As far back as 1987 there have been military recognitions at the Buffalo Chip Campground in Sturgis. And though some of those events, such as the Freedom Celebration Ride, have become more organized over time, few are as organic and impactful as the Field of Flags.
The idea for Field of Flags started during the conflict in Iraq when one flag was placed for each lost service member. Now over 800 flags are installed during a community gathering at the start of Fourth of July weekend in a tribute to those who have served our country in all conflicts.
Riders to the Sturgis Rally recognize this spectacle – how can you miss it? – and many make it a must-see stop. The imposing power and energy of Bear Butte backing the flags, plus a new battlefield memorial and contemplative area, add to the potent sense of respect and honor that pervade the space.
As humans, we respond to visual cues and robust expressions. They take us out of our routines and force a response. But such expressions have the inherent power to effect broader, lasting change – to raise awareness and alter mindsets. The kind of change that stirs from the heart, not the head.
The 60 or so people who gathered on July 1 to turn a pasture into a sacred space felt that impact and internalized it, taking it with them at evening’s end to live outside the physical display. And that, friends, is the power of a spectacle like the Buffalo Chip’s Field of Flags.
Riders Take to the Track to Inspire all Heroes to Learn to Ride For Free; Celebrate the 75th Daytona Bike Week
MILWAUKEE (March 10, 2016) – At a venue known for speed – Daytona International Speedway – Harley-Davidson took a moment to slow down and say “thank you,” inviting a group of military personnel and first responders to take an unforgettable ride around the “World Center of Racing” during the 75th Annual Daytona Bike Week.
Now through the end of 2016, all current and former U.S. military, and first responders, including law enforcement officers, firefighters and EMS professionals* are invited to learn to ride for free through Harley-Davidson’s Riding Academy program. More information is available at a Harley-Davidson dealer or going to http://www.h-d.com/AmericanHeroes. If Riding Academy is not available in a particular area, qualified participants can still earn a Harley-Davidson Gift Card for the same amount of the enrollment fee for a qualified third-party motorcycle riding course.
“Our offer of free motorcycle training for all U.S. Military and First Responders is all about expressing our appreciation for their service, so they can enjoy more of the freedom they work so hard to protect,” said Dino Bernacchi, Harley-Davidson U.S. Marketing Director. “We’re honored all of these riders joined us today. What a great way to celebrate 75 years at Daytona Bike Week, kick-off riding season, and salute those who help protect everyone’s personal freedom.”
Escorted by police motorcycles and led by Karen Davidson, great-granddaughter of the company co-founder, the group took an honorary lap around the recently remodeled Speedway track.
After the ride, Harley-Davidson also premiered “Comeback Chapter,” featuring Bradley Sims, a police detective and former Army Reserve Solider and new Harley-Davidson rider. The video features Bradley’s story, and showcases the positive benefits of riding. Check-out the video at http://bit.ly/ComebackChapter.
Guests also were invited to throw a leg over Harley’s 2016 lineup – the most powerful collection of cruisers in the brand’s 113-year history. Harley’s newest bikes – the CVO Pro Street Breakout and the Low Rider S – and the Road Glide Ultra, with its clean sheet design, are ready to demo ride for those itching to roll the throttle of a brand-new bike.
by Marilyn Stemp
Rolling Thunder XXVII this year, like every year, resulted in stirring images, emotions, and realizations, just as you’d expect from an event of this import and magnitude. But for me it was how the weekend ended that properly framed the experience and connected Rolling Thunder’s mission to something larger—much larger—than any single event or any single conflict. Here’s how.
Heading south from Washington D.C. on I-95, I saw a sign for the National Museum of the Marine Corps and recalled a conversation with Carlos Roman at the Indian Larry block party last year. Carlos told me not to miss this museum next time I was close by and I promised I wouldn’t. So I followed the exit sign and minutes later was walking up the museum’s broad impressive entrance plaza.
It was early in the day and there were few people about, making me feel like I almost had the place to myself. The main space is a bright, prism-like centerpiece designed to be reminiscent of the raising of the U.S. flag at Iwo Jima in WWII, as I later read. It felt impressive; I felt small.
I walked the circle, reading the quotes from military men and presidents that were carved around the top of the rotunda’s promontory, then climbed the steps to the second deck to take it all in. But once I passed through a doorway marked “galleries,” the atmosphere changed dramatically.
Most immediately, it was darker. I must have looked disoriented because a volunteer docent asked if he could help me and explained how the exhibits ran chronologically, with sections for each major U.S. conflict. I started along, pausing here and there to read a panel or view artifacts but what stopped me in my tracks was a mural showing Abraham Lincoln giving his brief but memorable address at Gettysburg.
There were Marines at Gettysburg? I was taken aback by this fact and sat down on a bench to listen to the recording of Lincoln’s speech that was playing on a loop. “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…” If you went to middle school you know how it goes.
But hearing it this time, suddenly the words held new meaning. This time they made sense. This time, on the backdrop of Rolling Thunder, they connected in a way they never had before.
In November of 1863 not Lincoln, not the Marines, not any person present in Gettysburg then or since would have guessed how his brief speech that day would resonate through the decades, incorporating due recognition to all soldiers who step into the line of fire to protect American freedoms. But even more vital was the task Lincoln assigned to the rest of us, a job we are still duty bound to perform.
As applicable today as they were then, Lincoln’s words honor “the last full measure of devotion” that United States service people have pledged and delivered, as bravely in these times at Fallujah or Helmand as at Guadalcanal or Chosin Reservoir. Lincoln’s words frankly and simply recognize the sacrifice made in warfare by those who wage war, and admit that the rest of us can’t know that sacrifice, we can only be grateful. Then he goes further, placing a responsibility upon those who benefit from the actions of “those brave men…who struggled.” We, he said, must be dedicated to the unfinished work, we must take increased devotion to the cause, we must never forget.
Never forgetting means telling the story; then telling it again and again. It means being humbled by the courage of others and giving credit where it’s due. It means welcoming service men and women from all conflicts into organizations like Rolling Thunder. It means paying respect to those who serve. It means invoking the spirit of those lost in battle and pledging that their loss will not be in vain. It means saying thank you.
I’ve attended Rolling Thunder sporadically through the years, and I confess I got a late start. But I won’t miss it again. As Abraham Lincoln said, “It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” As the Marines say, Semper Fidelis.
Editor’s Note: Watch for additional articles to follow about Rolling Thunder XXVII here at Iron Trader News.