“The average American will never understand the price of their freedom
until they have been to the funeral of someone who has paid it”.
Louann Thomas, Arizona State PGR Ride Captain

Freedom Isn’t Free

On May 13th, 2007 my son Sgt. Rhys W. Klasno was killed when a roadside bomb exploded near his vehicle in Haditha, northwest of Baghdad. For those of you who don’t recognize the date, that was Mother’s Day.

Needless to say our life will never be the same, mostly because of our loss but partly because of a group of motorcycle riders, mostly veteran patriots known simply as the Patriot Guard Riders.

The PGR is a national organization with units in every state, mostly comprised of veterans from as far back as WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the first Gulf War. These men & women refuse to let even one American Hero go to his final resting place without rendering to them the full honors due.

Anyone who has ever attended a funeral with full military honors knows the impact it has on your heart.

If the “Rifle Salute” and “Taps” doesn’t leave a small hole in your heart than the “Missing Man Fly Over” surely will.

When you watch a polished Honors Detail, from any branch of our military, do what only they can do and you look around and see the flags and the soldiers standing at attention you have to feel a little pride. Pride not only in your own child and the man he became but in the United States of America, the men and women who serve and the message they send the rest of the world.

When Rhys was buried at Riverside National Cemetery on May 22, 2007, SSG Joseph Curran’s State Honor Guard detail did his honors. Rhys actually worked for Joe prior to being activated and Joe confided in me later that it was one of the hardest details he ever had to do. Bless you Joe and your crew for honoring my son.

Aside from the official company details from Rhys’ units at Los Alamitos and Bakersfield, most of the Soldiers, Airmen and Marines who attended didn’t even know Rhys, and all were off duty. They didn’t have to attend, they came of their free will to honor our son. Each understood his compassion and his character as if looking in a mirror.

That day the Patriot Guard Riders, along with 100’s of family and friends and about 100 off duty soldiers from all branches of the service were there to let us know that our sacrifice was not unnoticed and will not be in vain. The honor the soldier receives from his fellow servicemen and women makes you proud to be an American.

After attending a funeral with PGR representation you will never be the same. The sight and sound of dozens and sometimes up to a 100 motorcycles flying old Glory, POW/MIA, and the military branch flag of the fallen soldier is something you just can’t forget.

In 1961 then president John Kennedy said “Let every nation know, whether they wish us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of freedom”

When Rhys was killed we became the living embodiment of president Kennedy’s statement. We as a family and all of us as a nation have indeed paid a very high price for our freedom and continue to bear a heavy burden.

The Patriot Guard Riders won’t just show up at a funeral, they attend by invitation only. Having the Patriot Guard present at my son’s funeral was a very uplifting experience and to this day we are still in contact with some of the very nice people we met that day; People just like you and me, with lives and families of their own who just want to give back a little and thank the families of our fallen heroes.

I should be clear here, although many of the PGR are Vets, many more are Non Vets. The Vets have a compelling reason for honoring our Fallen Heroes, he or she is one of them. The Non Vets on the other hand do it
because they just know it is the right thing to do and that it needs to be done. In a way you have to respect them even more.

My wife Lynn and I, along with my son’s wife Stephanie would like to thank the Patriot Guard Riders for honoring my son and the rest of the families who have paid the ultimate price. We are honored to wear the Gold Star and we are equally honored to call you friends.

“Stand Tall, Stand Proud
An American Hero is coming home”

~ Patriot Guard Riders ~

Any Active Duty service member, Reservist or National Guard soldier killed in action,
is entitled to be buried at a National Cemetery of your choice. Here is a
List of National Cemeteries through out the United States.

“It is never too late for us, individually and collectively, to say, ‘We recognize your loss. We respect your sacrifice. We thank you.’
– -Defense Secretary William Cohen, November 5, 1999
  1. Michael Thorpe says:

    Michael,Thank You very much for sharing your thoughts about the PGR and your son Rhys.
    When my son Tyler was killed in 2005, the PGR did not have a big presence here in Oregon.But, we did have 1 PGR rider come to the funeral, and it meant alot to him to come and honor our son.I never did get his name, but somebody did get a picture of him arriving at the funeral on a Harley with an American Flag flying proudly. I do not have a bike to ride with them, but I have had the privledge of standing in the flagline with them at 3 funerals…..and I cannot describe the pride I felt in doing so. My son only had one rider, but the PGR is big here now and a funeral will have 30-40 riders now !!
    God Bless these folks !!

    • Roberth says:

      Many of those who ride are Vietnam Veterans who have not forgotten how our country treated us when we came home, and want to make certain those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terrorism are not forgotten nor have their funerals disrupted by protesters.

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