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Motorcycle group honors those who serve

patriot 3Walterboro resident Ray Richards is one of the many motorcycle riders in Colleton County who are part of a large contingent of cyclists across the nation that honor our country’s military and emergency services personnel by paying riding and stationary tributes to them.

The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) is a patriotic-based motorcycle club whose members attend the funerals of United States armed forces members, firefighters, and police officers at the invitation of the deceased’s family. The group also provides welcome home events for veterans returning home from overseas.

patriot 2Patriot Guard Riders’ representatives state that they are not a chartered motorcycle club, but a group of individuals with an “unwavering respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom and security”. Richards echoes this line of thought. “We’re non-profit, we have no race, gender, or religious restrictions, and it is all done voluntarily. And we’re very willing to travel. We have ridden to Beaufort and Florence for funerals, and have done this in 25-degree weather. We do it all for the families, and honor any request.”

The PGR 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, 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, helps send soldiers off at 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 visits military hospitals to encourage and honor wounded service members of the United States Armed Forces.

Although initially founded by motorcyclists, the PGR organization is open to anyone, regardless of their political affiliation, veteran status, or whether or not they ride. The only prerequisite is “a deep respect for those who serve our country, which includes military personnel, firefighters, or law enforcement personnel.” The organization’s motto is “Standing For Those Who Stood For Us,” Richards said.