By Bob Hallmark
It started with a handful of riders trying to honor veterans returning home. Today, the Patriot Guard Riders have numbers in the thousands, and hundreds of them in East Texas.
We've seen them welcome troops at East Texas airports, and honor the fallen. Lining roadways, and sometimes the only ones honoring a veteran.
"Its awesome. I've really been impressed. Hopefully its done nothing but good. If it hasn't for them, it's done a lot for me," says retired Air Force veteran and guard member Dave Reiner.
Some veterans, some not, after 5 years, there are nearly 200,000 Patriot Guard members nationwide.
"I knew that that's what I wanted to do . I knew I wanted to pay something back," say ride captain and Vietnam veteran John Bradberry.
East Texan Sheila Manning had never been in the military when she joined the PGR.
"People always say you should find you passion and when I found this group I found my passion. Its changed my life to be a part of this group," Manning says.
Bradberry was a salesman when he joined the PGR.
"A lot of guys that came back after the conflict in Vietnam , we didn't get the return home," Bradberry says.
Many do it for their own reasons.
"I wanted the folks to know who are serving today that we are here and we're standing behind them," says Bradberry.
But all do it for one main reason.
"I can honor the military and its my small way of giving back," Manning says.
The Patriot Guard will honor veterans of any era, as well as firefighters and police upon request or mutual agreement with the parties involved.