More than 3,000 motorcycle riders are expected to come to Ham Lake Lions Park Saturday, June 15 for the eighth annual Minnesota Patriot Ride.
The purpose of this 75-mile round-trip between Ham Lake and the Isanti County Fairgrounds is to help current military service members, veterans and their families. Proceeds are split between the Minnesota Patriot Guard and the Minnesotans’ Military Appreciation Fund (MMAF).
Patriot Guard members volunteer to escort busloads of troops being deployed or coming home and they organize flag lines for these occasions, as well as the more somber funeral processions. Their immense network also lets them hear about folks who need help whether it is a home repair project or cooking some meals for a family whose father or mother are deployed.
MMAF is a nonprofit organization that has provided cash grants to soldiers who served in combat zones after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It has awarded nearly 14,500 grants totaling more than $8.9 million to Minnesota service members since its inception seven years ago.
Those planning to ride must register at Ham Lake Lions Park, 1220 157th Ave. NE, June 15 between 9 and 11:30 a.m. The ride kicks off at noon.
Visit www.thepatriotride.org to register in advance or to find more information.
The cost to pre-register is $25 per rider and $10 per passenger. Those who register the day of the event pay $35 per rider. The public is encouraged to visit Ham Lake Lions Park before or after the ride to offer their support and listen to guest speakers and look at the displays.
World War II veteran Lester Schrenk of Bloomington will be one of the featured speakers. He was shot down and captured by Germans and spent the next 15 months as a prisoner of war before being released.
Staff Sgt. John Wadsworth IV of Eagan joined the Minnesota National Guard in 2003 and was deployed to Iraq in 2005 and Kuwait in 2011. The avid motorcyclist will be speaking and participating in the ride.
Sierra Stenger, 16, of Minneapolis will tell others what it is like to be the daughter of parents who have both been deployed. Her mother was deployed twice and her father once.
Retired Army Gen. John Vessey has spoken at past rides and will be making another appearance to show his support to the riders. He has been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He enlisted as a motorcycle rider in the Minnesota National Guard in 1939 and served in World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was the longest serving acting duty member in the Army when he retired in 1985.
The Isanti County Fairgrounds is a new midway stop this year. The rides had previously stopped at the Armed Forces Reserve Community Center in Cambridge. The Cambridge Fire Department will be hosting Fire on the Rum event June 15 at the fairgrounds when the riders stop by.
Donations to the Patriot Ride cause can also be made by visiting www.MMAF.org, calling 1-877-MN-THANX (877-668-4269) or mail to MMAF, P.O. Box 2070, Minneapolis, MN 55402.
Eric Hagen is at [email protected]