EVANSTON — “Standing for those who stood for us and riding with respect” is the motto of the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR). The motorcycle group consists of over 500,000 members from every state in the nation that ride together to honor all fallen military servicemen, women and veterans across the country.
A group of those riders from Casper were in Evanston on Friday, Aug. 16, to meet with a Patriot Guard Riders group coming from California carrying the ashes of a WWII veteran.
The organization’s mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission they undertake has two basic objectives: 1) to show their sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families and their communities; and 2) to shield the mourning family and friends from interruptions that might be created.
The PGR started in August 2005 with the American Legion Riders (ALR) Chapter 136 from Kansas. They learned that religious zealots Fred Phelps and members of his Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas were intending to protest at Sgt. John Doles’ funeral in Chelsea, Oklahoma. The ALR group obtained Doles’ family’s permission, contacted law enforcement and other motorcycle groups, and they all agreed to handle the situation. The riders limited the intrusion of the Westboro Baptist Church by staging their bikes between the protesters and the funeral. From that intervention the Patriot Guard Riders was born.
The group in town on Aug. 16 carried WWII veteran Harry Franklin Carrier’s ashes to be buried in Seneca, Nebraska. Carrier had told his family that when he died, he wanted his ashes to be taken to his home state of Nebraska. The family forgot and had the ashes with them for 17 years before one of them remembered Harry’s wishes. So the family contacted Dale Finney, Carrier’s nephew, of the Nebraska Patriot Guard Riders and subsequently riders from five states, including California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska, became involved in the mission of transporting Carrier’s ashes by motorcycle.
Riding into Evanston from Utah were Dale Finney, his son-in-law Russ Irvin and Arthur Alston, all part of the Nebraska Patriot Guard Riders. Scott Anderson, ride captain for the Patriot Guard in Salt Lake City, along with Shiree Anderson, the HOTH (Help on the Home Front) Director for the Utah Patriot Guard Riders, and Mike Denman were members of the group coming in from Utah.
They were met in front of the Best Western Dunmar motel, where Finney’s twin brothers Jerry and Jim Edelman and Richard Parks of Casper provided a flag ceremony. The entire group spent the night in Evanston and left early Saturday morning to continue the mission.
The Wyoming Patriot Guard Riders accepted the mission of escorting Carrier’s ashes from Evanston to Rawlins where they will be joined by other riders who will provide an escort on to Cheyenne and then to Pine Bluffs. From there other riders will escort the ashes on to Seneca, Nebraska.
Dale Finney picked up Carrier’s ashes in California and is responsible for carrying the urn of ashes on his bike the entire trip.
Richard Parks said, “We do this out of respect for the fallen heroes and their families. We have 530 members in the state of Wyoming and last year we laid 4000 wreaths on graves in Casper.”
Richard said he has been on 400 missions since 2010 and 73 missions since January. Jerry Edelman said he has been on 150 missions since 2014 and his brother Jim, who is now the Senior Ride Captain, joined the Riders three months ago. This is his first mission.
A quote from their brochure states, “Freedom isn’t free, but membership (in the Riders) is!” For more information, visit www.patriotguard.org.