About a week ago, I had the honor of attending the annual Lake County Taste of Care at Avalon Manor in Hobart, with proceeds to benefit Honor Flight Northwest Indiana.
This is an organization that flies World War II veterans to Washington D.C. to see the memorials before it is too late.
I've talked about Honor Flights before, but something suddenly struck me.
Where did all of these bikers come from? At first, like anyone surrounded by tattooed men in leather jackets, I was apprehensive. Then something odd happened.
I noticed that a big guy with many tattoos was opening doors for people. Another stopped his conversation and stuck his hand out to shake the hand of one of his heroes, my father-in-law, Lawrence Higgins, of Highland.
“Thank you, sir, for your service,” this man said with total earnestness. He was completely respectful and brought a smile to my father-in-law’s face.
These old veterans seem taken aback until they realize that the bikers are not there by chance. They are there to honor our veterans, whether they served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam or any other conflict. On this night it was all about World War II veterans, but the bikers of the Patriot Guard are about more than that.
The Patriot Guard is about honor and respect. Within the biker community, there is a sense of brotherhood and respect. Bikers know that every time you start that bike up, there is a real possibility that someone might not be paying attention and your life could change forever.
Another part of the culture is that sense of freedom, that alluring sense of the road and the knowledge that there are people out there just like you riding face into the wind.
With that tight-knit mentality, the idea that someone would protest a veteran’s funeral naturally brought bikers together as the original Patriot Guard nearly 10 years ago.
When bikers in Kansas found out that there was going to be a protest at a soldier's funeral in Oklahoma, they rallied. Out of that situation, they learned that motorcycles can be a little intimidating and can also drown out the sound of protesters.
Now, a group that prides itself on the open road and individuality can be found in large numbers forming flag lines for funeral and welcome home processions.
Since I was sworn to secrecy, I cannot name the people that are part of the local outfit. They want to remain anonymous, because their work is not about them, but about showing respect for the soldiers who risk their lives.
A grizzled veteran of many of these flag lines told me that the moment you meet the family of a fallen soldier, you know you are part of something incredibly worthwhile.
At the first available opportunity to honor our veterans, no matter the war, you will find a line of bikers. They wear leather, tattoos, their badges and sunglasses that often hide their tears. Keep in mind that they are there for one thing and one thing only, honoring our heroes.
In the process, they are giving comfort to a family that is grieving their loss. It doesn’t get any more honorable than that.