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Florida Patriot Guard Riders—Standing For Those Who Stood For Us

Rep. C. W. Bill Young

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Mr. Speaker, on this, the somber anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation, I rise to say thank you to the more than 7,000 members of the Florida Patriot Guard Riders who have provided invaluable support to the families of the fallen and injured servicemembers in the ongoing war against terrorism.

With the motto of ``Standing for Those Who Stood for Us'', the Patriot Guard Riders provide motorcycle escorts for our fallen as they take them to their final resting places. They provide escorts for our injured servicemembers as they return home. And they provide color guard support for hundreds of ceremonies throughout our state of Florida and our Nation as we honor those who wear and who have worn the uniform throughout our history.

In the past month alone, hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders joined as we escorted Staff Sergeant Matthew Sitton of Largo, Florida, home to his final resting place. Staff Sergeant Sitton paid the ultimate price for freedom when he was killed by an IED blast in Afghanistan. Thousands and thousands of Matthew's friends and neighbors, and thousands more who had never met Matthew or his family, lined the streets of Tampa and Pinellas County to say thank you to him and his family as hundreds of Patriot Guard Riders provided a mile long escort to honor this American hero and his equally heroic family.

The Patriot Guard Riders were with us when we opened a Clearwater, Florida exhibit to remind us to never forget the lessons of the Holocaust. They lined the exhibit area with American flags as a tribute to those who served our nation during World War II, ``The Greatest Generation'' who restored freedom to Europe and freed the Nazi concentration camps.

The Patriot Guard Riders were also with us last week when we opened the new USO Lounge at the Tampa International Airport, to provide a place to support the thousands of troops who pass through Tampa annually, and to support their families when they come to await their return from their deployment and from their hospitalizations. Again, the Patriot Guard Riders lined the halls to show their thanks and their respect for our veterans of all generations as we dedicated this new facility.

Mr. Speaker, the Florida Patriot Guard Riders are led by State Captain Mike Donohoe, and Assistant State Captains Thomas ``T-Man'' Brown, Al Kaufman, Dave ``Buzzard'' Clark, Terry Hanifin, and Doug Horton. If space permitted, I would list the names of all 7,000 of the Florida riders who served our nation in uniform and who continue to serve their brothers and sisters in uniform.

The mission of the Patriot Guard Riders throughout our nation is to, ``show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes, their families, and their communities.'' It is also to, ``shield the mourning family and their friends from interruptions created by any protestor or group of protestors.'' Both of these missions are critical to our troops and their families. Throughout our nation's war against terrorism, my wife Beverly and I have been asked by the injured Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen at our military and veterans hospitals if the American people continue to support their mission. The Patriot Guard Riders make sure that when these American heroes return home, they know they are loved and appreciated by the people of their hometowns.

Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that my colleagues will stop and say a word of thanks every time they see a Patriot Guard Rider back home in their communities. These men and women do not serve and ride for their own personal recognition. They ride and they stand in formation as a group to say thank you from a grateful nation and to do as their motto states, to ``Stand for Those Who Stood for Us.''