‘Greater love…’


CHEYENNE – Members of Guernsey’s American Legion Riders and Patriot Guard Riders met at the Sinclair fueling station in Wheatland, at the intersection of Red Fox and Swanson Roads, on Friday morning, July 9, to escort the remains of George and Phyllis Anderson to the Cheyenne National Cemetery. 

Cheyenne National Cemetery was recently opened northwest of Cheyenne. The dedication ceremony for the cemetery took place on Oct. 8, 2020, with its first burials occurring in November of the same year. 

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website, cem.va.gov/, the cemetery will serve burial needs for more than 22,000 veterans, spouses and family members. 

“In January 2017, VA purchased the land located southeast of US Department of Agriculture Research Center on Hildreth Road for $64,099. The property is located in Laramie County. The initial phase of construction will develop approximately 2.42 acres and provide for approximately 1,604 gravesites, accommodating both casketed and cremated remains,” according to the VA’s website. 

“In addition to gravesites, the cemetery will include other features such as a front entrance off Hildreth Road, a columbarium and memorial plaque wall, a flagpole assembly area, a committal shelter, and a gravesite locator kiosk. Other cemetery infrastructure features will include roads, landscaping, and irrigation.”

George Anderson, the last of the “Axe Men” passed away July 9, 2016, in Statesville, North Carolina. He was a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps, served his country in World War II and later enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. 

Phyllis (Blair) Anderson passed away Nov. 5, 2019, in Wheatland. She married George in 1947. The two bore two children, Rick (Candy) Anderson of Wheatland and Cindy Anderson of Statesville, North Carolina. 

The family of George and Phyllis Anderson have waited for the opportunity to inurn their loved one’s ashes since 2016, for George and 2019, for Phyllis. 

Promptly, at 7 a.m., on Friday, the American flag adorned motorcycle-led escort left Wheatland and headed to Cheyenne. The escort met up with the Patriot Guard Riders at the Wyoming Department of Transportation building in Cheyenne. From there, the Wyoming Highway Patrol graciously provided an escort to the Cheyenne National Cemetery.

Members of the American Legion Auxiliary and Travis Williams, program manager for the Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Association, met the procession at the cemetery. 

After arriving at the cemetery, members of the Patriot Guard Riders lined up along the entryway to the shelter at the cemetery holding American flags. 

Penny Merryfield, a member of the American Legion Auxiliary, played Taps for the ceremony. Other members of the auxiliary fired-off the 21-gun salute.

Wyoming Patriot Guard Riders Ride Captain Mike McGee provided a eulogy and words of comfort. 

To conclude the service, Williams provided Rick Anderson with a Presidential Memorial Certificate expressing the nation’s recognition and appreciation of the George and Phyllis Anderson’s service to the nation.

After the service at the cemetery, family and friends gathered at Memorial Baptist Church in Wheatland for a life celebration luncheon. 

The Anderson’s inurnment is but two of many burials to come as many area residents have maintained possession of their departed loved one’s remains while waiting for the cemetery to open its gates. 

Patriot Guard Riders

Attending a funeral for a service member is a somber experience for family, friends and guests alike. The sound of Taps being played by a bugler, an American flag being folded and handed to a loved one and a 21-gun salute will bring a tear to most patriotic American’s eyes, let alone when it is their own family. 

Now, imagine a group of disgruntled people, filled with hatred, who believe service members’ funerals are a great opportunity to protest what they feel is wrong with this nation. 

This scenario was the driving factor that gave rise to the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR). PGR is a group of patriots dedicated to “riding with respect.” PGR is not a motorcycle club, rather it is “a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation.”

According to their website, PGR’s “main mission is to attend the funeral services of fallen American heroes as invited guests of the family. Each mission we undertake has two basic objectives: 1. Show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities. 2. Shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protester or group of protesters.”

Two common assumptions about Patriot Guard Riders are they are a motorcycle club, and they can only come to funerals which are likely to have disruptions by protestors. Both assumptions are false. Patriot Guard Riders are not a motorcycle club and are not a criminal syndicate. The Patriot Guard Riders can be requested for any funeral involving armed forces service members and other public servants including, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services or other first responders.

They can be requested by visiting their website, patriotguard.org, and clicking on “Request the PGR.”

To learn more about PGR, visit their website at patriotguard.org.

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© 2021-The Torrington Telegram

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