Whenever an American soldier dies, a group of volunteer motorcycle enthusiasts makes sure the veteran doesn’t make their last ride alone; ordinary Americans who give their time to show respect and pay tribute to those who have paid the ultimate price in service to their country.
Brian “Postmaster” Liberty is one of those volunteers, serving as the Deputy State Captain for the North Texas Patriot Guard Riders.
“We cover the western and northern sections of the territory,” Liberty said, noting it is an area which spans from Fort Worth to Rockwall, to Kaufman and Sherman and points east.
“We cover about 180 square miles,” Liberty said. “You name it and we cover it.”
Jim Wiggins of Greenville is a Ride Captain for the organization.
“It is all about being there for the families of the fallen,” he said.
The Patriot Guard Riders had its origins around 2005 and is a fixture at memorial services and motorcades for fallen veterans and first responders.
Members accompany funeral processions, their bikes decorated in red, white and blue, then stand in line during the services.
Member Harold Tranter, who lives near Caddo Mills, said the organization, which also refers to itself at PGR, has expanded its focus in recent years.
“The PGR was initially formed to show honor and respect to our military personnel who were Killed In Action,” Tranter said. “Fortunately, there has been a tremendous reduction in those in recent years. Therefore, the PGR started becoming more active in participating in the services of our first responders. We still participate in a large number of interment services at the DFW National Cemetery including a once-a-month ceremony for an average of 15 to 25 Veterans with no known families, or unaccompanied Veterans, who passed away during the previous month. The PGR attends the interment service, folds the respective burial Flags, and whatever else may be requested of us.”
Liberty, from Granbury, flew B-52 bombers during the Vietnam War, then retired after 32 years with the United States Postal Service.
“I’ll do all the missions from down in this area,” he said. “It is something that gets in your blood.”
The group is asked to participate in a variety of events, from patriotic parades, to speeches and more.
Liberty said they try to do all of the extra activities they can, but it is the basis of the organization which takes up most of their time.
Liberty said the PGR assisted 763 veterans and their families in 2017, and more than 5,400 between 2006 and 2017.
“We’ve had 46 for the month of May so far,” he said.
“There are roughly 25 of us,” Wiggins said. He joined the PGR in 2014, after retiring from 25 years working for L3 and 20 years in the Navy before that.
“I wanted to do something useful with my time,” he said. “I thought it might be a worthwhile thing to do.”
The organization is always seeking additional members. While most of them are veterans, it is not a requirement and participants don’t need to ride a motorcycle.
“You can come in your own vehicle,” Liberty said.
Tranter said he and his daughter Terri are both members.
“In April of almost every year, the PGR leads a motorcade of motorcycles from DFW International Airport to the City of Gainesville where Medal of Honor recipients are honored,” he said. “I have participated in this motorcade every year but one and this year was my daughter's second escort. There were over 900 motorcycles involved!”
Terri Tranter, an Army veteran, was already a member of the Patriot Guard Riders and invited her father to participate in the procession for Sgt. Emerson Brand of Caddo Mills in March 2007. A casualty war in Iraq, Brand’s body was flown to Majors Field Municipal Airport in Greenville, then a motorcade proceeded to the funeral home. Thousands of people lined the roads leading from Greenville into Caddo Mills, most of them waving American flags.
The PGR is completely volunteer and accepts no payment for its services
“It is all about reaching out to the families of the fallen veterans and first responders and hoping we can give them some comfort,” Wiggins said.
“We’ll keep on doing it until the end,” Liberty said.