In every country, the death of a soldier is usually a somber affair. Those who can gather to pay their respects to the fallen hero. Some even declare the day a national mourning day and flags are raised at half-mast to honor him or her. This respect is accorded to the fact that they gave their lives to protect their country, and even before then they sacrificed their time with family and everything else they love to go to war with enemies of the state. A decent burial is the least they can be given.
Recently, however, a notorious group from the Westboro Baptist Church has risen against this practice. They have made it a habit of picketing the burial ceremonies of such soldiers, claiming that God is punishing America for its sins. One of their basis is the acceptance of homosexuality into the country. The protesters are always on the lookout for any such funerals and events, and when they learn of one, they do not hesitate to ambush with loud protests that make it almost impossible to carry out the funeral peacefully. According to them, the soldier’s death is a punishment from God.
Some weeks ago a soldier named Richard Bennet died when his helicopter crashed in Iraq as when he was on duty, fighting rebels and terrorists. When his family received the news they were shocked; he was just twenty-five, and it was hard to believe that he was gone so soon. The government sent their condolences and burial to honor him was arranged. This was going to be a very sad day as the family led the nation in mourning the departed hero. It is because of people like him that even walking out to a peaceful day is possible.
As usual, the Westboro Baptist Church learned of the funeral and prepared to strike. When the family of Richard learned of their planned demonstrations, they were horrified. All they wanted was to bury their beloved son and mourn him without having to deal with anything else.
Their salvation came when they received a request from a group called the Patriotic Guard. The group wanted to be invited to the burial so that they could keep the picketers at bay as the soldier was laid to rest. They were invited without hesitation, and the family could at least focus on the burial.
When the day came, the family gathered in Girard, Kansas where the burial was to take place. The picketers arrived early and started demonstrating loudly. It was chaos, and one could not help but frown at the signs they were holding; “Semper Fi Semper Fags” and “Thank God For Dead soldiers.” What?
The Patriotic Guard also did not fail the family. They arrived in a motorcade of close to a hundred and surrounded the mourners, creating a wall between them and the picketers. They then played loud patriotic music to drown out their chants. The family was grateful, and marine Corporal Richard Bennet was laid to rest.
Much as we all have the freedom of belief, we should be careful not to impose them on others, or at least when they are not in the state of mind to speak out. What the picketers did was wrong, and groups such as the Patriotic Guard should be recognized for their efforts to put such people in their place.