Patriot Guard protects honor of fallen heros


“Freedom ain’t free and the cost is high,” said Erik Ahlen, sophomore in park management and conservation.

Ahlen is a member of the Patriot Guard, a group of motorcyclists who have guarded the funerals of fallen heroes from the hateful words of protesters for years, specifically Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church.

Westboro is about as Christian as an atheist is. The church is a hate group defined by its beliefs that the death of our fallen heroes is God’s way of punishing our nation for tolerating “fags.”

Ahlen has held firm to his beliefs by taking action. Eight times he has taken an American flag in hand to protect grieving families and friends from the belligerent protests filled with disrespect.

“It is the worst thing you will ever have to do, but it is the greatest honor you can have,” Ahlen said. “It is horrible that it takes volunteers to protect a soldier’s family and a soldier’s funeral but it is the greatest honor to protect those who have protected you.”

Ahlen decided to take his strong stance on hate when the issue became personal. Expressing that many of us, sadly, know somebody or know of somebody who has died protecting the rights and privileges we all enjoy.

“You see the pain in the families when they are trying to lay their son or daughter to rest,” Ahlen said. “The mom wasn’t crying for grief any more. She was crying because somebody, who her son died to protect, was spitting at his funeral. It was wrong.”

According to Ahlen, he is not a hero nor a leader. Heroes are those who protect the rights of others and are willing to sacrifice everything to do so. In compliance with his wishes, I must call Ahlen a man of integrity.

Many of us students struggle with completing homework and studying for exams, whereas Ahlen takes the time to travel across the state to assist the families of our nation’s heroes. He voluntarily assists complete strangers not for fame or recognition, but because he feels it is the right thing to do.

It saddens me we live in a cruel world filled with those who wish to spread hatred. However, with this sad reality can come the possibility of hope and the idea that we can do something about it. Ahlen inspires hope on this earth by standing for respect.

“[We must] show some respect for other peoples’ beliefs,” Ahlen said, understanding we will never all get along. “If everybody would just respect each other this world would get along a lot better.”

After meeting with Ahlen and discussing his passions, I feel safe to say he is a noble man who understands he is not perfect. Even so, he believes he can make a difference to improve this world. I believe it goes without saying that he already has contributed to making this world a better place by protecting those who protect us.

Ahlen prays every day that his services will not be needed and every soldier will obtain the respect they deserve. Not to be an idealist, Ahlen keeps in perspective that the need for his services may not come to an end. When asked how long he plans to continue to fight for the respect of our nation’s fallen heroes, without hesitation Ahlen said, “As long as I can grab my handle bars and keep my rubber side down, I’ll be on it.”

Ahlen is a man of promise and passion who protects the things he loves and values most. He models something we could all add a little more of in our daily lives.