Senator's nephew, Marine, killed...protestors show up at funeral


August 8, 2006, 12:36 AM

Family, friends honor Cpl. Baucus
Tribune Capitol Bureau

WOLF CREEK By the time the Chinook helicopter with the huge American flag streaming beneath it passed slowly over the ranch here, the protesters and their vile signs were gone, leaving Marine Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus to be put to rest in peace.

A July 29 suicide bombing in Iraq's Al Anbar province killed Baucus, the nephew of U.S. Sen. Max Baucus. He had been married less than a year.


"Every death is a shame, but even more so when one is so young and so intelligent and so vibrant and has so much to offer," said Anthony J. Preite, director of the Montana Department of Commerce, who attended the funeral.

He was among more than 500 people who drove from across Montana and neighboring states to attend the funeral at the sprawling Sieben Ranch, owned by his parents, John and Nina Baucus.

Baucus' status as a nephew of a U.S. senator also drew the attention of the Topeka, Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, whose members picket military funerals around the country. They believe the troops deserve to die because they fight on behalf of a government that, according to church beliefs, does not adequately condemn homosexuality.

Other groups have started staging silent counter-protests. On Sunday, Tom and Colleen Broeker of Great Falls took part in one here at the turnoff leading to the ranch.

"We are here to support a poor, young kid who had to die too young and whose family deserves a peaceful funeral," said Colleen Broeker.

Across the road, four members of Westboro Baptist including 20-year-old Megan Phelps-Roper, daughter of its founder, the Rev. Fred Phelps held up signs at the turnoff leading to the ranch.

"Thank God for dead soldiers," read one. "Soldiers Die, God Laughs," read another.

"They have a constitutional right to be here," sighed Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Cheryl Liedle, whose deputies were out in force Sunday.

"We're out here to make sure that nothing untoward happens to anyone, particularly to members of our community, and to keep the peace and tranquility for an honorable soldier," she said.

A procession of pickup trucks driven by well-dressed people with stony faces kicked up clouds of dust as they sped past.

"That's right. Don't even look at them," yelled Roy Banks, 54, of Helena, a disabled veteran. He was among about 15 people, including other veterans and members of church groups, who gathered to form a peaceful counter-protest to the Westboro Baptist contingent.

The church's actions spurred a measure, signed into law by President Bush on Memorial Day, that prohibits protests at or near national cemeteries. Baucus voted for the Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, hence Westboro's presence at his nephew's funeral, according to Westboro attorney Shirley Phelps-Roper. About 26 states have enacted similar laws, she said.

"What he got for his trouble ... is a dead nephew," Phelps-Roper, another of Phelps' daughters, said in a telephone interview.

At 2 p.m. sharp, when the funeral was to begin, the members of Westboro Baptist packed up their signs and left. The helicopter rattled into view a few moments later, the flag fluttering from its belly.

At the protest site, a bearded man holding a flag of his own tilted his head skyward, a tear tracing a path through the dust on his sun-reddened cheek.

Those at the funeral remembered Baucus' more lighthearted moments. Family members who recalled a scatterbrained youngster seemed surprised when Baucus' fellow Marines spoke of a supremely well-organized recruit, according to funeral pool reporter Charles S. Johnson of Lee Newspapers.

"He didn't become a hero when he died. He was a hero before then," said Baucus' older brother, John. He faced his brother's casket and raised his hand to his forehead.

"I'm saluting my brother and my hero. I'll miss you."

And the "free spirit, almost irreverence," of which his uncle, Max, spoke was on display at the end of the funeral. After the other ceremonies the 21-gun salute; the presentation of the folded flag to his widow, Kathy; the bugled "Taps" and "Amazing Grace" on a bagpipe; the doves released by the Marines there was one more, a Baucus family tradition that was Phillip's favorite.

There was a loud bang and a lot of smoke. An anvil flew through the air, landing about 30 feet from a car. The Baucuses send anvils flying at family events and on holidays. They used to use one pound of gunpowder to accomplish the feat; Phillip insisted up on two. That's what was used Sunday.

Some two hours after the service began, the pickups began their procession back toward the highway. As they left the ranch, they passed a sign taped to a fencepost. It bore a single word:


Contact Gwen Florio at 406-442-9493, or

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August 8, 2006, 02:59 AM
My heart goes out to the family.

