Thursday, October 13, 2005

Religious Wrongs

My son (who spent a year in Iraq) brought this story to my attention. Ballastic has taken on a new meaning for me, based on my son's reaction to what happened to a fallen comrade and the insult given to all servicemen by these religious crazies.

Originally published on Wednesday, October 12

The Claremore Progress
By Linda Martin mail
Progress Staff Writer

(reprinted in it's entirety- font enhancement is mine for emphasis)
CHELSEA, OK — God spoke with the roar of revving motorcycle engines during a protest Tuesday by six members of a Kansas church that believes God is punishing the U.S. for protecting homosexuals by killing soldiers overseas.

Chelsea residents, however, believed God spoke on their behalf as the engines of more than 100 Veterans of Foreign Wars motorcycles drowned out the voices of the Westboro Baptist Church members who were allowed to protest from 1-1:30 p.m. before the 2 p.m. funeral services for Staff Sgt. John Glen Doles.

The protesters were escorted by police from the Chelsea Police Station to and from the protest site at the corner of Sixth and Vine streets a half block away. They left immediately after the protest, said Chelsea Police Chief Kenny Kelsey.

Chelsea’s main street was lined with American Flags in honor of Doles, who was killed when he and five others were ambushed by enemy fire last week in Afghanistan. He was laid to rest with honors in a small cemetery southeast of Chelsea.

Town and local law enforcement consisting of Chelsea police, the Rogers County Sheriff’s Department and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol made good their intent that nothing would disrupt funeral services for the local hero and his family.

Chelsea Mayor Kenny Weast said he received a fax last Tuesday saying church members would be in Chelsea to protest at the funeral.

Weast contacted local law enforcement and a successful plan was devised.

Said Weast: “We planned for the worst and hoped for the best.”

Weast’s own feelings about the protest, however resonated those of the town.

“What a tragedy to have a group like this protest the day of the funeral, one of the hardest days this family will have. It makes me sick,” he said.

Kelsey, Chelsea’s chief for six months, said neither set of protesters “were allowed to cross the street and every body stuck to it.”

The American Legion Riders from Southeast Kansas, which represented a number of Kansas towns and communities along with members of other organized motorcycle groups, attended the funeral to protest the protesters.

But the No. 1 reason was to show support for Staff Sgt. Doles and his family and to oppose Fred Phelps, who is the leader of the anti-homosexual group.

The bikers succeeded in keeping the protesters out of sight and sound of the Doles family but for anyone else close enough to see their brightly colored signs spoke loud and clear: “GOD IS YOUR ENEMY; GOD HATES THE USA; GOD IS AN AMERICAN TERRORIST; TOO LATE TO PRAY; THANK GOD FOR DEAD SOLDIERS; YOU’RE GOING TO HELL; GOD HAS SPOKEN IT’S NOT A BLESSING IT’S A CURSE and AMERICA IS DOOMED.”

The locals had a couple of signs of their own. Three older women held up a white sheet that said “SHOW AMAZING GRACE” and two young people held a cardboard sign saying “YE WITHOUT SIN CAST THE FIRST STONE.”

John B. Milam, a Chelsea native, said of his feelings about the protest, “I have no respect for anyone who has no respect for the dead.”

Wilma Fraley said, “I just think the family deserves a quiet, peaceful funeral for their hero. Thank God for the (local) people coming out to do this (show their support).”

At the cemetery, which was void of protesters, Doles’ team leader and 14 other fellow soldiers from Fort Polk in Louisiana who either trained or served with Doles attended the funeral.

Staff Sgt. Adam Oliver, Doles’ team leader, said, Doles “was the hardest worker I’ve ever seen in my life. He was one of those guys that everybody liked and probably the best soldier I’ve ever been in charge of. He was always willing to go the distance and beyond without ever being asked.”

Staff Sgt. Stephen Podymaitis, said “I’m just a better man for having known him.”

Podymaitis said he and his family lived next door to Doles and his family and their two sons practically grew up together.

“He brought happiness to everybody’s life,” Podymaitis said. Still in disbelief that his friend is gone Podymaitis said: “He’s a brother in arms and a brother in heart.”

posted by Is It Just Me? at 4:16 PM