Published Sunday, December 31, 2006
Kansans of the Year -- Guarding us all
Motorcycle-riding veterans bring honor to this state as they pay homage to fallen soldiers
The men returning from Southeast Asia in the late 1960s and early '70s were scorned by their peers protesting that war, at times vilified for their service.
But when Kansas' most virulent protesters started taking their message of hate to the funerals of fallen troops, it was a Vietnam veteran who took the lead.
The group that lined up behind Terry Houck, of Derby, and brought honor to Kansas is the Patriot Guard, and its members are The Topeka Capital-Journal's Kansans of the Year for 2006.
Veterans who had taken up arms to battle communism and despotism now fire up different weapons in the cause of freedom — motorcycles.
The roar of their engines drowns out the chants of the group that wants people to believe that the deaths of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are divine retribution for America being a nation of sinners.
It has taken just 18 months for the group that started in the American Legion Post in Mulvane to grow its numbers to 60,000 nationwide. The Kansas group has attended 40 funerals in the state.
It isn't there solely to muffle the protesters. The Patriot Guard pays homage the fallen, the men and women who won't be able to come home to their families.
The group also honors freedoms for which all soldiers fight — the freedom to gather, the freedom to say what we think.
Another irony? Perhaps. But the Patriot Guard gets our heartfelt salute.