by Victor Lopez
MIDLAND COUNTY - Hundreds of motorcycles made their way to Andrews, on this day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.
This year over 800 bikes and over 1,500 riders rode hard, so Americans will never forget what one performer said in her song, "all of them gave some, but some, gave all."
"We have men and women who have lost their lives for our freedom. That's something we can never forget. We've got to stay on top of it," said Midland County Sheriff Gary Painter.
Painter was one of many who gathered at the Permian Basin Vietnam Memorial Monday morning. It was a crowd filled with veterans, enlisted, families and a whole lot of support.
According to Painter, "I appreciate all the people coming out, honoring the veterans that have served, honoring the veterans that are lost, the ones that have lost their lives, the ones that are still missing. We never forget. We're not going to forget."
The sheriff escorted the 1,500 plus riders as they made they're way from the Vietnam Memorial, down Highway 191, on their way to Andrews. But, he has more in common with many of them than today's ride. He's a war veteran too.
"Something, like this today, brings it back. I think it's an outstanding tribute to the veterans of the United States," Painter said.
The ocean of onlookers were silent as a lone bugle played Taps in memory of the fallen. They watched, many wiping away tears, as wreathes were placed at the memorial wall. They even were witness to a Native American ceremony performed by the Cherokee Tribe of the Trans-Pecos Region.
"I have been asked to participate in the Native American aspect, of keeping the tradition and bringing the heritage and the culture, keeping it alive," said the tribe's Chief, Luis Tijerina.
Tijerina shares a bond with many in the crowd, like the family of PFC Clayton Henson, of Midland, who was killed in Iraq in 2004.
"I, also, have a brother on this wall, who died in Vietnam. It extends my family, because all of these people have gone through what I've gone through and knowing the loss, experiencing that loss," he explained.
From the old to the young, from Harley's to performance bikes, the spirit of America's Armed Forces and the sacrifices they have made, was flowing.
While some in the crowd may not be old enough to fully understand the true meaning of Memorial Day, yet, vets and family members hope they will, someday soon.
"You can honor the ones that have lost their lives, the ones that have served and never forget that this day is there for that purpose," said Sheriff Painter.
"I would admonish the young people to understand that this is greatest nation in the world," Tijerina added.
During the memorial ceremony, a lot of comments were made by veterans and families of the fallen. Possibly, the one that brings it all home, came from a Vietnam vet. He said, "freedom means one thing to the protected, but it means something totally different to those who protect."