On Thursday August 11th, hundreds of Oklahomans, waving flags and boasting signs, lined I-35 Frontage Road to stand with the the grieving family of a fallen soldier and community member against protesting members of the Westboro Baptist Church. 2nd Lt. Jered Wayne Ewy died July 29th in Paktia, Afghanistan from wounds suffered in an insurgent attack.
Nearly one mile from the funeral site, Henderson Hills Baptist Church, Westboro Baptist Church members displayed signs and shouted at passing cars. “God is killing your children in His righteous wrath for the sins of this evil nation,” an announcement on Westboro’s site said.
Pam Parker held a flag and greeted 2nd Lt. Ewy’s family and friends as they parked for the funeral. “If it weren’t for the death of men like him, those people (Westboro protestors) wouldn’t have their freedom of speech,” Parker said, “I’m just so very, very proud. There is nothing like knowing people are with you.”
Shortly after Westboro’s appointed time of protest began, thunderstorms moved into the area. The downpour cut Westboro’s protest brief, while the counter-protest at Henderson Hills maintained hundreds of participants.
“We call this training weather,” Jim Norton, Vietnam Veteran and Ewy family supporter, said, “What’s a little rain and lightning?”
Norton did not want to call his presence at the Ewy funeral a counter-protest. “This is not a protest at all. This is support. We are here showing support for our troops, our fallen heroes. We’re Americans. We are supporting our brothers and sisters.”
Westboro protestors influenced state laws restricting funeral protests. Gov. Mary Fallin signed a law forbidding any protest within two hours before or after the funeral, and also a law forcing protestors to demonstrate at least 1,000 feet away from the site of the funeral. The previous distance was 500 feet.
2nd Lt. Ewy served Edmond as a gymnastics coach. He graduated from the University of Central Oklahoma with a degree in criminal justice. He began his military career with the Army in 1998 and became a second lieutenant in 2011.
The Ewy family created the Jered Ewy foundation to aid the soldier’s spouse and daughter. Donations can be made at www.ewyfoundation.org.