One of the largest Memorial Day events in the country is held at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix. It starts at 8 a.m. Monday and hundreds of people honor those who sacrificed for the good of the nation.
But before any of the festivities start, individual and groups of motorcycle riders roll down Cave Creek Road towards the entrance of the cemetery around 6:30 a.m. and line up on one side of the road. Collectively, they've brought 150 American flags on 10-foot tall flagpoles and secured them into the sandy ground. As the Stars and Stripes flap in the early morning breeze the men and women on those bikes stand aside and wait to salute the family, friends, and loved ones driving into the cemetery to pay their respects to the dead.
"The feeling of waving and saluting those family members is more than words can describe," said Vince Ansel with Riders USA, the motorcycle club organizing the bike rally. "We line the road leading into the cemetery and salute those family and friends paying respects to interned loved ones."
This almost reverse parade of sorts began in 2006 when a group of patriotic bikers started planning and held the first rally in 2007. Now more than 200 bikers rise early to show their support for the nation's grieved. Ansel said this is a way to say "Thank you" to the family members going into the cemetery for the Memorial Day event.
The only fund-raising is the group's "Flags for Our Fallen" campaign. All those American flags require maintenance and there are other costs associated with the event. Members of the public can donate $10 and in return get the name of a veteran printed on a ribbon banner attached to one of the 150 flags.
The 7th annual Memorial Day Rally is free to attend and there is no starting point or route. Participants arrive on their own but are asked to be ready and at attention by 6:30 a.m. as that's when people start trickling in to the cemetery.
Other Rides Scheduled this Weekend
Fallen Patriot Ride May 25: This 4th annual ride sponsored by the Templar Knights Motorcycle Club begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Timp Harley, 555 S. Geneva Rd., Lindon, UT.
Freedom Ride & Poker Run May 25: Gen. Tommy Franks is the guest of honor for this Hobart, OK ride to fund-raise for the General Tommy Franks Leadership Institute and Museum. The weekend-long event begins Friday with the ride on Saturday morning.
Ride for a Vet May 25: This ride begins at 12 p.m. Saturday at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend parade in Burnsville, NC. Registration is 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on the Town Square and costs $20 per bike, $10 per extra rider. Funds benefit the Mount Mitchell Marine Corps League 1266 to assist veterans dependent upon others for help.
Ride to Provide May 25: The 7th annual Habitat for Humanity Ride to Provide is a 121-mile ride in Alexandria, MN. Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity of Douglas County. Check them out
Realities Ride and Rally May 26: The 12th annual ride is attempting to get into the Guinness Book of World Records for largest Poker Run. Ride begins at 9 a.m. Sunday in Loveland, CO.
Memorial Day Classic May 26: The Dawn Patrol Motorcycle Club hosts this annual run on Sunday (Rain date June 9) in Bridgewater, NJ. Ride starts at Bradley Gardens Fire House.
Ride for Our Troops May 26: The 6th annual ride founded by UFC champ Randy Couture begins at 10:15 a.m. Sunday at Xtreme Couture, 4055 W. Sunset Rd., Las Vegas, NV. Ride benefits injured troops through the Xtreme Couture GI Foundation.