by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND--More than 1,000 motorcycle riders took to the open road on Monday. They rode around the Basin to honor fallen war heroes.
The Ride to Remember started 11 years ago with just 35 bikes. We're told the number that made their way to Andrews was well over the 1,000 they had expected.
"Not all of them are veterans but all of them respect the sacrifice, the families of the veterans in this community make," Veteran and organizer, Vic Silvester, said.
The ride wasn't about the type of bike you ride or the branch of the military you served. As Silvester puts it, it's about the sacrifices that were made, so we can have the freedom to do those things.
"We have current members of the armed forces from the Permian Basin that are currently serving in harm's way. The message that we send, with this memorial and all these bikes, those guys over there know, the Permian Basin will never forget their soldiers," Silvester said.
Retired Army Cpt. Luis Lopez comes from a long line of military service. Monday's ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, hits very close to home, since that's where he served two tours of duty.
"It makes me feel the love and the devotion that comes from this wave of people. When we came back from Vietnam, we were not, necessarily welcomed in the most delightful way," Lopez explained.
Sgt. Abraham Rincon also served two tours with the U.S. Army. His duty was more recent in Afghanistan. He now shares a bond with the countless others who gathered to remember.
According to Rincon, "It's really hard to explain and you really can't explain it unless you've been there. My wife asks me the same question and she's an OPD officer. I told her, 'Babe, imagine wearing your uniform, 24/7 for 15 months in a row, then coming back home.' That's the closest thing that comes to it."
They served in different times and places, but they did it for the same reason. Unfortunately, they have memories of their own.
"Too many people died and I live with those memories. 40 years later, they don't want to go away. I hurt. I hurt for those that didn't make it back with me," Lopez said.
They serve their country proudly and want their country to be proud too.
"Just not to forget us. It's really hard when you come back and you get people who turn away from you," Rincon added.
Silvester said, they also want you to think of one thing before you light up that grill and relax, "If you love your freedom, hug a vet and say thank you. You can serve in many ways. Not everybody carries a rifle."
There are 225 names on the Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
As of this Memorial Day, 2010, 507 Texas service men and women have been killed since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, 16 of them are from the Permian Basin.