A Healing Road Trip

It’s a funny thing if you think about it…when seeing a group of guys in leather jackets, riding down the highway, we immediately think that they may represent a sector of society that has a tendency to always be on the wrong side of the law.

But, if you take the time and look really close at their bikes and leather jackets, you may see a patch that says ‘Patriot Guard.’  Know that this would mean this guy is part of an elite patriotic, nearly 100% Vietnam veteran group.

This dedicated bunch sole purpose is to ensure respect is given to our current military. They can always be seen as a KIA military service member arrives home or at the side of a family as they say good-bye to deploying troops.  They are the most patriotic part of what we stand for in America. 

On this patriotic, 12-hour non-stop bike run from Monroe, MI to Washington, D.C., the guys were making their annual pilgrimage to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

One of the main purposes was to leave in front of the wall, a collection of items and wreath in honor of their recently passed riding comrade and Vietnam veteran Carl Shefferd who did three tours in Vietnam.  Carl was a highly decorated veteran: 3 Purple Hearts and 3 Bronze Stars.

This journey was organized by Vietnam veteran Jim Kehres, a Purple Heart recipient himself, who lost sixteen friends the day he was shot while serving in Vietnam.

One of the most memorable accounts for me was when all of the veterans gathered around the iconic statute of the three Vietnam soldiers.  There was something magical about the moment, as dozens of people who had come to view the wall that day all stopped and watched in awe of this sight of the powerful brotherhood of our American veterans.

For this period of time, all chatting noise stopped and everyone became totally silent.  If that wasn’t a strong enough moment, as the men started to walk away, WWII veterans came up to shake their hands to thank them for their service – clearly a gesture that had not taken place some 40 years earlier.

As the guys would all head off together, one of them whose nickname is “Flagman,” split off and made his way to the WWII Memorial where he would drop some of his father’s ashes at Atlantic Monument. Mike’s father was a ball gunner on a B-17.  As Mike says, “he was my hero.”  They call him Flagman because he’s never without a flag.  To date, he has ran over 58,000 miles to honor the fallen forces who served in Vietnam.

A great lesson can be learned for all of us who did not serve or for the younger generation: Freedom is not Free.  These men and women of this generation is the backbone of what makes America patriotic.

We must thank them for their passion and continues personal sacrifice they continue to show today for our service members.