Standing Firm for Decency

Upon hearing of the planned protesting of Lauren Burk’s funeral on Sunday by the bigots at Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church because of her Jewish background and her attendance at Auburn University, a friend of mine decided that even if he was to be the only one there, he would stand between the picketers and those who were paying their final respects to the murdered Auburn University freshman at her Temple in Marietta, GA.

When he arrived, Aaron found that he was anything but alone. What follows is what he wrote about his experiences yesterday. The photographs are also his.

I consider myself lucky to count a good man such as Aaron as one of my friends, and America’s Right is exponentially better due to his gracious contribution. Most of all, he and all of those who stood firm for decency yesterday should be applauded as great Americans and, more importantly, incredible human beings.

– Jeff



“My Day with the Patriot Guard”
by Aaron Tillinger, special contributor to America’s Right

Today, I joined close to 100 Americans in an effort to support the family and friends in remembering the life of a person I have never met.

Lauren Burk was viciously murdered this past week in Auburn, AL. I know nothing about her other than what the news and internet has told me, that she was a person loved by many who left us much too soon in a random act of violence.

Her funeral was held today in Marietta, GA. The sky was a brilliant blue in which I could see the War Eagle soaring through on wide spread wings, letting out its piercing, lonesome cry as its heart ached in loss. The eagle was not alone. Over 100 members of the community arrived, hearts heavy but spirits united in one voice. We will not let your passing be tarnished.

The Patriot Guard, with flags waiting to unfurl, gathered en masse. From first glance, they were hard core bikers and accountants alike, standing in prideful leather and Woodstock florals waiting to align themselves side by side to impart a single message.

Lauren, your passing has not gone unnoticed and it will be as honorable as these humble folks can provide.

Hours before her family was set to arrive at a small Temple on a side street in a sleepy suburb of busy Atlanta, flags were being unfurled. I arrived knowing no one and with only one purpose: Do not allow more suffering to be inflicted upon this family; both blood and bond. Unfortunately, a group wanted to do just that. I will not give them name for they do not deserve mention alongside the souls I would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with today.

My Honda Accord looked sorely out of place among the chromed Harleys and Detroit-built SUVs. But as soon as my feet hit the pavement, I made eye contact with a kindred spirit. Although I had no idea for sure who he was or what side he stood on, I soon watched as he and his colleagues pulled American flags out of the back of a vehicle, one after the other, and I nervously walked forward with an out-stretched hand and introduced myself. I asked if he was here to honor Lauren Burks’ memory; he simply said he was a member of the Patriot Guard.

My heart paused. I was with the “right” people. He told me his name, introduced me to the man standing with him and handed me an American flag on a seven- or eight-foot-tall piece of PVC. As I looked around, I saw 50 or 60 of them.

Then I realized I was standing in the parking lot of a church. Here I was, hoping to protect the family of a young woman with Jewish heritage, and to accomplish that I was in a church parking lot. I smiled. This is the America I love.

Next, a woman wearing more leather than I own asked me if I knew how to conduct myself with the flag. My ego said “of course,” but in truth I wanted her to tell me so that I would properly do it honor. So, I listened to her tell someone else. Do Not Dip The Flag. Do Not Drop The Flag. Do Not Let The Flag Touch the Ground. Now I was in the know.

We spread out across the corner that directly faced the synagogue and stood at an arm’s length apart. My curiosity had me searching for the mongers we were protecting others from, a force that the world had seen and given credence to — but I could not spot them. So I asked the engineer decked out in leather next to me. He said the police would escort them in, limit them to a space behind us. We were the WALL! It all made sense. Our mission was not to confront them, but to negate their presence. And our weapon was the flag. I have a flag flying on my home every day, but the flag in my hand would do more than flutter in the breeze and tangle itself; the flag I held was my weapon to say that my voice would be heard above yours. You can say what you like, but I will say it louder and the flag of MY country will prevail.

So we stood. For more than an hour we stood. Some never moved more than a few feet as the group spread to accommodate the growing ranks. Others, myself included, stepped back for a moment to simply take in the sight. From the time I arrived until moments before the call to attention was made, our ranks swelled from 50 or so to almost 100. As I looked to my right, three young women had joined us. They may have been 15 years old or possibly 21, either way they wanted to let their voices be a part of the chorus.

Lauren, your passing has not gone unnoticed and it will be as honorable as these humble folks can provide.

The captain of the Patriot Guard walked the line. He explained to us that when the procession with Lauren’s family neared we would stand tall, grip the flag to our right and hold it tight, creating a single banner of over 100 American flags, end to end. This would ensure that the family would not even know there were others present that wished to tarnish this most sorrowful moment.

And when the moment arrived, not only did we stand tall, we stood proud and respectful. People who had never met each other or Lauren Burk stood, clinched the American flag and provided Lauren’s grief-filled family with one brief moment of clarity.

Lauren, your passing has not gone unnoticed and it will be as honorable as these humble folks can provide.

Sure, I am a tough guy. I grew up in the South, where men are strong and when need be, where men are a rock. Behind my black sunglasses, however, I cried. I hated that I had to watch others drive past wearing their black suits and black dresses praying that our wall would not fail, praying that evil would not show itself.

Lauren, your passing has not gone unnoticed and it will be as honorable as these humble folks can provide.

Looking back on today, I am humbled to have met and been graced by members of the Patriot Guard who perform this honorable duty whenever they are summoned. I am in their debt and soon hope to join their ranks. Hopefully one day we will no longer need to stand guard and speak those words: Your passing has not gone unnoticed, and it will be as honorable as these humble folks can provide.

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Comments

  1. Tim C. says:

    thank your friend aaron for stepping up

  2. Aaron says:

    It was the most humbling experience I have had.

    Please do for those who cannot do for themselves.

  3. Whitney says:

    I too held a flag and it was amazing to see all the people that stepped up to help. I saw one lady who had just been driving by and was curious as to what we were doing. Soon enough she was standing there with us. I’m twenty and it thrilled me to see so many of my peers reaching out to this family. God bless America.

  4. Jeff Schreiber says:

    God bless both of you.

    Whitney and Aaron — you guys make me smile.

    Especially you, Whitney, because it seems like our culture is drifting away from decency and altruism with every chance it gets. More and more, it seems like people your age–I don’t mean to be condescending!–are more self-interested and self-important, with the celebrities and such taking a close second in terms of priority and focus.

    Thank you for bucking the trend and for coming out there. I hope that, 18 years down the road, my own daughter has the presence of mind and depth of character to do what you did on Sunday.

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