The Support the Troops Ride 2019 became the largest motorcycle event Rooster and I attended for the year. Rides show up from all over the mid-west to participate. #motorcycle events #Support the Troops Ride #ABATE #Indiana
Supporting the Troops Ride 2019
It was 2003, and our country was going to war. September 11, 2001, wasn’t far from our nation’s collective memory. Images of the Twin Towers falling and the horrific thought of it happening again became our worst nightmare. We were waging war against international terrorism with an enemy we couldn’t define or isolate to a geographical location.
When President George W. Bush claimed Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction, our country was in no mood to argue. We soon saw soldiers with boots on the ground in the desert sands in a faraway land in what was called “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”
What the Troops Ride is all about
This war was being waged differently from the war in Vietnam. The draft wasn’t activated. The soldiers marching off to battle were an all-volunteer army. This gave birth to the professional soldier. There were no protesters armed with signs marching in the streets. The American public wasn’t privy to a running casualty list on the evening news. We seldom talk about this war against terror. It’s almost as if it’s being waged in silence. The returning soldier seemed to be greeted with the standard catchphrase, “Thank you for your service.” Sixteen years later the theatre of combat has changed, but the overlooked war is still going on.
A group of bikers made the decision to do more than mumble a simple catchphrase for the soldier’s fighting this invisible war. They decided to put on a ride the last week in April until the last soldier engaged in combat had their boots back on American soil. Pungent memories of what happened to the armed forces returning home from Vietnam were still on their hearts and minds. They would honor the men and women who were in harm’s way until the fighting was finished. None of them thought they would be putting on this ride for sixteen years.
The morning of the event
This past Sunday an estimated eight hundred motorcyclists gathered in Darrough Chapel Park in front of the Veteran’s Memorial for the Support the Troops Ride. This seventy-five-mile trip would take them through Howard, Tipton, Madison, and Grant counties. The sky was blue, but the temperatures were in the low sixties.
The idea was to dress in red, white, and blue, but nobody could see this display of patriotism under all the jackets and leather. American flags flew from the rear fenders of many of the motorcycles. The sixties and early seventies rock-n-roll blared from large speakers affixed to one of the trailers. American flags lined the lane which would lead the ride out onto the roadway.
What is ABATE?
There was nothing political about the event. Republicans and Democrats gathered together with the common goal of supporting the American soldier. Even with the 2020 election right around the corner, not one single politician stopped by to glad-hand the voters. A politician arriving with the idea of campaigning in this crowd gathered for this solemn event would have received a cold welcome. (Abate is a biker’s rights organization. Most of the people present are registered to vote.)
It is amazing what we can do as a country when we put our differences aside and unite for a cause. Maybe if we did this sort of thing more often, we might solve some of our country’s pressing problems like crime in the streets, racial discrimination, and global warming. Somehow, I believe we have forgotten the things we have in common because we are constantly bombarded with messages by the media about how divided we are as a nation. And so, that is why Rooster and I participated in the Support the Troops Ride 2019.
Grandson carrying on the tradition.
One of the interesting aspects of the Troops Ride is you run into people you haven’t seen all winter. These folks have emerged from hibernation to come out and support the troops. There is a lot of handshaking and hugging taking place all over Darrough Chapel Park. Our Grandson tracked down Rooster and me.
It is encouraging to see the tradition carried on by the next generation. There is a lot of fraternizing taking place until the clock hands reach 1:30. The Star Spangled Banner is sung, a prayer is said, and the ride gets underway. Indeed, Rooster and I proudly welcomed our grandson to the Support the Troops Ride 2019.
Why the Troops Ride can be dangerous.
Some of the most dangerous riding we’ll do all year takes place during the Support the Troops Ride. The ride is a police escorted, yet navigating over eight-hundred motorcycles down a seventy-five mile stretch of highway is challenging. There is also a question of skill that comes into play on this trip. Some of these bikers have never road in a pack. Others only pull their motorcycles out of the garage for this event. There are also those folks who like to breeze down the road at sixty miles an hour side by side when it would be best to ride staggered.
One of the ride leaders offered Rooster a spot near the front of the pack. I knew he wouldn’t take it. He prefers to ride in the back. He claims he has more movability riding in the rear. Therefore, we practiced extreme caution on the Support the Troops Ride 2019.
On the ride
We coasted through the streets of Kokomo without incident. People waited along the route waving flags to show support. We picked up speed when we hit the highway. We made it down US 31 to the roundabout onto highway 28 without anyone going down. The folks in Tipton turned out to cheer us on like they always do. The windmills outside of Elwood always thrill my heart. They are proof we are trying to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. It might prove to be too little too late, but it gives me hope. The incident on the ride occurred in the city of Elwood.
A guy who had finished mowing his lawn decided to blow grass clipping into the roadway in front of the road where the motorcycles were traveling. A few tense moments happened as riders from the right side of the lane merged with riders on the left to avoid the slippery road surface created by the newly mowed grass. Fortunately, the motorcyclist rode in staggered formation, as a result, it gave them space to make the sudden maneuver around the road obstacle. All things considered, Support the Troops Ride 2019 went down as a fantastic adventure.
After the ride was over, a group of us went to the Xcaliber motorcycle clubhouse to sample some tasty barbeque. We enjoyed a couple of hours of hospitality and old-fashioned biker comradery. It turned out to be a wonderful day. On the positive side, everyone finished the ride without incident. No one had an accident. We spent a chilly afternoon riding for a good cause with some fantastic people. We will do it over again next year if our troops are still in harm’s way.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
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