Freedom Fighters: The Patriot Guard - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Freedom Fighters: The Patriot Guard

(KLTV) -

The Huey helicopter in the Brookhill School's Freedom Museum brings back a flood of memories for Steve Conger and John Bradberry. Even though the Vietnam War itself was bad enough, Bradberry was a transfer medic in Vietnam, and Conger trained officers, many of whom never came back from war. It was the aftermath of war that hurt them deeply.

"I had people spit on me. They called me a baby killer. They did everything," Conger, who is deputy state captain for the Patriot Guard said.

"We weren't asked to do anything different than they did in Korea or that they did in WWII or WWI. It's just that this was an unpopular war," Bradberry said. Bradberry is the assistant deputy state captain for the guard.

Healing for Conger and Bradberry has come about through their membership in the Patriot Guard. 

"They didn't understand what was going on, which is one of the reasons I'm a member of the Patriot Guard. I want to show honor and respect to our servicemen and women and first responders, especially the Vietnam vets. I want to make sure they get the honor they've earned."

The Patriot Guard was established in the early 2000s when protesters began demonstrating at funeral services for our fallen soldiers of the Iraq War. For Vietnam veterans, it seemed like a resurgence of what they had experienced forty years earlier.

Several years ago, there were protests at the funerals, screaming obscenities to the families so we were established to stand between the family and the protesters. 

"We know the turmoil that they're in because of what has happened to their loved ones so here again, we're there and again this is a peaceful intercession,"

Flag lines at the church and cemetery and motorcycle escorts helped protect families from the demonstrators as they buried their loved ones. Eventually, laws were enacted that kept demonstrators a thousand feet from the services and five hundred feet from the motorcades.

Although protest demonstrations are few these days, the Patriot Guard continues to honor our fallen heroes.

"The key to our organization is that we need to be requested by the family to be there. We just do not show up. Or we can be requested by the funeral home,"

Also, you don't have to be a veteran to be a member of the Patriot Guard, and you don't have to ride a motorcycle. You simply need to love our country and want to honor those who serve it.

As for the Vietnam vets who comprise the biggest membership in the Patriot Guard, helping others has helped them to heal.

"This was self-healing, and a payback. This was to give back."

If you would like more information about the Patriot Guard in East Texas, click here

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