They flowed into Key Air Anoka County Airport by the thousands, flags mounted on their motorcycles whipping in the wind and a love for our country and military members in their hearts. On a sparkling Minnesota summer day, they came to honor the fallen, to herald the enlisted, and to share in the bonds that bring us together as Americans.
By all measures the 2016 Patriot Ride was a roaring success, this year’s event estimated to raise between $200,000 to $250,000 for the Minnesota Patriot Guard, Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund, the Minnesota Tribute to the Troops Chapter and Folds of Honor. Dennis Kirk President Bob Behan, the driving force behind the Patriot Ride, said overall the event has raised approximately $1.9 million in 11 years for Minnesota’s veteran organizations and their families. Even the weather was on board this year, sunny skies and temperatures in the low 80s replacing rains of years past, a big factor in the record number of motorcycles that attended in 2016 with estimates ranging over 5,000.
While members of the Patriot Parachute Team dazzled the crowd with death-defying dives in the sky above, the St. Paul Motor Unit delighted the crowd on the ground with its demonstration of amazing riding skills, dodging in and out of 18-foot-wide orange cone circles on big Harley Electra Glides that tip the scales at almost 900 pounds. The Donnie Smith Bike Show had an outstanding turnout, with Paul Lovas earning a huge trophy and a feature spread in American Iron Magazine for winning “Best of Show.” Don Halverson, a 93-year-old WWII veteran, was a special guest at the 2016 Patriot Ride. With a wit still sharp as a tack, Halverson told us he proudly served in Minnesota’s Red Bull Infantry Division, 168th Rainbow Regiment, 2nd Battalion. He was a member of G Company, 4th Platoon that he said was comprised of three machines guns and three mortars. Halverson got the rock star treatment at the event as a steady flow of fellow veterans came up to him to thank him for his service.
The level of patriotism displayed during the 50 mile ride through the Minnesota countryside was simply astonishing. People lined the route and waved flags frenetically, cars honked their horns, and everywhere you went people waved, waved, waved. One group held a “Never Forget” banner up high for all riders to see, words that sink into your soul. After the ride, there was no shortage of tears shed at the honorary “Laying of the Wreath and “Ringing of the Bell” ceremonies at the Soldier’s Cross.
To say the 2016 Patriot Ride was a moving experience doesn’t do it justice. But we’ll try in an upcoming feature article in American Iron Magazine. Until then, relive the ride vicariously courtesy of our photo gallery and check out videos on the American Iron Facebook page.