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Motorcyclists on a mission to remember

  • Members of the American Legion Post 21 wave goodbye as the Fallen Soldiers Memorial Motorcycle riders head out onto Perley Street as they begin their ride on Tuesday morning. The group was visiting three Gold Star families and ending up in Lincoln to spend the night. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • The torch stays lit the whole ride from Oregon to Washington, D.C.

  • Bill Filley and Neil Wagner lead the Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch Ride from the American Legion Post 21 in the South End on Tuesday morning, July 27, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • A chrome side mirror of one of the riders before they head out on Tuesday morning, July 27, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Veteran Max Badesheim from Boise, Idaho gets ready before the group heads out on Tuesday morning, July 27, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Pastor Rocky Angone prays during the morning ceremony before the the group heads out for their three Gold Star family tributes on Tuesday morning, July 27, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Chaplain Mike Poitier from Mississippi (seated) talks with a rider before the group heads out GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Veteran Max Badesheim from Boise, Idaho, salutes during the Tuesday morning ceremony before the group heads out. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Executive Director Warren Williamson during the morning ceremony before the riders head out on their ride to visit three Gold Star families on Tuesday morning, July 27, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Published: 7/27/2021 4:58:10 PM

Army veteran Max Badesheim has been on a ride to remember and to pay respect.

On Monday, he along with about 20 other motorcyclists rolled in to the American Legion Post 21 parking lot following another 200 miles on the road.

The group embarked from Eugene, Oregon, two weeks earlier on July 10. Badesheim, who lives outside Boise, Idaho, joined the band of motorcycle riders the following day as they made their way across the country to pay tribute to the families of fallen soldiers. Their plan: travel across 18 states in 28 days to honor 75 families.

“I just felt like it was something I needed to do,” he said. “It has been an experience.”

This week marked the halfway mark on their mission to pay personal visits to each family, who each get a plaque honoring their loved one and words of respect from complete strangers.

“You pull up at their house or the cemetery, wherever they choose to have the visit, and it may be the mom or the dad or it may be the whole family or it may be family and friends,” Badesheim said. “It’s very emotional.”

The visits began with Warren Williamson and about 800 motorcycle riders 12 years ago back in Oregon.

“There came a point where I just didn’t think my life was making a difference in the world,” Williamson said. “I know that sounds corny, but it is so true. I didn’t feel I was making a difference.”

He decided to start visiting Gold Star families across his state to remind them that there are people out there who haven’t forgotten their fallen family members.

The visits meant a lot to everyone involved.

Williamson, officially the executive director of Tribute to Fallen Soldiers, decided to take the show on the road and began visiting other states. Then after the 2016 ride, mostly in the Pacific Northwest, the new mission was to visit families across the country and finished their journey at Arlington National Cemetery, where they extinguish their “Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch.”

This is Badesheim’s first year participating.

They were in the Concord area to pay their respects to Staff Sgt. Thomas Seiler, who died in 2016 at Fort Bragg while serving in the Army. He is memorialized in his hometown of Attica, N.Y., but his brother, Matthew Wieczhalek-Seiler, lives here.

They stayed the night on air mattresses and cots at the American Legion and received dinner and breakfast before hitting the road again Tuesday.

Before arriving, they paid tribute to Marine Sergeant Jesse Strong in Vermont, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005.

“His parents were salt of the earth parents,” Williamson said. “They stood up, proud as ever, and told his story. And it just brought tears to my eyes because they still believe strongly that he did the right thing.”

At the end of their journey, they will pay tribute to the families of two more former soldiers. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick, who clashed with rioters on Jan. 6 and died the next day after suffering a stroke. He was veteran, having served in the New Jersey Air National Guard. The other is Beau Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, who served in Iraq in 2008 as part of the Delaware Army National Guard. He died of brain cancer in 2015.

The president is not expected to be able to make it to the ceremony

“People may not believe in his politics, and a lot of people don’t, but you better respect him as a Gold Star father, because that is important,” Williamson said. “His son, along with all of those other 74 names, they raised their hand, and they said, ‘I will serve.’ ”

By the end of this ride Tribute to Fallen Soldiers will have visited nearly 900 families.

“It’s been a huge blessing to be able to touch so many service members,” Williamson said.

For more information, go to tributetofallensoldiers.com.

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