The AMVETS Post 44 on State Road 60 had hundreds of attendees at its 14th annual Patriot Day Observance and Remembrance Ride.
On the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11 the AMVETS Post 44 wanted to ensure it held a memorial event that none would soon forget. More than 100 motorcyclists arrived at the Rivers Edge Bar & Grill in Gibsonton at 9 a.m. Saturday and rode down to the AMVETS Post 44 in a remembrance ride. Tickets were $15 per person and benefited the James A Haley Recreational Services as well as local first responders and veteran programs.
“Being a retired army veteran, I spent time in Afghanistan and so it’s always been important to me, and everyone here at the post, to make sure we never forget 9/11,” Mike Graham, commander of Post 44, said. “Watching us pull out of Afghanistan on its 20th anniversary, well there’s a lot emotions, a lot of thoughts there. Everyone here cares about veterans and first responders. We’ve been doing this event for 14 years. We don’t want people to forget and it’s easily forgotten. So we use this ride to help make sure people remember what happened that day and also can then turn around and help some good causes.”
The opening ceremony began at 11 a.m. and the group gave checks to two causes.
The Florida Sheriffs Youth Ranches received $3,888 and James A Haley Veteran’s Hospital received $5,000.
The party was scheduled to last until around 4 p.m. when the motorcyclists poured back out of the parking lot and headed home until next year’s event.
The opening ceremony was led by Eddie Bullock, commander of the Florida Department of AMVETS.
Bullock “joined the AMVETS in 2011 and assumed positions as AMVETS National Diversity Team Member, Department 1st Vice, Department 2nd Vice, Scholarship Chairman and Juniors Coordinator, District III Commander, District III 1st and 2nd Vice, Post 26 Adjutant, Provost Marshal and Chaplain,” according to the Florida Department of AMVETS.
He served a 20-year career in the United States Navy and currently works as the Middle East Chief Future Operations for the Department of Defense Information Systems Agency.
The crowd stood for the national anthem and pledge of allegiance and then there was a 21-gun salute and Taps was played. Following Bullock’s speech The Redline Band began playing and the attendees sat down for lunch or walked the market on-site.
Vendors were selling everything from handmade crafts to unique motorcycle gear. There were also raffles with more than 60 baskets, an auction, a 50/50 drawing and three grand prize giveaways.
This year’s event was sponsored and supported by The Fran Haasch Law Group; Aj Mobility; MobilityWorks; The Sirata Beach Resort; Elite Roofing Services; JF Kicks; The River’s Edge Bar and Grill; Lakeland Harley-Davidson; SFBMC MacDill; Untouchables MC; CVMA FL 20-10 ; Patti Mawn Alley and the band Blind Sighted.
AMVETS Post 44 has developed a strong following over the years for its continued dedication toward the 9/11 Remembrance Ride.
However, it was just one of many events held Saturday throughout the country as people came together to honor the lives lost 20 years ago on Sept. 11.
In Hillsborough County there were 5k runs, memorial events and a variety of ceremonies held in Plant City, Lithia, Tampa, Brandon, Riverview and Temple Terrace.
Though the AMVETS Post 44 hosted this event, many other Posts turned up in honor of the ride. Several motorcycle clubs committed to the memorial event as well, including some riders who brought along their pups — most of whom were wearing the American Flag .
Community organizations and nonprofits set up booths at the vendor market to share details of services available to first responders and military.
As the clouds rolled in many hunkered down under the tents or on the Post’s patio.
Stories of their years of service in the military were shared by several in attendance and a large group of the motorcyclists said they had been attending the event every year since its inaugural ride.
“We keep this going because we care about our veterans and our first responders and want to make sure that we never forget what happened on 9/11,” Graham said. “People come and pay their respects and then spend the day with some good camaraderie and support some good causes.”
You can follow the AMVETS Post 44 on Facebook for further information on upcoming events. Or visit amvetspost44.org. Graham said people can also get in contact by giving the Post a ring at 813-756-6944.