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Heart of the Highway: Respect revs up Auburn-D.C. pilgrimage of veterans

By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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James Garrett was 18 when he was killed in action in South Korea in 1950.

Just about a year later, Dorsey Fowler would be killed during combat in North Vietnam.

Both were from Auburn and both were remembered Wednesday during the first leg of the National Veterans Awareness Ride.

The ride took off with a roar in the chill of a spring morning, with a fresh dusting of snow on the road ahead over Donner Summit and 90 motorcycles glowing and glinting by the dawn’s early light.

The journey to Washington, D.C. started in Auburn. By Memorial Day, the group will join many more motorcycling veterans from around the nation in the capital. The journey’s end will be the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend, where the respect will be mixed with hard-earned dust of the road.

On Wednesday, after crossing into Nevada, the procession was to have visited a veterans hospital in Reno before staying the night in Elko, Nev. More veterans hospitals will be stops along the route east.

“We honor all veterans,” said Kelly Rafferty, of St. Libory, Neb. “I’ve always felt veterans need to take care of veterans, just to let them know they’re not forgotten. Along the way, I’m expecting plenty of tears and laughter.”

The Auburn Jeep Club provided the fuel for the riders - a breakfast served with a helping of respect for the those about to make a journey on the long road ahead.

“I was in the military for 20 years,” said Jeep club member Bill Pierpont. “They’re going to be met and appreciated all the way to Washington, D.C.

And the Auburn link to the ride was honored as Iowa rider Dan Kress read out the names of the two Auburnites killed in action in the Korean War whose memory was honored Wednesday on the ride.

Rick Dyer, the ride’s state coordinator, said that since the ride first started taking off from Auburn in 2004, a majority of the veterans participating have been from the Vietnam War era. But the ride is all encompassing, honoring all veterans.

“We want to let veterans in hospitals and care homes know that they aren’t forgotten,” Dyer said.