With flags waving and motorcycle engines roaring, dozens of veterans, including 15 amputees and severely wounded combat vets, rode into Las Vegas on Monday for a charity ride to show appreciation for those who served in the U.S. military.
With a send-off in Los Angeles by comedian and motorcycle collector Jay Leno, they rode past the Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas sign on the Strip at 5:30 p.m. on the first leg of a 1,776-mile journey to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the legendary bike rally in Sturgis, S.D.
“This means giving back to the brothers and sisters who gave so much, and showing them there are veterans groups and people who care,” said Dave Frey, founder of the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis.
The riders were given a police escort into Las Vegas at the California-Nevada state line.
Marine veteran Sean Carroll, 30, of Denver, lost his right leg when a buried bomb exploded while he was on foot patrol in Ramadi, Iraq, in 2004. He flew to Las Vegas to join the riders on the remainder of the trip to Sturgis.
“Everything is healing pretty good,” he said, while walking on crutches through the Tropicana lobby where the riders gathered before receptions at the Sands Expo and Convention Center and American Legion Post 8.
“It’s kind of cool to see they can get support from the community and take veterans out on a ride,” said Carroll, who also had a traumatic brain injury.
The ride, he said, “brings awareness to the troops and everything they face.”
Vietnam War Navy veteran Mark Fontaine, 66, of Las Vegas, said the ride “is our opportunity to show respect and solidarity with fellow veterans.”
Las Vegas Army veteran Nathan “Wiffle” French, commander of the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Chapter 41-1, said the ride through Southern Nevada not only honors veterans but shows the positive side of the motorcycle community.
“It was a good time. The police escort made the difference,” he said.
For more information on the charity ride and how donate, go to https://veteranscharityride.org/