Over 1, 000 residents of McAlester, a small town in rural Okalahoma, turned out for the funeral of a hometown military man who died serving the U.S.
Many who attended the funeral services also walked down the street to take part in a counter-protest against the Phelp's family's, who turned out, again, to carry and display their insensitive signs mocking the deaths of U.S. soldiers around the world.
The Phelp's family blame the death of each military man on God's hate for homosexuality and the military's tolerance of gays with the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy.
Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey, a 26-year-old soldier, was killed in Afghanistan just over a week ago, on Nov. 4. His funeral services were being held at the First Baptist Church of McAlester, two blocks away from the site the Westboro Baptist group chose to stage their well-known protest, reports Tulsa World
Shortly after finishing their demonstration and celebration of 'God's work', which to the Phelps family means God allowing the military soldiers to needlessly die in combat, the half-dozen protesters from Westboro Church in Topeka, Kansas, headed to their minivan, only to discover that its front and rear passenger-side tires had been slashed.
They quickly realized they were in the wrong town at the wrong time, said the Oklahoma counter-protesters.
After making a few calls and finding no locally owned business's willing to repair the damaged tires, the Phelp's clan drove the vehicle away from the scene on two tires, with a police officer following them for safety reason.
The Tulsa World
reported, even before the protesters discovered their damaged tires, they faced off with a massive crowd of jeering and taunting counter-protesters at Third Street and Washington Avenue, just down the street from the church.
After limping away on two wheels, the Phelp's minivan finally pulled over several blocks away in a shopping center parking lot, where AAA was called. A flatbed service truck arrived and loaded up the minivan. Assistant Police Chief Darrell Miller said the minivan was taken to Walmart for repairs and promptly left town after the work had been completed.
Asst. Chief Miller said he estimated the crowd, at the demonstration and counter-protest to number nearly 1,000 people, and said the Oklahomans not only drowned out the Westboro protesters with jeers, but with raucous chants of "USA, USA."
"They were proud Americans who only wanted respect to be extended to the McClusky family."
More than two dozen law-enforcement officers - state troopers, sheriff's deputies and city police - formed a security cordon around the Westboro protesters to avoid any physical altercations.
"We're here to protect everyone," Miller said
McCluskey was attached to the 27th Engineer Battalion, 20th Engineer Brigade, XVIII Airborne Corps out of Fort Bragg, N.C. He was in his second deployment to Afghanistan and was a combat engineer.
He was the point man for his unit, during a route clearance, the day he was killed by insurgents. His duty as the point man was to check the road for mines and booby traps to make sure that all soldiers in his unit could pass safely.
Because of his dedication to his job, his unit was able to complete its mission that day, Major Gen. Rodney Anderson of Fort Bragg, N.C, told the large crowd, who attended his funeral.
McCluskey laid down his life for the Army, his friends and his nation, Anderson said.
The soldier's grandmother, Anita McCluskey of Stockton, Calif., called her grandson a protector and defender.
"That's what he did. That was his way of life," she said through her tears.
She said her grandson not only showed his love for others in words, but in deeds.
As the funeral ended and with emotions overwhelming her, McCluskey stepped back from her grandson's flag-draped wooden coffin and presented him with a military salute of respect, a salute that was met with applause among the mourners.
This funeral, this soldier's death and this sad story of the mourning McCluskey family is an example of what Fred Phelps, his immediate family, and members of the Westboro Baptist Church drive hundreds of miles across the country to attend, in order to protest and spread their version of a hate-filled religion.