For these motorcycle riders, the July Fourth weekend wasnt just a vacation and cookout but also a chance to support and raise money for North Carolinas troops.
Patriotism is something you live, said one of the riders, Donnie Savage, 52, of Raleigh. Its not something you just talk about on the Fourth.
Savage was one of about 20 motorcyclists who drove from Apex to Cary and finally to Raleigh on Saturday morning, raising money and honoring active duty soldiers and veterans.
The motorcycle ride was part of a summer of fundraising led by Kangaroo Express in its Salute Our Troops campaign, now in its fourth year. The company collects donations in its stores through boxes placed beside cash registers.
The Roo Ride was a chance to raise both money and awareness of military causes. Each motorcyclist donated $20 to join.
Last summer, the Salute Our Troops campaign in North Carolina raised about $770,000, which went to local organizations. Across the Southeast, Kangaroo has raised about $8.5 million since 2011.
Savage served in the Army and said motorcycles are a fitting symbol for freedom. The military is all about providing freedom for us, he said. Its the perfect marriage of doing something that makes you feel free and supporting something that makes you free.
Many of the riders were either retired military or the family of veterans. Travis Ferguson, 40, of Raleigh rode with United States Veterans Corps, a community service group, and served in the Army. Its awesome getting to go out and enjoy the day with people who have the same goals in mind, he said.
That camaraderie was the days theme as bikers began at the Kangaroo Express off Ten-Ten Road in Apex and took a leisurely drive to Carys new Veterans Memorial. Motorcyclists gathered around the white, granite spire and watched a group of National Guard men and women present the U.S. and North Carolina flags. As they ate snacks after the ceremony, the drivers shared their own experiences with one another and then continued on to Ray Price Harley-Davidson in Raleigh for lunch.
Chance to reflect
Ferguson said the ride gave him a chance to think about everyone who has served, including the people who didnt make it back. You can reflect on them and think about what they could be doing right now, he said.
The summer fundraising effort benefits a number of organizations, including the United Service Organizations, the U.S. Veterans Corps, the Fisher House Foundation and the Red Cross.
Chris Froeschner, vice president of the USO, said the partnership is a major fundraiser for their programs. Those include deployment and homecoming care packages and on-hand staff, plane-side military honors for the bodies of servicemen and -women and financial literacy classes.
Froeschners daughter, Paige, 9, rode with him because tons of people serve in the military for us and our country, she said. Paige was glad she could honor people who have served, including her dad, she said.
This is the first year the money will also go to the Red Cross. People often dont realize that the Red Cross first mission was to help the military, not just leading disaster relief and blood drives, said Berry Porter, CEO of the Eastern North Carolina division. Its programs include emergency communications, which it passes along between family members and deployed soldiers.
Porter said the July Fourth celebration makes the weekend a fitting time for the motorcycle ride. Part of that freedom comes from our veterans and active duty, he said.