My family and I found out this week that a local soldier, PFC Justin Whitmire, had died in Afghanistan and his funeral was going to be in Simpsonville. Westboro Baptist Church apparently decided it would be a good idea to come to Simpsonville and protest/picket(/whatever you want to call it) his funeral, and our friends and we simply could not let such a thing happen without taking action against it. We decided to meet along Main Street and other central roads in Simpsonville with flags, signs, and patriotic attire, hoping to block out the picketers and allow PFC Whitmire’s family and friends to mourn in peace.
As we drove into downtown Simpsonville, we saw cars lined up all along the back road where we parked…and a lot of motorcycles driving up and down the streets. Hundreds of them. Come to find out, those motorcycles were all in one group together and they call themselves the “Patriot Guard.” Apparently appearing at these kinds of events is their thing, and I thought that was pretty cool of them. They say they don’t go just to counter-protest WBC, but their presence certainly helped.
My sister and I had made a sign just before leaving for our little counter-protest which read, “We RESPECT and APPRECIATE your SACRIFICE,” and at least two people stopped along the way to take a picture of it. The kids seemed to have a blast waving their flags and marching back and forth down the side of the street. They probably had no real understanding of this being anything other than a giant 4th of July celebration in January, aside from the fact that a funeral was taking place. In a way, I think it was best for them that it wasn’t a traumatic, scarring experience, but rather a positive one.
The part that overwhelmed me, though, was watching the procession to the graveside from the side of the road, holding our sign, and remembering my grandfather’s funeral. If someone had been protesting his funeral (he was a vet, thankfully he didn’t die in the line of duty or I wouldn’t be here) I would have lost it. You’re already in enough grief and then some stranger starts preaching from the side of the road that your loved one is in hell because of their service to their country?? What a horrible thing to do to someone.
But the great thing is, so many people showed up from Patriot Guard and Simpsonville/Fountain Inn that WBC was pretty much outnumbered 20 to 1. I never even saw them, but I saw the amazing people from our area that care about the Whitmires, our military, and our community. The turnout was just unbelievable. When we tried to make it to the cemetery to help block the protesters, it took us almost an entire hour just to drive 2 miles down Main Street because so many people came out to show their support. I am so proud to be a part of this community. Let this be a lesson to the haters, you don’t mess with South Carolina!! 🙂 We stand up for what we believe in and rally around each other when someone is in need!
R.I.P. PFC Whitmire. Your community loves you and your family and we appreciate your service to this country.
God bless the USA!
UPDATE: 11:43 PM on Jan. 7th–It is unknown whether or not Westboro made an appearance, but according to the local news, if they DID show up, they were not obvious enough to create a disturbance. Mission accomplished!!!!! 🙂