To anyone who attends a Maine military reunion or funeral, the men and women on the motorcycles are sometimes more numerous than stars or stripes.
Limestone native Mike Edgecomb leads the 700-member Maine Patriot Guard Riders, which has no political platform, no dues, no meetings or even a requirement that you have a motorcycle.
"The only requirement is respect," said Edgecomb, the riders' state captain.
The Sun Journal wanted to learn a little more about Edgecomb and the group.
Name: Mike Edgecomb
Hometown: Spruce Head, Maine
Single, Relationship or Married? Married - Karen
Children? One daughter - Shannon
As the state captain of the Patriot Guard Riders, what do you do? I am just one of the many great PGR members. My job is to help coordinate the missions, welcome new members, help schedule events, and make sure we are following our mission statement. It reads: "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."
If people know the group at all, they probably have seen you escorting soldiers returning from Iraq or Afghanistan or at military funerals. What else do you do? We do support other veteran organizations. Many PGR members also belong to the American Legion, the VFW, the DAV, and many others. Some belong to various motorcycle groups or clubs. Wearing those other hats, as well as the PGR hat, we are all very busy supporting those serving and those who have served.
Understandably, members of the Patriot Guard Riders are a solemn group at funerals. Often, you're in formation or holding flags for extended periods. Is it difficult? Our Motto is: Standing for those who Stood for US. We will stand a flag line when requested by the family, in any weather and at any time. Any pain or difficulty we go through pales in comparison to what the family and friends are experiencing. I think the emotional toll is greater than any physical pain, and members must be prepared for that.
What keeps you going? It's the knowledge that we bring solace and comfort to the families. We often receive a note of thanks that expresses how much they appreciated our presence. That alone keeps us going. It also helps that I have the privilege to work side by side with an outstanding leadership team, and many dedicated riders.
What's kind of reception do you and other riders get from the general public? We are better known now and we are often approached and thanked for what we do if we are wearing items with a PGR patch or logo. The support we receive from everyone is amazing and heartfelt.
Are people ever scared of you? I hope we don't intimidate anyone. The most difficult part of the PGR Mission is not being the center of attention while riding shiny and sometimes loud motorcycles. What we do is never about us. It is always about the fallen hero and their family.
As war in the Middle East and media coverage have changed, has the public's response to the Patriot Guard Riders also changed? In the beginning, many people were wary of us because they did not know or understand what we do. We do not seek media coverage or blow our own horn. We do what we do entirely for the Fallen and their Family.
In your job with Time Warner Cable as its government relations director, you wear a suit. Are people surprised when they see you in the leathers or on your motorcycle? Oh yes! many do not recognize me! I will take this opportunity to thank Time Warner Cable for all the things they do to support our veterans, and for allowing me the time as needed to lead the Maine PGR.
How did you get involved with the riders? I read about the Patriot Guard Riders, or saw a news video, from one of the early funerals they attended -- Corey Dan of Norway. I immediately knew that this was something I wanted to do, and signed up.
Is the group looking for more members? Yes! It is not a requirement that you be a veteran. It doesn't matter where you're from or what your income is; again -- you don't even have to ride. We accomplish all communications via our web sites and Facebook. The National Web site is: www.patriotguard.org, and we have Maine website: http://www.mainepatriotguard.org/ and also a Facebook page: Maine Patriot Guard. My e-mail is email@example.com if anyone would like more information.