Patriots can remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice by waving the American flag and greeting helmeted veterans riding in Monday’s Ride for America. The annual Memorial Day event is back on after being canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic.
“We had 47 riders the first year,” said Stan Mauldin, co-founder of the event. In 2019, almost 1,400 people, riders and passengers, participated, Mauldin said.
Mauldin, a Vietnam veteran, said when he and other riders see people cheering along the event route, “It tugs at our heartstrings.”
The ride is organized by the Legion Riders of Post 233, members of the Barrett-Davis-Watson Loganville American Legion Post 233 in Loganville. The event has been held annually for 22 years, except for last year when COVID-19 hit.
Mauldin expects a lot of riders who did not get out on their motorcycles in 2020 will be primed for this year’s ride. He said Post 233 has about 584 members and the organization’s motorcycle riders number around 54.
Mauldin credits his late friend Gary Lemons for coming up with the idea. He added that Thom Williams, commander of Legion Post 233; Jim Nesmith, commander of Legion Post 37 in Madison; and Ordia Brown, director of the American Legion Riders, worked hard on the event.
Lemons died 11 years ago, according to Mauldin.
“Gary’s family really wanted to see this continue,” Mauldin said.
Ride organizers rely on the support of area communities, law enforcement agencies and businesses.
“Once we leave Loganville the police department makes it so we don’t ever stop,” Mauldin said of the escort provided to ensure riders’ safety. “We don’t stop for stop lights, we don’t stop for stop signs.”
Mauldin explained some changes have been made to the ride this year.
Instead of a ceremony held mid-way through the ride on a stop in Madison, a longer pre-ride ceremony including a flag raising will be held at the post in Loganville. The route has been slightly altered, so that riders can ride through the small town of Bostwick as citizens there dedicate a Veterans Memorial. Riders will not stop in Madison this year.
Doors will open at 7 a.m. at the American Legion on 4635 Atlanta Highway in Loganville. The first 600 riders can enjoy McDonald’s biscuits and coffee. Riders will leave shortly before 10 a.m. The 70-mile track should take about two hours to complete.
Riders will head to Monroe from Loganville and then go through Social Circle. Then riders will pass through Rutledge, by Hard Labor Creek State Park and the small town of Bostwick before heading back to Loganville for a barbecue lunch.
Ride organizers named two grand marshals this year: Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez and Rutledge Mayor Bruce Altznauer.
Mauldin said both mayors are enthusiastically supportive of the event. Martinez is a veteran and the father of two sons who have served in the military.
Martinez clarified his younger son completed a tour in Afghanistan and now works in the private sector. His older son flies helicopters and is on an overseas deployment.
The ride raises funds through sponsorships and rider fees for the Legacy Fund, which provides scholarships for the children of fallen soldiers since Sept. 11, 2001.
The American Legion Riders also award an annual $1,000 scholarship — the Cpl. Jonathan Ayers Memorial Scholarship — to deserving high school seniors in Walton and Gwinnett counties. Eligible students are asked to write an essay.
“This year’s essay competition asked students to write their thoughts on the voting rights and civic duties associated with voting,” Williams said.
The scholarship’s namesake, Ayers, was one of nine soldiers killed in the line of duty while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. He was 24 and hailed from Snellville. His unit’s outpost was attacked by small arms fire and rocket propelled grenades from enemy forces in Wanat, Afghanistan, on July 13, 2008, according to Williams.
Ayers was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (Airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team based in Vicenza, Italy.
John “Bobby” Nice III of Snellville and Katelynn Caldwell of Social Circle were awarded this year’s memorial scholarship.
Nice graduated summa cum laude from Atlanta’s Georgia Cyber Academy. He is an Eagle Scout with seven palms from Troop 535 in Loganville. Nice will attend Georgia Gwinnett College this fall.
Caldwell has attended Social Circle City Schools since kindergarten. She will major in psychology at Augusta University in the fall. Caldwell plans on becoming a doctor.
Additional monies generated from the ride support various other programs, including efforts at the Georgia War Home for veterans in Milledgeville.
Mauldin said post members usually visit the home in spring and fall. They cook out or bring food and goodie bags filled with socks, hats, T-shirts, magazines and toiletries to the facility’s residents, he said.
The fee to participate in the ride is $10, and passengers pay $5. The average gift from most sponsors is $500, according to Mauldin.