by Bryan Harley
It was a moment you couldn’t have scripted. On one side you had Scott Prothero, a World War II veteran who had fought in some of the Pacific’s bloodiest campaigns, including the Battles of Saipan and Okinawa. On the other was Josh Stein, a veteran and “Hero’s Ride of a Lifetime” nominee for the 2017 Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis. Stein is a Purple Heart recipient from the island of Saipan who wears pride of his heritage in the form of a tattoo on his left hand. You could sense the mutual respect the two shared when they met in the form of a handshake, in the closeness when they talked, in the smiles on their faces. Just another one of those unforgettable moments the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis tends to create.
“He’s the only person I’ve met in the States who knows more about that battle than me,” said Stein.
Prothero, an Army veteran, served in the 27th Division out of New York City as a combat engineer. His family brought him out to the Stage Coach Grille in La Verkin, Utah, to meet the group of veterans making their way to the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally during a lunch stop. After shaking hands and receiving a hero’s welcome, the 93-year-old Prothero climbed into the Champion sidecar of a specially rigged Indian Chieftain and rode along with his new troop through Zion National Park. I don’t think he stopped grinning the entire ride.
During a roadside break Prothero was spotted beneath the shade of a tree sharing in another intimate conversation with Keith Helfrich, a level of conversation only fellow veterans can truly share. Helfrich is a mentor on this year’s ride who is scheduled to be honored with the Bob Hanson Distinguished Service Award in a ceremony at the Sturgis Buffalo Chip Thursday, August 10, during the rally.
When the ride finally came to a close, Prothero thanked driver Justin “Wardog” McCarty with a big handshake, his eyes filled with a youthful sparkle. McCarty thanked him back by slipping a a Combat Veterans Association challenge coin into the hand of Prothero. As a sign that Prothero’s up with the times, he quietly took out his cell phone and shot a picture of McCarty when he wasn’t looking, then snapped off a few of other members of the group, too, mementos from his time spent with the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis.