Donated plaques honor the memories of U.S. military veterans

Randy Cross doesn’t exactly like getting the emails. After all, each emailed request usually means that another U.S. service member has died.

The emails come from the Patriot Guard Riders, a group formed in 2005 to show love and support to military families at funerals and memorial services. When a military veteran dies, or when a funeral is planned, a member of the group emails Randy to share the deceased’s name, rank and branch of the service.

Then Randy gets right to work, sitting down at his computer to craft a memorial plaque to share with the service member’s family at the funeral.

Randy and Kathy Cross, owners of LaserPoint Awards & Promotional Solutions in Bellingham, never charge a cent for this work. Making these plaques is a labor of love, both for God and for those who are being recognized. This work is a way to show respect for U.S. veterans, and it’s a way to show support for their family members. And it is making a profound difference.

Funeral after funeral, plaque after plaque, the anecdotes come flooding in.

Dean Thiem, a member of the Patriot Guard Riders who often contacts Randy to ask for plaques, recently sent him the following note:

“Randy, wanted to share with you: The funeral director for the Fink service was brought to tears when she saw the plaque you made for PO3 Fink. The presentation to the mother and father brought gasps and many tears from the whole family.”

Other Patriot Guard Riders have shared similar thoughts.

“Randy’s love and patriotism shine through in his ability to provide the Patriot Guard Riders with the plaques for our veterans,” said PGR member Erik Eisenberg. “Not just myself, but all of us who have had the chance to present a plaque to the families have experienced what it has meant to them in their time of grieving.”

Eisenberg was present at the recent funeral for Army Pfc. Donald E. Mangan, who was killed during World War II and buried in a grave in Western Germany along with a dozen other U.S. servicemen. Mangan’s remains were recently identified, and the family decided he should be buried near other family members in Gig Harbor. The Seattle Times detailed the funeral in a couple of recent articles — one before the graveside ceremony, and one after.

At the funeral, Eisenberg presented a plaque made by LaserPoint to the family.

He later recounted the experience to Randy:

“First of all, words cannot even describe the family’s reaction to your plaque at Pfc. Mangan’s service. The love you showed them shined, brother. And they felt it.”

Sabrina Brown, who calls herself the “Mother Hen” of the PGR, shared her own observations from the funeral.

“Randy, I’ve told you before what an effect your plaques have on the families. This was even more so. When Erik handed over the plaque, you could hear everyone within two rows just gasp. The lady that received it, Julia, was just so overwhelmed and couldn’t say thank you enough.”

The plaques provided by LaserPoint have become an important part of the work that the Patriot Guard Riders do for military families in their time of need.

“I love Randy’s work,” Brown says, “and I don’t know if he really understands the difference his heart (that he obviously puts into his work) makes to these grieving families. Everyone who sees his plaques comments about how beautiful they are and how fitting they are to honor the person we are standing for.”

“To honor the person.” That, in a nutshell, is why Randy and Kathy Cross do what they do.

As Whatcom County business owners, they have been blessed with the artistic skills and resources necessary to help. So help they will.

To learn more about the Patriot Guard Riders, visit patriotguard.org.