They not only have to deal with the loss but often have to deal with people who wish to either use them to promote themselves or as a symbol of politics. Finding people to trust is hard enough work for the parents, widow/ers, and children. I am very proud of how we have walked that fine line of support but not intruding.
There was a recent event I wish I could erase for one such family. The daughter of one fallen hero has really struggled being open and trusting people after her father was lost. One group she opened up to is the Patriot Guard. Every time she saw a flag line or a member proudly wearing their gear she walked up to talk with them.
At a Memorial Day mission she did what she normally does.. walk up to the Flag Line and talk to the members holding the flags.
The moment I wish we could erase is that this young girl was told "Can't you see I'm holding a flag? Don't bother me." In one moment we lost the trust of a family and a devastated young girl.
I don't think for one second the member who said meant anything bad and had they realized who it was would have immediately engaged this young girl. We coach and ask that the flag lines be places of silence and respect. We ask that the members move away from the line if they are going to have a conversation with anybody.
So this isn't about finding and identifying who this person is. This is a lesson on how to handle people who approach us because we never really know the person really is. If someone approaches you to talk you need to be polite and engage them. If you are on a flag line move away if you can. If it is at a point in time where it is important to the mission to stand there ask if you can talk later.
All of us, all 5,000 of us, are ambassadors for the Patriot Guard. Every one of us makes a difference to the people we support and we are measured one person at a time but looked at as a whole.
I will privately apologize to the family and young girl directly and ask how we can make this up to them. I am hoping that they can over look this and find a way to forgive it. If they can't I respect that as well as their choice. My concern isn't how I feel but how that young girl had a group she trusted taken from her in a split second.