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HOPKINSVILLE, KY. — Riders representing Rolling Thunder, The Patriot Guard, Crusaders Set Free Church and other organizations made a 101-mile Freedom Ride from Evansville, Ind., to Western Kentucky Veterans Cemetery on Armed Forces Day. The purpose was to raise money on behalf of the 101st Airborne Division Association and its soldier support programs.
The National Armed Forces Freedom Rides take place in 32 states, with each state organization using proceeds to benefit different military charities. The organizer of Saturday’s event, Rodney Bond, said that the Indiana and Kentucky Freedom Ride organizations chose the 101st Airborne Division Association, which over the years has given out over one million dollars in scholarships, grants, programs and help for individual soldiers in need, according to Association Executive Secretary Wayne St. Louis.
“The 101st Airborne took a big hit last year,” said Bond, “and there are a lot of kids without parents. We want to take care of them and that’s what (the 101st Airborne Division Association) does.”
Greeting the riders was a prepared ceremony featuring a combined Marine Corps League/101st Airborne Division color guard and a firing party from Alpha Company, 2nd Brigade Special Troops Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team.
The sound of their engines arrived just ahead of the riders a few minutes after it was announced they were coming off the Pennyrile Parkway exit. Right behind the engine roar, a long line of red, white, blue and chrome came into view as bikers flying American flags rolled up to the ceremony site.
Sgt. Michael Avant sang a powerful rendition of the National Anthem to start the proceedings, followed by a speech by Pastor Marty Owens of the Crusaders Set Free church in Owensboro, Ky.
Owens spoke of the over two million American men and women who have died of wounds and disease in wars, of their sacrifice for the nation and of the sacrifice of Christ for the world.
At the conclusion of his speech, well-known local bagpiper Lou Farkas stirred the crowd with “Amazing Grace,” followed by the multi-talented Avant playing a flawless rendition of “Taps” to conclude the ceremony.