|When Veteran's Day Just Isn't Enough|
When Veteran's Day Just Isn't Enough
By Lisa Price Waltman
It all began due to a lack of understanding and proper respect. One date in November and one Memorial Day in May simply didn't cut it. So, 25 years ago, The Salute to American Veterans Rally and Festival was born with a whopping 15 bikers in attendance. Year by year, one biker here, another ten bikers there, the numbers began to grow as did the overdue understanding and proper respect for the service and sacrifice of our American veterans.
Contrary to those who might only notice the long line of loud and colorful bikes, it's not "just another rally" or "a bunch of bikers" trying to disrupt a quiet mining-turned-casino town. It is (currently) 30,000 participants; civilians and children, bikers and babes, vehicles and veterans all stepping up to properly salute those who give and gave everything to provide us such freedoms as the right to host such a civil gathering.
Traditionally held in Cripple Creek, Colorado, The Salute to Veterans Rally has become the largest veteran's event in the state of Colorado. Thousands are drawn to the festivities for various reasons but everyone departs with the same heartfelt gratitude. And while in years past, 30 or 40 Prisoner's of War were among the dignitaries, this year only two remained, but stood as tall and prideful as they had in their years as active duty soldiers. While vintage planes flew overhead in tribute, Ed Beck, held by the German's in WWII and Les Stroup held captive during the Korean War, battled back tears of pride as their stories of unbelievable sacrifice were read to the hundreds in attendance.
Certainly a moving portion of the rally was when 18 names were called of those who had made their final journey home after being declared MIA/KIA decades earlier. The names, their service and dates of duty were called out followed by a somber "Welcome Home. Rest in Peace." The bell tolled after each name and a white dove was released for each service member as the crowds watched in silence, through tears of respect and reverence.
Not far from the formal ceremony, the Traveling Vietnam War Memorial stood at attention for all visitors seeking the names of lost buddies or family members. And much like the original Wall in Washington, D.C., the same serge of emotion ensues. For those wanting to pay tribute to a service or family member who had served, volunteers stood with Sharpie's in hand by the Signature wall covered in white paper where names and written messages of thanks were left by thousands of visitors.
Returning this year was the favored veteran "Bady" (officially "BadAss"), the German Shepherd, a retired Vet who had lost a leg in an explosion and had been recently adopted by Col. And Mrs. Mike Kasales, Commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson. Deployed in Afghanistan, Col Kasales, penned a letter, read by his wife, thanking everyone for their personal contributions and for their support of our Vets.
Amidst the ceremonies, vendors, bands and a multitude of events there is always…the region and the ride. The miles of winding roads leading to the spectacular Cripple Creek/Victor area are legendary with their challenging twists and turns. The miles-long procession of bikes along this amazing route is an experience to watch as well as in which to participate. Outside of Cripple Creek, local residents in chairs, trucks, cars, campers, etc., fly their flags as they wave on the procession. If you've ever felt the wave of patriotism flood your senses then you certainly can imagine how fantastic it must be to experience hours upon hours of this sense of pride; of community and camaraderie.
When asked how success is measured at such an event, Jim Wear, President of Pro Promotions and event lead simply said: "When you receive comments such as from the WWll POW who said "You and your friends have done more to honor me and my fellow POW's than our own government ever did" or the Vietnam Vet who said "I have been back 35 years and this is the first time I have felt 'welcomed home." then you know you're accomplishing what you set out to do. I could go on as these types of comments happen a lot and they are what keep us going." Wear said.
So now, any worthwhile calendar not only sports Veteran's Day in November and Memorial Day in May, but an additional three days in August where the entire state of Colorado turns a quiet mining town of the 1800's into a massive display of gratitude and respect by thousands of citizens who now understand and can better appreciate these folks we call "Veteran's".
|Last Updated on Thursday, 15 October 2015 14:51|