‘They’re all heroes’ – Veterans motorcycle tour stops in Albert Lea
Published 10:02 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015
By Sam Wilmes
ALBERT LEA — Combat veterans were honored Tuesday afternoon at the Nation of Patriots Tour that stopped at Bergdale Harley-Davidson.
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Some participants in the 48-state, 100-day journey were driven to participate after losing loved ones.
The parents of Pfc. Jacob Gassen, killed while serving in Afghanistan in 2010, were on hand to honor the sacrifices their son made for the country.
“In my eyes, he’s a hero,” said Greg Gassen, Jacob Gassen’s father. “The people of the United States have lost track of what the word means. The people who have gone overseas and served for our country, they’re all heroes in my eyes.”
Greg’s wife, Barb Gassen, and their friend, Barry Biermann, traveled by motorcycle from their home in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin.
Motorcycles with flags arrived at the dealership shortly after noon. “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played, and the flag, brought from Eden Prairie, was presented to the Harley Owners Group of Albert Lea.
The riders from the Albert Lea chapter of the Harley Owners Group left at 9 a.m. today and are escorting the flag 140 miles south to Ames, Iowa. The tour wraps up Saturday in Wisconsin, where it began Memorial Day weekend.
The tour is meant to honor service veterans. On each stop of the tour, the outgoing flag bearer presents the flag to the next flag bearer who then carries the flag forward to the next stop. The trip consists of 100 stops in 100 days.
A state resolution honoring the Nation of Patriots Tour was read and 2nd Ward Councilor Larry Baker read a city of Albert Lea resolution, honoring the day as Nation of Patriots Day in Albert Lea. A prayer was read, and then the few dozen veterans, law enforcement officers and members of the public ate lunch.
Bob Jacobs, Albert Lea resident, came to honor the veterans. “The vets got a raw deal when they came back from Vietnam,” Jacobs said. “When they got home they were blamed, but people should have blamed the politicians.”
He said the event was important to remember those who have served and who are serving in the military.
“This is a publicity event,” he said. “It’s fun for everybody, and it shows respect for our soldiers.”
A fundraiser basket night was held on Aug. 21. All of the money raised will be donated to combat wounded soldiers and their families.
The Nation of Patriots is a nonprofit organization. The group works on a national level to promote awareness of and financially support the physical, emotional and economic misfortune that wounded veterans and their families are living with.
The organization was formed in 2008. The first tour was in 2009. The organization says its focus is to provide financial support to those who have served in the armed forces and their families.
The organization relies solely on volunteers.