I am impressed with the tolerance afforded to the protesters; Montanans are very libertarian, as a whole (that doesn't necessarily include the transplant and some of the college student populations at UM and MSU, though), and although they may not agree with either the message or motive of the protesters, they grit their teeth and acknowledge that even if they don't agree with the position, folks have a right to express their views.

Dollars to doughnuts all the protesters were from out of state.;)

The jury is still out on Baucus on RKBA issues; he generally tends to vote with the national D party position, much to the chagrin of his constituents. It is truly strange that an inland northwest Senator would even be remotely flexible on such things. It's a pity that the populace is hesitant to replace him because it would mean the loss of a fairly influential senior senator who brings back a healthy amount of pork.

Even if he isn't supportive on firearms issues, though, he is nonetheless at least part human, and deserves the same sympathy all other families who have lost loved ones overseas should receive.

And good on them for anvil tossing in the soldier's honor!!:cool:

edit: make that "Marine's" honor.

Byron Quick
August 8, 2006, 03:22 AM
The good Lord might forgive those so-called protesters. I never will.

August 8, 2006, 04:53 AM
I've witnessed these protesters up close and personal. We turned our back to them.

Dr. Dickie
August 8, 2006, 06:34 AM
I believe these folks are from some church in Topeka Kansas (I could be wrong, but that is what I remember).
Yeah, they have a right to voice their opinion. But we also have a right to voice an opinion. If I lived within driving distance to this so-called church, I would do everything within my power to have a protest outside their doors.
I must stop writing now. I do not believe in Hell, but for these folks I am at least hoping there is:fire:

August 8, 2006, 08:41 AM
I feel for the family and friends.

We had a group of about 10 protesters at my friends funeral last month. They were there to test the new law distance laws in Florida. Luckily they were far enough away that most never saw them, plus the 150-200 Patriot Guard Riders helped.

August 8, 2006, 09:33 AM
These freaks are from the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas.

Several states (including Kansas) have passed laws saying that they must remain at least 300 feet away from any funeral.

The House passed H.R. 5037, the "Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act" by a 408-3 vote (21 non-votes). The Senate passed it unanimously, and Bush signed it on May 29. It bans all unapproved demonstrations at Arlington and other federal burial grounds. It also bans protestors from coming within 500 feet of a military cemetery an hour before to an hour after the funeral. The only down side, is that I don't think it says anything about funerals not taking place on government land, which is why individual states are still passing their own laws.

Of course the ACLU already filed suit in Kansas against the law. If it gets struck down in Kansas, all other states will follow.

August 8, 2006, 10:10 AM
I wish that I had been able to make it to Great Falls that day.

August 8, 2006, 10:32 AM
I do not believe in Hell, but for these folks I am at least hoping there is

I do, and I suspect that they'll get to see it up close and for an extended duration.

August 8, 2006, 10:40 AM
Good old ACLU. Call me when they stop wasting time and money and decide to fight for a legitimate civil liberty, like a national right-to-carry law. The counter-protestors are better than I am, I don't think I could maintain composure around such awful people.

August 8, 2006, 10:42 AM
Those retards have a website, believe it or not. I was suprised that they could muster up enough intelligence to make one. They even put a "Warning Page" before you go to their main page.

Here is an interview with one of the leaders of the group and a fox news reporter:

And on their Wiki Page ( says those creeps went to protest resque efforts at ground zero after 9-11-2001.

August 8, 2006, 10:44 AM
It speaks well of the character of our nation that these protestors are still alive.

I find it amazing that despite the offence that they commit against the deceased and the deceased's family, none of them have received a prolonged @$$ whoopin.

It takes a tremendous strength of will to see something like that and turn your back on it.

August 8, 2006, 11:30 AM
I know in which direction I would have shot the anvil.......

August 8, 2006, 11:33 AM
but if there were others and this trash showed up at the funeral, I know I would not be able to contain myself..............enough said.....chris3

August 8, 2006, 11:40 AM
Not gun related, and, truth be told, I'd rather not allow THR to be used as a way to get publicity for this inbred group of mouthbreathing oxygen thieves.

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