By Kim Lengling
Each year, at this time, I write a column about the upcoming Ride For Freedom, a motorcycle run for prisoners of war and those missing in action from all wars hosted by the Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52 and the Welcome Home Association of Meadville.
There are times I wonder what I can say, but this year that isn’t the same. Something always comes to me at the right time.
On a recent morning as I was walking my dog through the fields, we came upon a bald eagle having his breakfast. We startled him and he took to flight. How beautiful he was to watch soar over the fields and into a distant tree. How powerful and majestic.
My mind turned to all of those who have gone before us, our Founding Fathers — the passion, courage, fortitude and determination they must have had to ensure that their new country was formed in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. I thought of the drive they had deep within them to be free, and to ensure future generations the same freedom. Do we as a society share that same passion? Sadly, I don’t think so. We have become complacent and spoiled — not all, but in general.
As for myself, those within our post and many veterans, I believe that passion resides within us — deep within our souls. When a person raises his or her right hand to defend this county against all enemies foreign and domestic, it places a seed deep within him or her. Patriotism and sacrifice — it will reside within those who have and will defend our country for a lifetime. It is a brotherhood and sisterhood.
I meet so many veterans throughout my days. I thank all those that I can, shaking a hand, giving a hug. If you take the time to notice, so often you notice a look in their eyes deep within and wonder about their story — those they may have lost, those whose soul is scarred and the memories they carry with them. Countless stories reside within them of heroism, courage and determination — stories we may never hear or know. They are the humble heroes, the quiet heroes, the struggling heroes.
Have you thought of those who have not returned? Do you pray for their families and loved ones that they may one day have closure? You should. For it is they who have given the ultimate sacrifice — the soldiers and their families.
I have attended funerals of our fallen and watched as a flag-draped coffin is reverently carried by. I have witnessed families hurting and grieving. I have stood with other veterans as the National Anthem is played or the American flag goes by in a parade; I have seen the tears in their eyes and felt them in my own. It is for them, our veterans, and those who have not returned and their families who do not have an answer of about their loved one’s fate that we must always remember and we must never forget.
As Saturday and the 3 p.m. hour of that day draws near, I ask that you keep these soldiers and their families in mind. Show your support and patriotism by lining the route of the Ride For Freedom. Stand tall and proud, for before you ride the true heroes of our nation — those who have witnessed countless things we more than likely would not want to know about. We ride for those who cannot use their own voice. We ride for those families who need our voices to be heard on their behalf.
Rain or shine, we will ride and we will be heard in the low rumble of hundreds of motorcycles and the rumble that resides in all veterans’ hearts of pride, patriotism, courage and sacrifice.
Lengling is a lifetime member of Veterans of the Vietnam War Post 52 and co-chair of Project Support Our Troops. She can be reached at email@example.com or 724-9099.
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Veterans of the Vietnam War Inc. Jack Greer Memorial Post 52 and the Veterans Welcome Home Association of Meadville are sponsoring two upcoming events to honor and remember those who were prisoners of war and those service men and women still missing in action from all wars.
Today, a 24-hour POW-MIA Vigil starts at 6 p.m. with the Posting of Colors in front of the Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville. At 8, names of all the military personnel from Pennsylvania still listed as MIA from the Vietnam War will be read and a candle lit for each as tribute to their continued sacrifice and as an honorarium to their families.
The association then holds the Ride for Freedom on Saturday starting at 3 p.m. at the Fairway 12, Route 618, Conneaut Lake, with free registration beginning at noon. Motorcycles and classic cars will have a police escort as they head south on Route 618, onto Route 322 and through Conneaut Lake into Meadville, ending at Diamond Park, where a short ceremony will be held after the arrival of all vehicles. Riders will have the opportunity to purchase T-shirts and pins to commemorate this event at the staging area at Fairway 12.