A small group of road weary bikers pulled into the Horizon Casino Resort parking lot Wednesday, culminating a 2,500-mile ride to honor America’s fallen soldiers.
“We had four bikes that had to be towed,” ride captain Robert Jones said. “But the ride itself has been incredible. The reception we’ve received was incredible.”
The group of about 10 motorcyclists started in Washington State and rode through Oregon, Nevada and California, stopping to present plaques to gold star families or families of soldiers killed in war. With several gold star families and about a dozen veterans in attendance, the eight-day ride ended Thursday in Stateline.
“I think it’s a good thing to remind the public of our fallen soldiers,” said Karl Johnson, a South Lake Tahoe veteran who attended the event. “These guys are giving their lives and their limbs for the country.”
The group, known collectively as Tribute to Fallen Soldiers, rode with a small motorcycle trailer carrying a lit propane torch. The flame represented gratitude for the soldiers’ service, said Tribute to Fallen Soldiers executive director Warren Williamson.
“I’m just amazed at the turnout of everyday Americans who come out and show their support,” Williamson said to the crowd.
During the ceremony, the flame had a technical malfunction and had to be put out with a fire extinguisher.
Officials from South Lake Tahoe police and fire departments attended the gathering. Mayor Tom Davis addressed the two dozen or so riders and attendees.
“It may be a small turnout, but it’s a mighty turnout,” Davis said.
Tribute to Fallen Soldiers presented South Lake Tahoe gold star mother Patty Smith with a plaque. Smith lost her son, Timothy Smith, in Iraq in 2008. Shortly after, the group listened to Toby Keith’s “American Soldier,” bringing tears to the eyes of many.
“It’s the ones that don’t come home that are the heroes,” said Bob Schumacher, a South Lake Tahoe veteran and veterans advocate who helped set up the event. “Having the community come out to honor our veterans is a huge deal.”
Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe sponsored the event, organizing food and equipment for the group.
“It’s important to remember the active military and the fallen soldiers,” said Harrah’s Tahoe executive assistant Linda Hunt, who helped organize the reception.
On their way to Tahoe, the motorcycle riders rode through the Death Valley Desert with temperatures above 100 degrees, but little can compare to what military families can face, Williamson said.
“It’s nothing compared to what these families go through,” he said.
“It’s the ones that don’t come home that are the heroes. Having the community come out to honor our veterans is a huge deal.”
South Lake Tahoe veteran