Archive for Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Reader’s View: Remembering funeral for local serviceman

April 19, 2006

Editor's note: Linwood resident Elaine Allenbrand was among motorcycle riders who attended the military funeral of Cpl. Lucas Frantz, who was killed in action last October in Iraq.

By now, word has spread about a group of protesters who show up at the funerals of American military personnel. Their home base is in Topeka, but they have traveled to other states. The Patriot Guard, made up of many groups, including ALR (American Legion Riders), started showing up to be a barrier for grieving family and friends. I attended one of the funerals. It was an experience of learning and mixed emotions.

I remember the day starting out as cool. I was at a gasoline station with a few others who had gathered there. The day was starting to warm up, so I removed some of the extra clothing I had on. As I packed away the extra clothes, a lady came up to me, asking if we were there for the funeral. "Yes," I answered and explained a bit about my part of the group. She expressed how grateful she was, saying she thought we were awesome for what we were doing. This kind of shocked me. The tone of her voice and choice of words sounded as if we were "super heroes." I felt I was just doing my duty -- a job assigned. This made me realize this mission was important to most of the local people. Other riders went by. We joined them on the way to the last gathering spot.

There, flags were displayed on the bikes. To be sure, The American flag flew on every bike. Very much included were flags of every branch of the military. Christian flags were also flying proudly. From the colors worn on the back of vests and jackets, it was easy to tell this group of super heroes had all kinds of backgrounds and came from across the states. This group was working in cooperation with the local police. Our mission was to:

  • Honor Army Spec. Lucas Frantz and to show our support for his family and friends.
  • To form a barrier between the protesters and their unsavory signs, placards and actions, and to shield the family from their protests. We would, if requested by the family, drown out protesters by revving our motorcycle engines. As with our other missions, no weapons or profanity were allowed, as we are not there to disrupt, only to protect.

We were encouraged to stand with our backs toward the protesters. Their style of protesting brings out anger. Anger seemed to be the strongest feeling of most and this is what they work off of.

Anger was my first feeling when I first saw them. We remained out of sight as a blue barrier was unfurled on one side of the small group. Upon the signal of the police, we took position across the street from the protesters and in front of the VFW Park, where the funeral was held. From there, it was very easy for me to see a different view of the protesters. Their signs had nothing to do with funerals. Their signs were the same ones I've seen on the streets of Topeka at different activities. To see our flag, Old Glory, treated with such disrespect (dragged on the ground and kicked around like a ball) brought anger out. Then I looked again. These were children who should have been in school. This was on a weekday when most other children were in school.

Sadness became my strongest emotion. At that point, I was unable to write down my thoughts, and even now, I have trouble finding words to describe my feelings and emotions. I could easily cry.

This was not a group of protesters, but a group that teaches and spreads hate. Within minutes of our arrival, they decided to pack away their artifacts of protest and left. We also made our departure of the area. From there we went on to finish our mission to show honor, respect and support to the family.

Am I a super hero? I don't know. All I know is that as a teenager, I wanted to join the Navy. As much as I tried, I wasn't accepted. Finally, years later they took me. By then, I was too old for active duty. I accepted the offer of the reserves. My unit was called up for Operation Desert Storm. Some of the most useful things I learned in life I learned from my shipmates. As for being a super hero, maybe, but I'm not alone. I belong to a group of heroes who proudly served and protected our country and people and way of life. We grieve for our lost comrades and friends. Proudly, we continue to serve and protect after our time in the military is over. I feel those who support us also are heroes in their own rights.

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