Military families react to funeral protests

By Tyler Profilet

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - A Missouri federal judge says a state law that limits protests at solider's funerals violates the protesters free speech, and is unconstitutional.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church based out of Topeka, Kansas have demonstrated at the funerals of local soldiers.

Local families say they can't believe protesters will be allowed to protest the funerals of fallen soldiers.

One man who dealt with the church group was very outspoken, and his message to the protesters is don't come back to the heartland.

"Probably a good thing they didn't show up because emotions run so high because you're grieving the loss of somebody and that loss can easily turn into anger," said Ross Gartman.

Gartman is the president of the Heroes Way Program and a former Army combat engineer.

He remembers when the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to protest the funeral of his friend, Bradley Skelton.

"It was the night before the funeral was supposed to happen and they were supposed to be in town. Needless to say, there were a lot of ex-military people there. We were pretty worked up I'd say."

Gartman and a spokesman for the Patriot Guard Riders said while it's hard, the best advice is to just ignore the protesters, and not give them the attention they want.

And that's why some families said they didn't want to speak on camera.

"You pick your head up and walk by it. They don't even justify the turn of the cheek so to speak. Just keep moving," Gartman said.

The church says the soldiers death is god's punishment for the United States's tolerance of homosexuality.

But Gartman says it's all about attention.

"Giving them media attention is all they want anyway. Their cause is crazy. To say it's God based is absolutely wrong," he said.

And Gartman says the irony of the situation is that the soldiers are fighting for the right to free speech that the judge says Missouri law violates.

"And for somebody to stand out there and wave signs that they want more people killed, it's heartless, it's just not something that you do," he said.

Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster's office released a statement saying he plans to appeal the ruling.

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