Guarding Military Funerals

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Members of a Kansas church keep showing up at military funerals with anti-gay protests, even as several lawmakers try to find ways to stop them and a family is suing. But one group has managed to “drown out” their message, and make a strong statement of support for soldiers and their grieving families. Kim Riemland (reem land) reports.     

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(Locator: Girard, Kansas)

The small town of Girard, Kansas prepares to say goodbye to a fallen soldier.

Resident: “Corporal Bennett’s a hero.”

A helicopter crash in Iraq took the life of Corporal Richard Bennett, just 25 years old. As family and friends gather to grieve, a small group gathers to protest his funeral.

Jacob Phelps/Protestor: “They should have left this carcass right on the ground.”

The words and the signs are meant to shock. This radical group claims soldiers die because God is punishing America for tolerating homosexuality. But the family of Corporal Bennett won’t see or hear them…

Nat: Motorcycles arriving

…because the Patriot Guard has arrived. Bikers by the hundreds, many of them veterans, converge on military funerals as invited guests.

The Rev. Kenton Van/Cheney United Methodist Church, Topeka, Kansas: “Because my faith says we can’t operate in a vacuum, that faith has to take action.”

As a veteran and a pastor, United Methodist Ken Van attends these funerals as often as he can.

Nat: “We’re all going to line up there.”

With their bikes and their bodies, they form a shield between protestors and grieving families. Their engines and patriotic music drown out the chanting.

The Rev. Kenton Van/Cheney United Methodist Church: “No family should have to face this type of hatred on the day that they’re putting their loved one to rest.”

Van says even if protestors stop showing up, he and fellow Patriot Guard members will continue to come; to stand together as a show of support.

The Rev. Kenton Van/Cheney United Methodist Church: “Not only from a patriotic standpoint, but also for the people to know that those in the church care about them, love them and God is standing there with them.”


The Patriot Guard Riders began in Kansas in 2005 as a response to protestors attending military funerals. Van was one of the original members. The group now has an estimated 40,000 members nationwide.

For more information about the Patriot Guard, log onto their website at