Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

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April 29, 2013

Bikers ride 75 miles to support military

Annual Ride for the Troops draws 500 motorcyclists to city.

Despite drizzling rain Sunday afternoon, over 500 revved-up motorcycles roared out of Darrough Chapel Park during the 11th annual Ride for the Troops as bikers embarked on a 75-mile journey to honor America’s military.

For nearly 20 minutes, bikers dressed in black leather sporting red, white and blue bandannas and top hats streamed from the park to begin their jaunt through Kokomo, Tipton, Elwood and Greentown, where residents lined the roads to cheer them on.

The weather may have been wet and the turnout down from previous years, but for those who did attend, the weather wasn’t an excuse not to ride.

“It’s an old rule of thumb,” said John Bowman, who served in the Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991. “If the troops can serve in rain and live in a dessert, then I can come out ride my motorcycle for two hours in the drizzle for a great cause.”

That’s something Gary “Yacky” Byers agreed with. He’s helped organize the event since it started, and said he’s ridden in snow, pouring rain and nearly freezing temperatures.

“We’d love for it to be 80 degrees and sunshine, but wherever our soldiers are at, they’re serving no matter what the weather’s like,” he said. “We’re doing what we need to do to show our support for what our soldiers have to do.”

Tammy Gilbert also helped organize the event, and said the over 500 motorcyclists made for a great showing despite the rain.

“This is an extremely good turnout,” she said. “But it’s not about the turnout. From the moment we put our first flyer up to the actual event, if people stop and think of our veterans and thank them, that’s what it’s all about.”

Shirley Linkenhoker, who drove from New Waverly to bike with her sister, said she’s participated in ride for six years, and said it’s an eye-and-ear-catching way to get people to think about and thank veterans and people currently serving in the military.

“Bikes are loud, and people pay attention,” she said as she leaned against her Harley Davidson.

Bowman agreed with that.

“You’re not going to be taking a nap when we’re coming through your town,” he said. “People come out for this, and it’s encouraging to see little kids and all kinds of people standing by the road waving their flags.”

“I don’t care if you got a moped,” he said. “If it can keep up, let’s go.”

Fred Reed, an Army veteran who served in Vietnam in the early ‘70s, said roaring down the road on a motorcycle is the perfect way to support the troops.

It’s loud, it’s independent and it’s American, he said.

“You ain’t surrounded by a doggone windshield or doors,” he said. “You got two wheels and a big old motor underneath you. It’s about freedom, and that’s what our troops are out their fighting for everyday.”

Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at carson.gerber@kokomotribune.com.

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