PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. - Around Veterans Day, ceremonies and parades are common practice.
At Picatinny Arsenal, the installation's new command sergeant major said he wanted to do things a little differently.
An avid motorcycle rider, Command Sgt. Maj. Rodney Rhoades developed the "Patriots Ride," a 42-mile motorcycle ride throughout the installation's neighboring townships that allowed riders to turn their passion into a new form of remembrance.
Starting at Picatinny's Lake Denmark, 194 riders on 178 motorcycles showed up in support of veterans past and present Nov. 9.
Many different motorcycle enthusiasts, clubs and groups from various locations throughout the state showed their true American pride and support for their nation and its military by bearing the cold and riding in honor of America's heroes.
Stefanie Kimker and Susan Curtis, both employees at the installation, manned the registration table and collected $1,405 from the riders. The proceeds will benefit the Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.
Before the ride kicked off, Picatinny Garrison Commander Lt. Col. John P. Stack and Rhoades welcomed the large crowd around a helicopter that had landed on the field near the starting point. The New Jersey National Guard chopper would later follow the group and film the ride from above.
"I feel like I'm surrounded by a family of Soldiers," Rhoades said before he led the group in prayer.
Kickstands rose promptly at 11 a.m. as Eugene Brown, a contractor at Picatinny, Rhoades and then Stack and his wife Petrina led the way on their bikes.
"This event was very well put together, and it's for a great cause," said Sarah Esposito, a rider from Rockaway.
Staff Sgt. Jason Dowty, a Marine with Gulf Company, 2nd Battalion 25th Marine Corps Regiment, located here collected more than 200 toys for needy children in the spirit of the upcoming holiday season.
Stack said that he hoped this ride will become an annual event around this time of year.
"This is a real great turn out and a really good group of supporters. This is going to be a huge event in a couple of years," Stack said.
After the riders returned to the pavilion, they sat down to a large barbeque feast prepared by staff of the Picatinny Family Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate.
The riders also received complimentary prizes distributed through a raffle to include autographs from the Orange County Choppers team as well as daredevil Robbie Knievel, shirts, sunglasses and various gift cards.