My column describing the emotions displayed at the funeral of retired Command Sgt. Maj. Basil Plumley stirred up more feelings -- particularly my one-word description of the Patriot Guard Riders.
Setting the scene at the Fort Benning cemetery, I referred to the motorcycle escort that joined the procession as "a rag-tag squad of Vietnam vets." Wearing blue jeans, vests, do-rags and caps, the riders were members of the Patriot Guard, a group founded in 2005 to honor men and women who have served in the military or in law enforcement.
"The Patriot Guard Riders is a diverse amalgamation of riders from across the nation. We 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. We don't care what you ride or if you ride, what your political views are, or whether you're a hawk or a dove. It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. The only prerequisite is respect," their mission statement states.
Most commenters praised the column and, more importantly, the dedication of Plumley, who fought in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He died last week at the age of 92 and was buried Tuesday.
Johnny Brooks, a retired Army colonel, did not know Plumley but said he knew many noncommissioned officers who were cut from the same mold. "You seem to capture that characteristic of CSM Plumley. He must have truly been a wonderful senior NCO to be around and one I wish I could have served with."
G.J. Solensky of Shiremanstown, Pa., called Plumley a true American hero and a magnificent example of what military service is about. "Never one to brag about his achievements (and there were plenty to brag about), he simply went about his business in a professional, thorough, dedicated fashion. America could use more men like him."
Meanwhile, supporters of the Patriot Guard were irked at how I depicted them, including Becky Butler, who said they were there at the request of the Plumley family.
"My husband stands up for men who stood up for him," she said.
Jim Seymour said the comment was an "awful insult." He said he has "escorted many a hero in the same way and I have never not shed a tear as our men and women are taken to their final rest."
Will "Boots" Duke, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, demanded an apology. "It is incredibly unprofessional and inappropriate of you to refer to us using such a demeaning and disrespectful term," he wrote.
Another veteran, John Rinder, believed I referred to every veteran at the service. In an exchange of emails, I explained I was talking about only about the motorcycle escort. "Just know in the future if you write articles about the military please be more careful about what and how you phrase it."
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. He can be reached at email@example.com.