CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — If you've been to a veteran's funeral with military honors, you've likely seen them, standing in honor holding 'Old Glory'.
They are the Patriot Guard Riders of South Texas.
“This is something we do, voluntarily, for all veterans who have passed away,” said Deputy State Captain Albert Martinez.
The Patriot Guard Riders started in Kansas in 2005, protecting funerals of American troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The protests they protected those funerals from may be nearly forgotten today, but the Patriot Guard stands by for any fallen veteran. But why?
“To show honor and respect for the fallen veteran,” said Martinez. “We also present them with a plaque, that says 'On behalf of the Patriot Guard Riders of South Texas, please accept our deepest condolences.’”
Martinez says he has been to more than 400 funerals.
“We're invited by the immediate family of the deceased veteran, otherwise we don't show up,” said Martinez. “I’ve been doing it for 15 years and I'm still going.”
For Martinez, a Marine veteran, standing with the Patriot Guard is a way to honor fallen heroes. While all of the South Texas riders have served, it's not required to join.
“We welcome anybody, you don't have to be a veteran,” said Martinez.
“You just have to have a love for the country, and a love for the veteran,” added Assistant Deputy State Captain. David Wittliff.
Witliff says he has been to more than 125 funerals. Like many riders, Witliff is retired. He believes the group needs to find new members to continue the mission.
“We're graying out at a high rate of speed,” said Witliff. “We need the younger generation to take over.”
“Just show respect for the fallen veteran, that's all we ask,” said Martinez.
For more information on having the Patriot Guard Riders at a veteran’s funeral, or for membership information, click here.