There was a memorial service two days ago in Beckley, West Virginia for the 29 coal miners who died at the nearby Upper Big Branch mine April 5th.
Twenty-eight hundred people attended the service. Most of them were there to pay their respects and console the grieving. At least a couple of them were there to make symbolic, political appearances.
Many of the working class men who died were veterans and some of them rode motorcycles. A source has told this page that “Families of the miners killed in the explosion…had requested the Patriot Guard Riders attend.” The Patriot Guard Riders is an informal club of veteran motorcyclists which exists to make sure that all veterans are given respectful funerals. And, they were banned from this service by federal officials because those officials believe the Patriot Guard is a security threat.
Cleared With Governor
The appearance of the Patriot Guard at the service, at the request of at least several families, was cleared by West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin. Travis Mollohan, a senior aide to the Governor worked with the Patriot Riders to arrange a staging location.
The day before the service, Joe Cumblidge, the West Virginia State Captain of the Patriot Guards emailed the men who were scheduled to participate: “Due to circumstances totally and completely beyond the control of the Patriot Guard Riders and Governor Joe Manchin of West Virginia, we are regrettably ordering a STAND DOWN for this mission. Specific details will not be posted here but, we’ve been told we are not welcome to participate because of certain high-level dignitaries that are scheduled to be in attendance.”
The “high-level dignitaries” were President Barack Obama and Vice-president Joe Biden. A Patriot Guard Rider named Pat Hanifin told WSAZ in Charleston that Manchin had been forbidden to allow the Patriot Guard to participate “because of overwhelming security concerns with high-ranking federal officials – it was just not logistically possible for them to be a part of the event.”
A member of the Patriot Guard who had planned to ride that day told this page, “the reason was because the Secret Service did not want us there because of the possibility of the President attending. Why? So he can stand there like a fool and disrespect every veteran in attendance with his hands crossed?”
Obama And Biden
At the service, the President stood in front of a row of 29 crosses and told the mourners, “Our task, here on Earth, is to save lives from being lost in another such tragedy. To do what we must do, individually and collectively, to assure safe conditions underground. To treat our miners like they treat each other, like a family. Because we are all family and we are all Americans.”
Vice President Biden, who spoke before the President, warmed up the crowd with a wise crack intended to insult West Virginia’s most prominent recent football coach, Rich Rodriguez. Rodriguez left West Virginia for the University of Michigan after the 2007 season.
“They loved hunting, fishing, riding horses and four-wheelers,” Biden said of the dead miners. “They hated the way Coach Rodriguez left West Virginia for Michigan.” Biden’s remark seemed to charm the mourners, who applauded.
Both Biden and Obama managed to escape West Virginia unharmed.