America Supports You: Motorcycle Ride, Concert to Honor Fallen, Wounded Troops
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2005 Plans are under way for the second annual Tribute to the Troops Motorcycle Ride, to be held Sept. 9 to 11 in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa to honor the families of fallen servicemembers and raise funds for wounded troops and their families.
The ride and benefit concert to follow it will correspond with the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
The event will include three separate motorcycle rides -one to the north and northeast region of Minnesota, one in the Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin, and one to the south, southeast and southwest Minnesota region. Up to 225 motorcycles are expected to participate, according to Gregg Schmitt, booking agent for Universal recording artist and former soldier Rockie, and event organizer.
Rockie and the other riders will visit an estimated 20 to 23 homes of families of fallen servicemembers to thank them for their sacrifice "and let them know that there are people out there who care about them," Schmidt said.
"We plan to visit these families, pay our respects and let them know that we won't forget their sacrifices," he said.
Each family will receive a plaque, letter of thanks, commemorative ride flag and copy of Rockie's recording of "Home," the song Schmidt said inspired the first annual Tribute to the Troops Motorcycle Ride last year. Home pays homage to fallen servicemembers from the tri-state region and recognizes the sacrifices freedom demands. The DVD is being updated to include photos of the most recent servicemembers from the Minnesota-Wisconsin area to die fighting the war on terror, Schmidt said.
All three motorcycle rides will culminate in Hamel, Minn., where Rockie, country music band The Killer Hayseeds and other local bands will present a benefit concert.
Rockie called the program an extension of the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program and an important show of support to families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. "It's our small, small way of saying thank you," he said. "We're going with a pure heart to say we're grateful."
Proceeds from the event will go to the Wounded Warriors Hospital Fund. The fund supports hospitals and medical facilities in the Afghanistan and Iraq theaters of operation as well as in Germany and the United States by donating morale and comfort items such as televisions, DVDs and computers for use by the patients and hospital staff. The fund also provides financial help for servicemembers' loved ones who can't afford to be with wounded troops during their recovery.
Last year, 45 motorcycles and 65 riders participated in the first annual Tribute to the Troops Motorcycle Ride, which Schmidt described as "one of the most emotionally positive days in my life."
"There was so much emotion there, it was unbelievable," agreed Rockie.
For more information about the event or to register or volunteer, visit the troop tribute Web site.