier and their family.