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Patriot Guard Riders honor veterans, first-responders

Daily Independent - 3/31/2023

Mar. 31—John McGlone gets chills every time he hears "Taps" and sees a family receive a folded flag representing their fallen loved one.

McGlone found purpose in his retirement by serving as a Patriot Guard Rider.

It all started with a passion for motorcycles, an admiration he couldn't let reach the surface while his parents were around.

McGlone and his brother grew up riding dirt bikes out in Boyd County. They ended up getting motorcycles, but after his brother broke his leg in 1985, things took a turn for the worse. When John was 17, his brother died after suffering complications from surgery following the accident.

"Out of respect, I never (rode motorcycles) again," McGlone said. "That's my way of showing respect for them. No parent should ever have to bury their child, and I saw the stress and sorrow that caused for them."

After his parents passed away, McGlone decided to ride again.

After coming across a story about the Patriot Guard Riders in The Daily Independent about five years ago, he quickly became part of the group.

"Our primary mission is to provide escort and honor for funeral services of veterans and first-responders," McGlone said. "We're a heavy veterans organization. A lot of people don't realize we do first-responders as well."

McGlone is a not a veteran. That's not a requirement for the Patriot Guard Riders. His biological father was in the Air Force, he said, but that wasn't his primary reason for getting involved.

McGlone said he loves meeting veterans and hearing their stories.

Families are appreciative of PGR's presence.

"They stop to thank you — and you think about all the miles we spend on the road, all the things we do and time spent away from our own families, neglecting chores around the house — and you know that that moment you spent a day doing something worthwhile."

The Patriot Guard Riders are a brotherhood, McGlone said, and while they don't technically have religious affiliation, they begin every mission with prayer.

"We get ready for a mission and you've got 20 to 30 guys standing there in black leather, and we've all got heads bowed and holding hands, it's pretty touching," McGlone said. "We mean a lot to each other."

The crew is diverse, he said.

One of the dedicated ladies of PGR doesn't actually ride a bike, but she shows up in a car and helps out at pretty much every occasion.

Grandchildren and children will ride with members from time to time, too, McGlone said.

Kentucky's Patriot Guard Riders work closely with the Ohio and West Virginia installments, McGlone said.

For a mission to be declared official, it must be an event — typically a funeral — regarding first-responders or honoring veterans.

"No" is rarely in the Riders' vocabulary, even when there are multiple funerals happening simultaneously. A big group will convene, split off and go their separate ways.

Not long ago, some of the Patriot Guard Riders stepped up and became pallbearers for a day at a funeral service for a veteran who didn't have any family members physically able to handle those duties.

"In the five years I've been involved, we've never said no," McGlone said.

The Riders assist at the Veterans Cemetery in the laying of the wreaths on Memorial Day annually.

McGlone likes to see the youth come out to honor veterans, such as a 4- or 5-year-old girl he witnessed placing wreaths this past Memorial Day.

"Her mother is teaching her about veterans and the importance of recognizing them," he said.

The Patriot Guard Riders also participate in a Pony Express, in which they escort the remains of veterans and first-responders "literally across the country," McGlone said.

McGlone's main motorcycle is a 2010 Harley Road King.

For cold or foul weather, he'll break out his Honda Gold Wing, which features heated grips and seats.

When the Patriot Guard Riders served in Cpl. Jacob Moore's funeral service in 2022, it was snowing.

Patriot Guard Riders membership is open to anyone, according to McGlone.

"The only requirement is to show honor and respect for veterans and first-responders," he said.

Visit for more information or to apply. McGlone said anyone interested may also contact him on Facebook.


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