Story and photo by Sgt. Christopher Jelle
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
CRIPPLE CREEK, Colo. — Twenty Fort Carson Soldiers and Family members joined the original Patriot Guard Riders from Kansas to lead a procession of 4,500 motorcycle riders from Woodland Park to Cripple Creek Saturday for the annual 26-mile POW/MIA Recognition Ride.
Col. Michael C. Kasales, commander, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and other avid riders from the brigade and other Mountain Post units volunteered their time to help the group lead the ride that is the major event of the 19th Annual Salute to the American Veterans Rally and Festival. The Patriot Guard Riders were formed to help preserve the dignity and honor of funeral ceremonies for servicemembers.
Kasales said he was asked to participate in the event by 4th Inf. Div. leadership after learning he was an avid motorcycle rider.
“As soon as I heard, I said, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ I mean, there’s no greater event you can support than something like this.” Kasales said.
Bystanders and onlookers scattered along the route waved and cheered as thousands of bikes roared past. Many had signs either thanking the veterans for their service or listing the names of those the parade is meant to recognize and honor.
Sgt. Rancin Arney, Company B, 64th Brigade Support Battalion, 3rd BCT, said he was surprised to see the amount of people on their bikes showing support for the event.
“We know that they appreciate what we do,” Arney said. “And that gives us a reason to go to war – to make sure they are safe.”
The motorcade was met by huge crowds, flooding the walkways, casino entrances and sides of the streets of Cripple Creek. The riders rode their bikes, covered with patriotic symbols, flags and a few with custom paint jobs, through the center of town and under a large American flag suspended from the extended ladders of two fire trucks.
After the parade, the rally continued with a remembrance ceremony honoring local veterans and former prisoners of war, acknowledging those who died in service to the nation, and recognizing a four-legged hero.
Bady, a military working dog who served with Soldiers in Afghanistan, lost his leg due to injuries sustained while searching for explosive devices. Bady was awarded an honorary Combat Action Badge from the 3rd BCT, 4th Inf. Div. Kasales, who pinned the badge on Bady, plans to adopt the dog from the rescue foundation that helped bring him home.
The festival also hosted a dedication ceremony for the Hall of Heroes at a local establishment, that displays a number of military and war memorabilia donated by veterans, and a memorial ceremony at the Cripple Creek War Memorial in the Mount Pisgah Cemetery. During the ceremony, the guest speaker, retired Army Col. Bill McPherson, read and dedicated the 22 names added to the memorial during the past year.
Now in its 24th year, the recognition ride was created after a store attendant was asked what the word “powmia” meant on a black and white patch depicting a solemn silhouette. After being asked that question, Jim Wear, now president of Pro Promotions, Inc. and founder and organizer of the annual ride, said he decided to create an event to let everyone know exactly what it meant and to remember the prisoners of war and missing in action the stark patch represents.
“We decided to do the ride as an awareness thing,” Wear said. “But then the ride got so big, we decided to turn it into an overnighter, then a two-day deal, then a three-day deal.”
Aside from the ceremonies and honors, the rally also hosts a number of vendors, contests and live bands. One of the bands to make an appearance this year was the Ivy Division Band’s “High Altitude.”
“We look forward to this weekend all year,” Wear said. “The pride, patriotism and camaraderie exhibited by the rally attendees are both humbling and exhilarating.”
As the rally and festival honor the military men and women of the past and present, it’s clear the original intent of the POW/MIA Recognition Ride continues to fulfill its purpose, ensuring the inscription on the POW/MIA emblem stays true: “You are not forgotten.”