Forty-two year old Army Lieutenant Colonel Roy Lin Tisdale, a Texas A&M graduate, was killed last week by a fellow soldier at Fort Bragg, N.C.. Tisdale had served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and while most expected a respectful funeral for the fallen soldier, shortly after his death word spread that Westboro Baptist Church members were planning to protest it.
According to KBTX.com, Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas targets military funerals “because of a belief that God punishes soldiers because of America’s tolerance of gays.” The organization does this regardless of whether or not the fallen solider is a member of the LGBT community.
When Ryan Slezia, a former Texas A&M student, heard of the group’s potential plans, he decided to do something about it. He organized fellow Aggies via Facebook, writing, “In response to their signs of hate, we will wear maroon. In response to their mob anger, we will form a line, arm in arm. This is a silent vigil. A manifestation of our solidarity.”
On the day of the funeral, hundreds of students and alumni showed up, linking arms to create a human barricade surrounding the church’s entrance. Most people in the group wore maroon, which is Texas A&M’s color.
Lilly McAlister, a Texas A&M student, told KBTX.com, “We are standing here quietly. We are here for the family. We are positioned with our backs to them. Everyone has been told there’s no chanting, no singing, there’s no yelling anything back.”
While the group was prepared for a potentially aggressive confrontation with protestors from Westboro Baptist Church, no one from the group ever showed up.