Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

In Faribault, bikers and vets honor our Armed Forces May 20, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 12:27 PM
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Veterans and bikers commemorate Armed Forces Day at the Rice County Veterans Memorial in Faribault.

ON MAY 20, 1950, our country celebrated the first Armed Forces Day in a big way with parades in Washington, D.C., New York and Berlin and with air shows, open houses and receptions.

Sixty-two years later, in my community of Faribault, veterans and a group of Harley-Davidson motorcycle riders gathered Saturday, on Armed Forces Day, to honor those who have served or are serving in the military.

The Color Guard stands ready as the bikers arrive.

I am almost ashamed to admit this—especially as the daughter of a Korean War veteran—but I was unaware of an annual Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May or of Armed Forces Week, which ends today.

That was until yesterday, when I spoke with several veterans as we waited for the bikers to arrive at the Rice County Veterans Memorial at the county courthouse.

Bikers participating in the Faribault Harley-Davidson Harley’s Heroes raised $2,800 on Saturday for the Disabled American Veterans. In 2011, the Faribault dealership raised about $2,200 and earned status on the Harley’s Heroes Honor Roll as one of the top six fundraising dealers in the country. Thirty percent of Harley customers are active or retired military vets, according to the H-D website.

Around 4 p.m. the bikers, who were participating in the annual Harley’s Heroes nation-wide event to raise monies for the non-profit Disabled American Veterans, rumbled across Fourth Street, circled the courthouse and pulled into the west parking lot, American flags waving from the backs of their Harleys.

The bikers and the vets, my husband and I, and a photographer paid our respects in a short ceremony that included a gun salute, playing of the taps and a brief explanation of the vets memorial.

I am almost ashamed to tell you this, but no one else in my community paused or pulled off the street or took a break from their work or activities or fun to commemorate Armed Forces Day by attending this short ceremony.

Members of the Patriot Guard Riders were among those in attendance.

Said General Omar N. Bradley, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on that first Armed Forces Day celebration in 1950:

The heritage of freedom must be guarded as carefully in peace as it was in war.

We would all do well to remember that, especially each year on the third Saturday of May.

I spotted this bumper sticker on the vehicle of a Vietnam veteran who had come to the ceremony.

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling