With engines roaring and American flags waving, ten Patriot Guard Riders escorted the casket of Ret. Army Sgt. Ryan Dickinson from the service in Islip, New York, to a nearby cemetery. The riders then stood with flags raised while taps was played and Dickinson’s casket was lowered into a grave.
The Patriot Guard Riders were honoring Dickinson as they have honored thousands of fallen U.S. military service people and first responders across the country since the organization launched in 2005. According to its website, Patriot Guards show up to demonstrate “respect for those who risk their lives for America’s freedom.”
Photographer Rick Wenner was also there. Dickinson had been a family friend, who, at 26, died much too young. The interment “was an incredibly powerful moment,” says Wenner. As he watched, he thought of a way to thank the riders, both those in attendance and in their group, which stands 100,000 strong. A few months later, he photographed 50 Patriot Guard Riders as well as some of Dickinson’s family. Here are seven images from that photo series, the Patriot Guard Riders, which recently won an award for excellence in portrait photography.
All photographs by Rick Wenner
“When I look at this flag, I’m proud of Ryan’s service but sad that this is all I have left of him.” Heather Dickinson, wearing husband Ryan Dickinson’s Army fatigues
“The patches on my vest tell of my love for our country and my respect for our military.” Karen Wirth, PGR Long Island cocaptain
“The flags we hold are not decoration. We are honoring someone who served this country.” L. W. Murphy, PGR Long Island cocaptain
“Whether the funeral is for a soldier killed in action or a homeless veteran, I feel the same pride and honor.” Nancy Greenseich, PGR Long Island cocaptain
Nevaeh Dickinson, seven, daughter of Ryan Dickinson.
Derek Quintana, PGR member since 2011