Monday, March 14, 2011


Saturday is a day I will never forget. It was the first -- and hopefully last -- military funeral I've ever attended. A Monett native, Spc. Christopher Stark, was killed in Afghanistan, and his funeral was held at a park near where I live. Since it was open to the public and I felt that the least I could do was show support for the family, I decided to go. I'm glad I did.

If you've followed this blog, you know I've written about Westboro Baptist Cult (yeah, yeah, it should be "Church," but whatever) here and here. Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court voted that the WBC's funeral protests were/are protected under the First Amendment, and I knew they would have their sights set on this fallen hero's funeral.

Apparently, so did a lot of other people in the Monett community. The family invited the Patriot Guard Riders to town for the private visitation, public funeral and private burial on Friday and Saturday. Dozens of law enforcement agencies stepped in to help with crowd control and to try to ensure a peaceful goodbye. The State Highway Patrol, Monett Police Department, and Barry, Newton and Lawrence County sheriff's departments also had a high-profile presence.

And while my blood pressure went up just thinking about the hatefulness of the WBC, and I kept an eye peeled for them -- I did not see a single protestor. Apparently, only a handful showed up, but they were kept far away from anyone who cared, especially the family.

It was amazing. Law enforcement closed the Jolly Mill Road that led to the private park that was chosen as the funeral site (how they "screened" people going in, I have no idea!). Nearly 400 Patriot Guard Riders escorted the hearse and family to the funeral. Hundreds of civilians, veterans and active duty servicemen showed up. There were flags everywhere, the sun was shining and there was enough of a breeze to make the flags stand at attention. It made me proud to be an American.

I snapped a ton of photos of the Patriot Guard Riders as well as a few scenes before the funeral.

There was a giant US flag that served as a backdrop for the speaker's platform.

After the funeral, I headed out to Monett and was amazed (yes, I have used that word too often today) at the number of people lining the highway holding flags.

I wish we didn't have to have so many military funerals, but if we must, I wish they could all be as patriotic, peaceful and supportive. Godpseed Christopher Stark, and may God grant your family strength and peace as they deal with their loss.
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" :: Philippians 4:7

1 comment:

Steve said...

Wow, great read! I can see it from here. Thanks!