As Jamestown prepares to say its final goodbyes to Army Captain Joshua McClimans this week, the tiny community is expecting a large number of visitors for Friday's funeral.
"Its not been just myself getting e-mails. The post is innundated with phone calls from people and from groups that are going to be here on Friday," said Jamestown VFW post commander Ernie Huffine.
But one group won't be so welcome. Members of the activist Westboro Baptist Church are listing the McClimans services as a possible demonstration site.
The Topeka, Kansas based church has become infamous for its loud protesters, most carrying signs with vulgar and obscene messages. Huffine said he hopes they stay away, saying, "I'm just afraid for their safety."
Church members often target military funerals, claiming the deaths of service men and women are God's way of punishing Americans for their acceptance of homosexuals. While no one from the church returned our calls Wednesday, we spoke with the daughter of the church's pastor in 2006. Shirley Phelps-Roper told us at the time "its a righteous thing for God to execute judgement upon a generation of God-hating earth dwellers who obey-not God, who know-not God and obey-not the Gospel."
Leaders with the veterans' motorcycle group the Patriot Guard Riders will also be on hand Friday to show their respects to the McClimans family. Senior Ride Captain Lee Wentling said "it's not our mission to engage with any of the demonstrators," adding, "we indeed do try to form a shield between them and the family."
At this point, we really don't have any way of knowing for sure that Westboro Baptist members will be at the McClimans services. They've been known to list funerals around the country just to stir up even more controversy.
But there could well be several hundred of the Patriot Guard members in Jamestown just in case.
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