On May 25, seven members of the Masonic Motorcycle Club Chapter 38 traveled to Washington, D.C., to participate in Rolling Thunder and pay respect to an area soldier.
Rolling Thunder is an annual motorcycle event that takes place each year over Memorial Day weekend with a parade held that Sunday to raise awareness of the POW-MIA's still unaccounted. Hundreds of thousands of motorcycles fill the district and surrounding Virginia and Maryland area during this weekend.
Chapter 38, along with the Watsontown American Legion Post 323, created a memorial wreath that included a framed 8- by 10-inch color photo of Marine Pfc. Richard Ritter. Ritter was a Watsontown native who was killed in action on March 15, 1967, in South Vietnam.
John Bower, a Vietnam Veteran who is a member of the Masonic motorcycle chapter, legion post and Watsontown Lodge 401, carried the 3- by 3-foot wreath strapped to his Harley-Davidson from Watsontown to Virginia, accompanied by chapter members Russ Mook, Dave Bridge, Dave Bush and myself, all members of Watsontown Lodge 401; Jason Wagner, of Mifflinburg Lodge 370; and Levi Watson, of Milton Lodge.
Upon arrival in the Washington area, the chapter became the guests of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association and were welcomed by hundreds of their members.
On May 26, more than 300 motorcycles left the Wolf Trap Hotel in Virginia for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall with a police escort for the entire trip. Upon arrival at the wall, all members gathered at "Ricky's" panel and a few words were said by members present as the Combat Vets also brought their wreath to display in Richard's memory. Bower and Scott Baker, also a Vietnam veteran, placed the wreaths under Ritter's name on behalf of both clubs present.
But the mission was not yet complete.
On Nov. 17, seven members of the Masonic motorcycle chapter and three members of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association rode to the home of Richard's mother, Ruth Ritter.
Once there, she was presented with two framed 8- by 10-inch pictures of her son's picture and the wreath placed at the wall along with two photo albums containing pictures of the wreath laying, the gathering of those who participated as well as her son's actual name engraved on the wall.
She was given the extra set to give to Richard's daughter, her granddaughter. This was the first time she was able to see her son's name engraved on the wall.
The trip was very memorable and moving, to say the least, but the thanks and praise that came from Richard's mother upon our return was unforgettable.
She found it hard to believe that everyone traveled so far for someone they did not know.
She was so thankful that 45 years later, for the first time, hundreds of people gathered to remember and honor Richard's service and sacrifice to and for our country.
- Kline is president of Masonic Motorcycle Club Chapter 38 in Watsontown.