Strong Showing to Oppose Funeral Protesters
(08/01/06 -- FAYETTEVILLE) (WTVD) -- A group known nationally for using service members' funerals to protest homosexuality did not make a planned appearance in Fayetteville on Tuesday.
Staff Sgt. Michael Dickinson II was laid to rest Tuesday. The Fort Bragg soldier died in Iraq recently.
Westboro Baptist Church, of Kansas, uses funerals of fallen service members to protest what he calls America's acceptance of homosexuality. They planned on protesting Dickinson's funeral, but never showed up.
They would have been met with a small army of motorcycle-riding veterans committed to protecting the bereaved family. About 300 motorcyclists from around the East Coast, who call themselves the Patriot Guard Riders, appeared at Dickinson's funeral.
"It's a disgrace that anyone would want to come and demonstrate at an occasion like this," said Rob Lavallee, a member of the group. "We're here to protect the family so they don't have to see any demonstrators, especially those people coming down from Kansas."
These veterans say funerals are the wrong places to deal with that issue.
"There's nothing more honorable than to give your life to a friend," said rider Richard McDowell. "I think the protesters need to know that."
Though the protesters never showed up, the Patriot Guard Riders say they were there to honor a fallen hero.
"[The protesters] are not an issue," said rider Brad Huntley. "We're here to honor a fallen soldier - - shield the family so they don't have to witness anything like that."
On a hot August day, another American soldier who died fighting the war on terrorism was laid quietly to rest.
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