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Annual Ride to the Flags exudes patriotism
Patriots from all over the country attended White Heart Foundation’s tenth annual Ride to the Flags Sunday, Sept. 10.
The ride started at the Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu, proceeded down the Pacific Coast Highway to Pepperdine’s flag display memorializing those lost on 9/11, and ended at Bluffs Park where a rally was held. The event’s honoree was Army Cpl. Zac Gore, a husband and father of four who lost an arm and a leg after stepping on an IED in Afghanistan in 2013. The post-ride celebration, which was open to the public, included food trucks and music by KLOS.
The White Heart Foundation was founded by Ryan Sawtelle, who attended Pepperdine University, as a way to give directly to injured warriors. The Ride to the Flags is the flagship event for the Foundation and focuses on the needs of one post-9/11 warrior. This year, the funds raised at the event will go toward a family vehicle for Gore.
“Today means honor,” said John Archuleta, Area 6 vice president of the American Legion Riders Department of California, who was a third-year participant in the ride. “We are honoring those killed in 9/11.”
At the Point Mugu ceremony, Sawtelle, the event coordinator, gave remarks honoring Gore, as well as Marine Corps. Sgt. Kirstie Ennis, the first veteran to be honored on the cover of the ESPN Body Issue, and veteran Jordan Stevenson.
Gore’s children are small, ages 7, 5, 4 and 1. He appreciatively noted that the vehicle will help his family.
“I appreciate being here,” Gore told Malibu Surfside News. “I appreciate the attention and all the people here. It’s wonderful to be honored. I don’t feel like a hero, though, I went for a walk with other soldiers and unfortunately, I’m the guy who stepped on a bomb.”
A Gold Star mom, Lee Ann Smith, spoke about the loss of her son Sgt. Andrew R. Tobin and the charity she formed in his honor, M.O.S. MOM, an organization that aims to “empower and unite the American people based on the reaffirmation of America’s founding principles of God, liberty, dignity and justice.”
Dave Frey, founder of the Veterans Charity Ride, also spoke about his motorcycle organization and how White Heart Foundation and others helped him start a veterans ride to Sturgis.
“For our brother and sister veterans, motorcycle therapy and our other health and welfare programs help to get the wind in their faces and get them back into life,” Frey said. “We are also rolling out a new program called Adventure Vet in Moab, Utah, where veterans can motorcycle, hike, take boating trips and take other adventures.”
The Navy took the stage for its 9/11 ceremony, raising the colors to honor the American flag.
“It’s an honor to be here and to have the opportunity to thank the service men and women who lost their lives on that terrible day,” said Capt. Tony McHale, commanding officer of the naval base station. “Our theme today is to remember. As our last WWII veterans leave us, we are entering an age when those who were born before 9/11 are entering military service. Many of you remember how you felt on 9/11. We must keep that image in our eyes because our enemy could begin to take hold if we do not remember. The enemy may think we’ve moved on. We will not let the memory go. We will always remember.”
The Navy provided a gun-salute to honor the fallen, followed by a moment of silence for the victims and a wreath-laying ceremony. All paused in respectful silence as a bell rang to recognize the 9/11 victims.
Then, with patriotic pride and the independence the symbolizes this great nation, it was kickstands up and time to ride along PCH, with every motorcycle rider’s triumphant face symbolizing a rebellious response to those who harmed the victims of 9/11.
Those riding were free to have the breeze in their face, to see the ocean spraying against the coastal rocks and to have the U.S. flags on their motorcycles wave freely in the breeze against a crystal blue Malibu sky. Their doing so said it all.
To donate to Gore, go to www.ridetotheflags.com. For more information about the White Heart Foundation, visit whiteheart.org or call (818) 914-6000.