By Lynne Phillips
Hundreds of motorcycles turned out to escort an M60 Patton tank to its new home in the Ohio Veterans Memorial Park (OVMP) in Clinton last Saturday.
A steady stream of riders and well wishers began gathering at the parking lot of A&M Truck and Trailer Repair of Greenwich early on Saturday morning for coffee and donuts served by members of the New London FFA.
William “Bill” J. Welch, a WWII veteran from nearby Clarksfield was on hand to share memories and have a photo taken with members of a CMA chapter from Summit County.
Before leaving at 10:30 a.m. from the US 224 location all in attendance gathered for prayer and singing of The National Anthem.
The truck carrying the tank was driven by A&M owner Mark Hinkley and accompanied by security vehicles and a rescue vehicle hauling an enclosed trailer. All of those were escorted by the enthusiastic roar of hundreds of riders including members of the Patriot Guard, Rolling Thunder and the Christian Motorcycle Association.
Arriving about one hour later at OVMP in Clinton, it wasn’t long before the tank was lifted from the trailer it had been sitting on since Friday by a large crane and placed in its new home.
During its placement riders of the Patriot Guard formed the same kind of line they use when protecting the families and communities of fallen heroes from funeral protesters.
The event began with prayer and the playing of the National Anthem.
The Patriot Guard originated in Kansas, according to rider Ralph Gago of Lakewood.
“When American Legion Rider Terry Houck’s wife, learned of a group of protesters disrupted a Newkirk, Oklahoma soldier’s funeral, together they created a plan for riding to the funerals and showing sincere respect to our fallen heroes, their families and communities.
“The plan was discussed with other members of Kansas American Legion Riders of Post 136 in Mulvane, Kansas. The group agreed to take action to protect those heroes’ families who were being harassed by the Phelps Westboro Baptist Church protesters.
“We are invited by the families and we do not go where we are not invited," stated Gago. “We provide a line to protect the families and provide a barrier between them and the funeral protesters.” He added, “Our procedures have been adopted by all Patriot Guard for use on the national level.”
According to information from the organization, “Patriot Guard missions are successful because each and every member contributes their time to stand guard.”
Rolling Thunder and its mission, according to the organization, began as a demonstration following the Vietnam War to call attention to Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action. Three veterans, Ray Manzo, Holland Sides and Sampley felt the need to organize a motorcycle demonstration to bring attention to POW and MIA situation. The event was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend with motorcycles crossing the Memorial Bridge. They thought the sound would be that of “rolling thunder”. The first event was held in 1988 and had roughly 2,500 participants. Rolling Thunder has grown in numbers each year and now has over a million riders and spectators combined.
The CMA was born in 1975 according to information from the organization.
Herb Shreve and his teenaged son purchased their motorcycle in 1972 but it was in 1974 when the need for the organization began to be realized. Attending his first motorcycle rally, Shreve saw a massive crowd of motorcyclists who did not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, in fact they had never heard the Gospel message. The great need seen by Shreve prompted him to share his vision with Christian friends and together they prayed. Shreve was more and more convinced that God wanted a Christian organization dedicated to reaching motorcyclists with the Gospel. That year the wheels were set in motion. An attorney was contacted, a non-profit charter was applied for and granted and CMA was born.