Students and alumni of Texas A&M University formed what they called a “maroon wall” of volunteers around Central Baptist Church in College Park, Texas on Thursday, shielding the funeral of Army Lieutenant Colonel Roy Lin Tisdale from a group of protesters from the notorious Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas. College Park’s KBTX Channel 3 reported that a group of more than 600 counter-protesters turned out in the Texas university’s school colors to block the grieving family’s view of the Westboro Baptist members, who, in the end, never showed up.
Tisdale, 42, was killed in a training exercise on June 28 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He was a graduate of Texas A&M who served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Westboro Baptist is the parish of anti-LGBT pastor Fred Phelps, whose extended family form the bulk of his congregation. Waving signs that say “God hates fags” and “Thank God for dead soldiers,” the group travels to picket the funerals of fallen soldiers and other individuals who they perceive as having been overly sympathetic to the LGBT community. The church, whose daily operations have mostly been handed over to Phelps’s daughter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, contends that military casualties and other misfortunes that befall the U.S. are god’s punishment for the country’s increasing acceptance of LGBT people.
“We are standing here quietly. We are here for the family,” Lilly McAlister, a Texas A&M student, “Everyone has been told there’s no chanting, no singing, there’s no yelling anything back.”
In the end, the Westboro group never made an appearance and Tisdale was peacefully laid to rest by his family and friends. He was buried in the Aggie Field of Honor, a cemetery for Texas A&M alumni and staff.
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