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Georgia Patriot Guard Riders remember fallen soldiers every day

7:32 PM, May 27, 2013   |    comments
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Georgia Patriot Guard Riders at Gwinnett County's Memorial Day service.

LAWRENCEVILLE, Ga. -- For members of the Georgia Patriot Guard Riders, every day is Memorial Day.

At a ceremony to honor fallen soldiers from Gwinnett County, close to three dozen volunteers on two wheels surrounded a Memorial Day service with flags waving.

The roar of their motorcycles has become a familiar and comforting sound to grieving families across Georgia.

"We all share in their grief," Ride Captain Jeff Goodiel said. "We all share in their sacrifice, and they'll never be alone."

For Pam Long, membership in the Georgia Patriot Guard Riders came forty years after losing three high school classmates to the Viet Nam war.

She never forgot, and spent those four decades contemplating the proper way to honor them.

"It gives me such peace knowing I can do something to ease the pain," Long said. "If I can ease the pain just a little bit."

Five thousand strong, the Georgia Patriot Guard Riders have stood with families at hundreds of funerals since 2005. They've welcomed home the wounded.

But their compassion reaches beyond airport reunions and cemeteries, to the mother still hurting years later.

"One of the families that we stood with her son, a lot of us went to their home and spent Memorial day with them having a crab boil," Goodiel said. "We've all become family."

They come from all walks of life. Most of them served in the military or have loved ones who did.

And then there's Otto Ojevaar. He served in the Army in his native The Netherlands. Now an American citizen, he joined the Patriot Guard seven months ago, and has become one of the most active members.

"The patriotism we see here in the United States, it's unequaled," Ojevaar said. "It's amazing. The U.S. as big as it is pulls together for its Armed Forces."

It pulls together like family.

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