|Clay Tarpley Interview|
Winslow: Im talking with Clay Tarpley, one of the driving forces behind the Patriot Guard Riders here on delmarva. Hey Clay, thanks for taking some time to do an interview with me!
Clay: Thanks Steve! Its always good to talk to you.
Winslow: What is your title and function within the Patriot Guard Riders?
Clay: Right now, I am the Capitol Region Captain for the PGR, and that covers Maryland, Delaware, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, North & South Carolina. My job is to support the state captains in these states with any problems and concerns that they may have, pass information up and down the ladder between them and the national leadership and help them with any membership or mission issues that they may have. With the number of members approaching 168,000 nationally, this gets to be a challenge for all of us.
Winslow: Im sure it is a HUGE challenge! The Patriot Guard Riders have been around for a few years now on delmarva. You guys do missions quite often, I even read you did 3 in one week just recently. What all happens during a mission? How many missions would you say you have done over the years?
Clay: There are many missions at this point that we participate in. Honor missions for those coming back from combat zones KIA, to honor a fallen veteran or first responder, send off & welcome homes for units to let them know that we are supporting them on the home front. We are usually contacted by the family or the military to participate in these - we only go as invited guests. For honor missions, we typically stand a flag line at the funeral for the fallen, and sometimes a mounted escort to the cemetery where they will be interned. Most of the troops that have fallen in this conflict have been buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but some are buried close to home, like at the Eastern Shore Veterans Cemetery near Hurlock. I myself went on my 117th mission last week to honor young PFC Michael Yates in Federalsburg.
Winslow: How many active Patriot Guard Riders are there on delmarva?
Clay: I have roughly 200 on my local e-mail list that covers most of the Eastern Shore and Lower Delaware, but we are always looking for more folks to help out.
Winslow: Does the PGR do anything other than missions?
Clay: Yes we do. We do send off and welcome homes for the troops. Most of the time by unit, but sometimes we will welcome home an individual. These are just other ways that we can let the troops and their families that they we support them, and have their backs at home.
Winslow: If someone is interested in joining, what would be the best way for them to get involved? What are the requirements to join?
Clay: The best thing to do is go to www.patriotguard.org and sign up on the website. After that, send an e-mail to: email@example.com and copy me if you live on the Delmarva peninsula: firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the mission statement, and if you agree with what we do to support our troops and their families, veterans and first responders - then that is all it takes to become a member of the Patriot Guard. Although most of us ride bikes, we still have a lot of members who dont. That is not a prerequisite.
Winslow: Im sure everyone remembers the big todo up in Seaford with that nutzo baptist group. Have you guys had anything similiar happen in recent years? That was really more the excpetion and extremely rare for you guys wasnt it? (Delmarvabikers.com will not publish the name of the group or names of any of the members, we dont beleive in giving them ANY publicity whatsoever.)
Clay: I wish that was the exception. We still have experiences with them all over the country, but not as much as we used to. The UGs (Uninvited Guests) - as we call them - have it out for Maryland. They were sued by the family of a fallen soldier for protesting and disrupting his funeral three years ago, and the judge found in favor of the family. Needless to say, that if anything happens in Maryland, they will try to be there. The big deal in Seaford a couple of years ago was definitely one of the biggest PGR turnouts ever because of it happening on a weekend and the fact that the media got wind of them coming a few days before the funeral of Marine Lance Corporal Corey Palmer. As it turns out, the church was a couple of blocks away from where the protesters were placed by the city, and their biggest problem was the huge mob of angry locals standing across the street from them. That also happened to be my first mission as a ride captain. Talk about baptism under fire!
Winslow: Wow, your first mission as a ride captain! Everyone that I have talked to says you guys handled yourselves very well. Its a sad fact that these nutjobs have to disrupt what should be a very somber occasion to abuse thier first amendment rights and spew thier filth. Im glad to see some courts and municipalities taking legal action to curb thier activities.
Clay: We are too, but no matter where in the country that they decide to spread their message of hate, the Patriot Guard will be standing across from them with flags waving.
Winslow: So far, Ive only been able to attend one event the PGR was involved with, that was Bernie Schieras funeral. I know the entire Schiera family was honored to have you guys show up for a flag line.
Clay: It is truly our honor to stand for those who fall in action, and for all of the veterans of our countrys military.
Winslow: Its been an honor talking with you Clay. Would you like to add anything that I havnt covered?
Clay: Only that here in Maryland, we have established a non-profit organization to help out the troops at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital, and also wherever we can with the troops coming home that may assistance. We have our own separate website for Maryland: www.mdpatriotguard.org. We are still part of the Patriot Guard nationally, but have established this non-profit to help out locally.
Winslow: If you are interested in getting involved with the Patriot Guard Riders, you should check out thier website at www.patriotguard.org or you can email Clay at email@example.com. Thanks a ton for doing the interview Clay! We will see you guys out there again soon Im sure!
Clay: Thanks for your interest in the Patriot Guard, and I hope to see you in the flag line.
Interview by Steven Winlsow
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