HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Saturday was the third-annual Victory for Veterans ride, considered the largest motorcycle run in Western Massachusetts. 22News found out why it was more than a fun ride for participants and veterans.
It’s been tough lately for veterans and active duty members. We’ve been at war for more than a decade and recently, a crisis in the Veterans Affairs Department has become so large and complex, its senior leader and four-star general, Eric Shinseki, resigned.
“When problems arise and he can’t get ahead of it, the most honorable thing to do is say I’ve done my part, salute everything, move on and let the next guy take it,” said Major General L. Scott Rice, Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard.
On Saturday, it was a “Victory for Veterans.” Over 1,500 veterans and supporters revved their bikes and rode 52.5 miles to raise money for veterans living at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home.
“Sometimes people just don’t come back, so you enjoy life when you have it and you just keep going on,” said Jay Joyce, a Vietnam War medic and veteran.
Veterans told 22News this day is also about connecting and sharing stories with older veterans like Colonel Ernestine Stowell who started her service in World War Two and says she continues today.
“She’s my hero because she paved the way to make us women marines that have been called to serve our country and I just appreciate her…especially a colonel because it was so tough to make rank I’m sure back then,” Pam Schiltz, a veteran from Barre, told 22News.
“I wouldn’t think so many motorcycle people would be caring about the vets so much,” said Holyoke Soldiers Home resident Robert Fopp.
Proceeds will help the home pay for World War Two Veterans to go on an honor flight to the see the war monuments in Washington, DC.
“I went with my son and daughter-in-law three years ago to the memorial…It was very nice,” said World War Two Veteran Normand Drapeau who was at D-Day and said he was the ride’s marshal.
Drapeau and other veterans hope through this ride, more veterans will have the chance this October to visit the very monuments built in their honor.