100 Wyoming Patriot Guard Riders escort Krogman to Worland
July 22, 2021
WORLAND - Around 100 motorcycles arrived in Worland June 19 escorting First Lieutenant Ray Krogman's casket from Billings Logan International Airport. The motorcyclists were largely of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group of patriots who dedicate their time to protecting America's fallen heroes and their families as they are taken to their final resting place.
"Patriot Guard was founded in 2005 by a group of American Legion riders out of Missouri. The whole reason it was founded is to protect the family and the friends at a service from protestors," said Wyoming Patriot Guard State Ride Captain Kevin Curtis.
"Back in 2005 there was a lot of protesting going on about military personnel coming back, they were saying they were – well, I'm not going to say some of the names. It was pretty dirty. Patriot Guard was founded on that premises, to protect the family and be a barrier between the family and the friends so that they could mourn in peace," he explained.
Assistant State Ride Captain Gary Hobbs added that paying respects is an important thing for the grieving, and being able to protect the families of veterans is a service the Patriot Guard is proud to offer. "We strictly show up and show respect for the family and service members. After I retired from the military, I still wanted to serve my country in a roundabout way, more so to help pay final respects and solve some of the problems that were happening when the Patriot Guard started. I wanted to make sure that never happens in Wyoming. We want to give the family a chance to mourn and not worry about what's going on outside of that," Hobbs said.
The group is not entirely veterans and motorcyclists, anyone is welcome to join. "You don't need to be a veteran; you don't have to have a motorcycle to be a part of the Patriot Guard," Hobbs said. "We have several folks that don't ride that are great help and great support."
Curtis estimated that there are around 700 Wyoming Patriot Guard members on the Wyoming roster, with 100-150 active members. "It doesn't cost anything, there are no dues. It's free to show your honor, respect and patriotism to all of those we lay to rest," he said. The group keeps a Facebook page, Wyoming Patriot Guard Riders, that displays all of their missions and events statewide, as well as a few local Facebook pages for regional events. Their national website, patriotguard.org, offers registration.
Both Curtis and Hobbs were a part of the Krogman escort on Monday, as well as Patriot Guard member and veteran Mike McGee. The Patriot Guard Riders also attended Krogman's funeral service, escorting the procession and holding a flag line at his gravesite. All three said that Monday's ride was one of the most memorable they have experienced.
"It was amazing, from the time we left the airport in Billings, there were people lining the streets all the way through Billings and in every little town," McGee said. "Even out in the middle of nowhere. Farmers were actually out of their tractors in their fields standing with their hands over their heart, saluting. There were flags tied onto the reflector poles and yellow ribbons. I mean, it just gives you a new sense of love for humanity and the patriotism that really truly is still alive and viable in this country. Given the opportunity, everybody wants to be able to be there to show their respect."
"People just pulled over on the side of the road that have no idea who we are or what's going on. We had people getting out of their cars and saluting as we went by. Even in Frannie, you don't think anybody lives there. And there people are," said Curtis. "The patriotism throughout the Big Horn Basin is just amazing. From the time we left Billings until the time we arrived here... I normally don't cry, but when I hit Worland it was overwhelming, especially being from here."
"This is a big thing and it's not all about the Patriot Guard, it's about Lieutenant Krogman, who should have been home 54 years ago, in my opinion," Curtis said. "[His services] are for him and the family, not for us."
Curtis went on to thank the Montana Patriot Guard, law enforcement all the way from Montana and across the state line, Vietnam Vets Legacy Vets, all of the communities and everybody else who joined in for helping them escort Krogman back to Worland.
"We enjoy the opportunity to be able to be here and show our respect for Lieutenant Krogman, a brother who finally got to come home," McGee said. "Part of the military deal is that we don't leave a fallen comrade. We've had entirely too many fallen comrades forgotten, except by their family, because the country has moved on while many of the rest of us have not."