October 30, 2008
As a Forward Observer Platoon Sergeant and Fire Support NCO in Iraq, one of my duties was the care of my soldiers. Two people I knew very well got killed out there. One was in my platoon that I took over after he'd already been hit, and another was my Fire Support Officer (SSG Dwayne Dreasky, 31 and LTC Michael Maclaughlin, 44). We lost a lot more people than those 2 guys...
altogether losing 83 great Americans in our 2-28 Infantry Brigade during our year long tour in Ramadi/Anbar Province, from June '05 to June '06. Many more got wounded, but thank God those guys made it home and didn't add to the count of 83. We had a picture and a narrative of each fallen soldier on an honor wall in our brigade command post. .
When we started losing guys, we had memorial services for them in Iraq and knew, of course, they'd get the appropriate respects and honors back home. One thing we didn't anticipate was the disrespect and hatred shown by the Phelps church group...protesting at our fallen brothers' funerals, waving the banners and signs that they wave so ignorantly and so proud. The first time I read about that in the "Stars and Stripes," I had to read it again, because I couldn't imagine anyone being so hateful and disrespectful. I just about cried after reading the article. Another soldier asked me what was wrong..I handed him the paper, and he had the same reaction. We were pretty pissed off, and pretty soon we were all talking about what we would do if we saw them in-person. We'd all been insulted by this hateful group. Deeply insulted. We all were wondering, "Why doesn't anyone do anything about this?" We were in shock.
Then, a few days later, there was an article about this group of bikers who were now putting themselves as a barrier between the protesters and the grieving families of our fallen soldiers. I couldn't believe that when I read it, either..so I read it again, and again. I must have read that article ten times before I shared it with anyone. Some other guys had already read the article, and the feeling we all felt that someone was actually doing something to counter the protesters was the best feeling I can't even describe. I was filled with pride to know that fellow Americans were giving up their time, honoring our fallen, regardless of whether they knew them or not, and providing a barrier from the protesters for the families grieving. Pretty soon, everyone was saying, "Hey..did you hear about that biker group? Yeah..they're all over the country, I hear they're doing this all over the place, where they can...that's f&^*ing great, man!!!!"
It was good to know that while we were fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, someone was fighting for us, back home...fighting for our respect, for our fallen and for the families of the fallen. Thank you.To all of your group and all of the PGR..this Sergeant First Class would like to give you my most sincere and heartfelt "THANK YOU" for doing what you do. THANK YOU with all of my soul. I can't even put into words how thankful I am, and others are, for what you guys do. It means more to us than anything, to know that regular Americans volunteer to ensure a fallen soldier gets the respect and dignity he/she deserves at their funerals. We all know who you guys are...everyone's heard about you and your group in Iraq. I've spoken with Afghan vets also, and your group always comes up as a topic of respect and honor. You are well known, and your efforts are very much appreciated. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!
God bless all of you, and really..I can't thank you enough for how you honor our fallen.
SFC J. Philip Marquez