Roars from about two dozen barely muffled big bikes rolled out of the New Bern Harley Davidson parking lot Saturday morning, led by a van with DAV painted on the side.
The 100-mile “poker ride” by area motorcyclists was organized by Disabled American Veterans whose District Executive Art Cook drove the van in a “ride to remember POWs, MIAs, and 9/11 victims.”
The van that is packed most weekdays with U.S. military veterans with disabilities on their way to either veteran medical facilities in Durham or, for the past three years, the new Community Based Outpatient Clinic in Morehead City, was purchased by veterans and veteran supporters.
Cook said a new clinic is scheduled to open in Greenville at the first of 2014 that would eliminate some of the 300-mile drives to Durham, all done by 38 volunteers.
They can always use more, he said. Volunteers may call 635-5900 or 636-2789 to help transport veterans from every U.S. conflict since World War II.
As part of the event, the Disabled American Veterans Auxiliary sold red t-shirts with the names of North Carolina prisoners of war or missing in action. Karen Hacker, of the auxiliary, said 42 North Carolinians are still among the 1,700 in those groups.
Sharon Rivera, originally of Virginia and now of New Bern, is secretary of the Double Bs Havelock sport bike club and made the run from U.S. 70 to Havelock, with a stop at the senior center, on to N.C. 101, then Ferry Road and across on N.C. 306 in Pamlico, and back toward Craven County and the Golden Coral in New Bern.
The “Bad Boys for Life” group with its president, 25-year retired veteran Marine Willie Kearse of Havelock, also rides for assorted charitable fundraising events such as Special Olympics and Breast Cancer Awareness.
He said it has about 30 members, “mostly military but some civilian who have been touched by someone close,” family and friends have who have fought, died, are missing or still in harm’s way.
Kearse’s son was active duty and is now in the Army reserve, and he has a daughter still in the service whose husband was killed by an IED.
In the talk of war while waiting for the kick stands to go up at 9 a.m., people who served or supported questioned the leadership that sends Americans to war or pulls them back from a conflict, sometimes before they think the job is done.
But on a cool, almost fall, Saturday morning, Justin Kearse of Havelock, who also made the run with his dad, said that despite the concerns raised by the event, “it’s a nice day and there are positive vibes in remembering.”
Sue Book is a reporter for the Sun Journal.