The second quarterly meeting of the Washington County Retired Teachers Association was held on Tuesday, June 9, at the Oakdale Country Kitchen.
Twenty-six members were anxious to hear our speaker, Larry Hamilton, Senior Ride Captain for the Illinois Patriot Guard of Southern Illinois. Hamilton, accompanied by his wife, Judy, spoke of the services they provide for burial of veterans.
Hamilton, a Marine veteran and Viet Nam veteran, began his service with the organization in response to the protestors who were interfering with the privacy of the grieving families trying to bury their loved ones in a respectful setting.
The Illinois Patriot Guard was organized in October, 2005. There are about 4000 members in Illinois and about 300,000 in all of the United States and its territories.
This local group has about 30 members in it. The members come to the funerals only at the request of the family and if there is no family contention over their presence there. Their intention is to honor the veteran, but not become a distraction for the family.
The local funeral home can put a family in touch with the Patriot Guard. The riders pay their own expenses. They do hold some benefits to raise money for scholarships, but do not do “Poker Runs” or “tavern to tavern” runs.
The Patriot Guard also does what they can to help veterans in need of help for rent and utilities. All branches of the service and first responders are eligible for their services.
This Patriot Guard’s territory is Region 6, covering 21 counties from Cairo to East St. Louis to the Indiana line. There is no dress code, but they stress being respectful with their language and the patches they wear on their clothes. All of their members pay their respects at the funeral and the family is given a plaque and a flag. It is not necessary to be a veteran to ride with the bikers, just have a patriotic heart and concern for others.
The WCRTA made a donation to the organization, as well as many of our members made personal donations to show their support for the work they are doing. Our next meeting will be Monday, September 14 at Little Nashville.