Honoring thier sacrifice
By Jessica Blomquist
photos by Angelina Bellebuono
Tears well in Debbie Showalter’s eyes as she speaks about her son, Staff Sergeant Kyle Showalter, a soldier serving in the U.S. Air Force Security Forces on a flyaway mission team traveling throughout the Middle East.
“We ride in honor of our son,” she said, explaining why she participated in this year’s Ride for America motorcycle parade.
Showalter and her husband, Michael, who are also members of the Christian Motorcyclist Association’s Crossties chapter in Lawrenceville, rode from their home in Lawrenceville to Monroe to take part in the parade, a route that took them from Monroe, through Social Circle and Rutledge, and into Madison.
Also riding with them was their Chihuahua, Angel, wearing blue goggles and tucked safely into Debbie’s leather vest.
“I have cried a lot,” she said, describing the morning. “But it’s an honor to be able to do some little something for the people out there giving it all for freedom.”
Her son, who was deployed to the Middle East for the third time this March, recently had to watch via webcam as his wife Amanda gave birth to their first child, Gavyn William Showalter, born on May 6.
“I had such a joyful mix of emotions,” Showalter said, speaking about the birth of her first grandchild. “I was Kyle’s eyes. Kyle asked me to be his eyes. My heart was breaking for my son.”
Kyle also has plans to adopt Amanda’s other two children, Cyleste, 6, and Alexzander, 4.
Kyle is slated to return in July, but as his father said, “Nothing is ever set in stone with the military.”
A large crowd gathered in front of the Morgan County Courthouse following the motorcycle parade on Monday to honor and remember veterans as part of Madison’s Memorial Day celebration.
The 10th annual Ride for America parade “Thunder in the Country,” sponsored by the American Legion, is dedicated to veterans from WWII, Korea, Vietnam, as well as those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ride for America was started by Staff Sergeant Gary Lemonds, a former U.S. Army Ranger, after he took part in the Rolling Thunder parade, which annually leads bikers from Arlington, Va. into Washington, D.C.
“How do we truly honor the fallen?” asked Mayor Tom Dupree, who spoke at the event. “By we, the people, living free.”
He encouraged the crowd to pursue freedom by protecting, exercising, and respecting our rights.
Lemonds, who also spoke at the ceremony, estimated that 600 to 775 bikers rode into town for the parade.
He also took the opportunity to honor two veterans, Bobby Boss and Tommy Clack. Bobby Boss fought in the Korean War and has served for 32 years as the Post Commander of American Legion Post 233 in Loganville.
Tommy Clack is a retired Captain in the U.S. Army and a triple amputee who fought in Vietnam. He now works at the Department of Veteran’s Services in Georgia.
Clack quoted John 15:13 of the Bible when he spoke, saying “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
“This is probably the biggest one we’ve had,” said Jim Nesmith, Post Commander of Post 37 of the American Legion, after the event.
Each motorcycle participant donated $10 to ride in the parade, the proceeds of which will provide for soldier’s families.
The Showalters were just two of the many who rode and gathered in tribute to the nation’s veterans and soldiers currently serving in the armed forces on Memorial Day.
“This rips my heart in so many ways to pay tribute to the ones who have gone on before and to honor my son,” Debbie said.