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Patriot Guard Riders offer veteran a fitting tribute
Motorcycle-riding group honors Royal Villas resident at memorial service
The quiet streets of the Royal Villas community south of Tigard suddenly roared to life on the morning of Dec. 8 as dozens of Patriot Guard Riders rode in on their motorcycles to participate in a veteran's memorial service held at the Clubhouse.
Keith DeLashmutt, who passed away Nov. 17, was inducted into the U.S. Army in February 1953 and stationed in Korea, where he was awarded several medals before being honorably discharged in December 1954.
The Redmond native, who died at 81, and his companion of 25 years, Joyce Clark, were longtime residents of Royal Villas, and Clark invited the Patriot Guard Riders to participate in the memorial service, with about three dozen showing up.
On its website, the organization calls itself "a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation (who) have one thing in common besides motorcycles: We have an unwavering respect for those who risk their very lives for America's freedom and security."
A group of riders informally started the group on the East Coast in August 2005, and the national organization was founded in November of that year to shield families and mourners from anti-war protesters who disrupted funeral and memorial services for fallen veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Chris Keller.
She and her husband Greg are the state captains of the Oregon Patriot Guard Riders, which was founded in May 2006.
Members come from all over the state to attend funerals and services, "and some weeks we go to five services, or we can have multiple services in one day," Keller said. "We do a lot of services at Willamette National Cemetery, mostly during the week."
Jerry Manning, a Tigard resident who was the team captain for the Royal Villas service, said that he had attended 153 services during the year.
"We come to just stand in honor of military and first-responder personnel who have given their lives for our freedom," Manning said.
According to Keller, there are about 250,000 Patriot Guard Riders nationwide, including more than 2,000 in Oregon.
"We started with services for those killed in action, and that was our primary focus because of the war protestors, but it quickly grew to include first responders like firefighters and police officers," Keller said.
Guard members are imposing figures, with most dressed in de-rigor black leather, wearing hats and carrying full-sized American flags, and Manning added, "It's almost a prerequisite that you have facial hair."
Manning said about 80 percent of the members are retired, and Keller estimated that at least three-quarters are veterans themselves, although the organization is open to anyone.
"A lot of the initial members were Vietnam veterans or those who grew up during that time," Keller said. "As we've stayed the course, we've gotten more Iraq and Afghanistan war members."
Keller explained, "Usually people who are interested in joining contact us by email, and we welcome new people. We have definitely grown. And we have members who don't ride motorcycles. We say we don't care how you get there, just that you come and show respect."
Prior to the memorial service, Manning led the group in the pledge of allegiance and a prayer before talking about what the group would do that day.
Standing tall and holding their flags upright, members of the group lined the walkways of the Clubhouse, forming lines for family members and guests to walk through, which brought tears to more than a few eyes.
During the memorial service, after an Army cadet played "Taps" on his bugle, the Patriot Guard Riders filed through the Clubhouse with their flags held high before retiring to the parking lot to roll up the flags and head out singly or in groups of two or three.
I didnt know about the Patriot Guards coming, said Kameron DeLashmutt, Keiths eldest son, following the service. Joyce wanted to surprise us, and did. I thought it added a level of importance and solemnity. It made me proud, not only for dad, but for our veterans and our country. I thought I was prepared for the service, but that alone changed the tone and the nature.
Keller noted, "Our members come to events when they are available, adding that usually at least 25 show up. The Royal Villas service, which occurred on a Saturday, drew about 36. "This was a very good turnout today," Keller said. "I was shocked."
For more information, visit patriotguard.org.