By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsOctober 22, 2019
Emotions ran as high as the octane levels as a group of 10 Soldiers rode their motorcycles in formation across the post, making stops at six locations Oct. 18 to honor six people on post who conquered breast cancer.
During each stop, tears flowed from both survivors and Soldiers, and that was just fine with Staff Sgt. Nickolas Hooe, 1st Battalion, 13th Aviation Regiment battalion motorcycle rider mentor, who admitted to becoming quite emotional while soaking in the magnitude of the battles each woman faced.
"I kept my sunglasses on for a reason," said Hooe, who led the second annual Fall Motorcycle Mentorship Ride in Support of Breast Cancer Awareness formation on his white bike while flying a white flag with a large pink ribbon in the middle. "It makes me feel good to be giving back. Soldiers get recognized all the time, but many of the people who support us behind the scenes ... a lot of times they don't get the same recognition. This is a way for us to recognize them and give back."
At each stop -- Silver Wings Golf Course, school age center, child development center, Bldg. 5700, U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center and Howze Field -- the group of riders presented a survivor a pink rose, a certificate of appreciation and asked them to sign the flag on Hooe's motorcycle. Other people at each location affected by breast cancer were invited to sign the flag, as well.
The impact of the thunder of a group of motorcycles rumbling up to a facility, the public show of support to those battling the illness and the sincere gestures of support to breast cancer survivors was apparent on the faces of all the witnesses at each stop, and appreciated greatly by all of the survivors, according to Dorothy Newell, employee at Silver Wings Golf Course and a breast cancer survivor who was honored and agreed to be interviewed.
"I cried," she said. "It makes you just feel full of happiness -- conquering this and being recognized by everyone. I received the first one, and when I saw (Hooe) pull up at the golf course, I just hugged him and held him a little bit longer."
Newell said she was diagnosed last year, and it's been quite a battle and it's still ongoing.
"I knew I had to be brave for my husband and my family," she said, adding that she has 13 grandchildren. "I think it was harder on the people around me than for me. I knew I had to stay up for them.
"I'm doing great now," Newell added. "You have to wait five years before you can say you're cancer free, so in 3 1/2 years I can say it!"
She also had words of advice for anyone finding themselves in the same battle she's engaged in.
"Stay positive! Do not give up your energy -- you keep it, and you keep the happiness, and you keep living for you. Do not give cancer the energy," Newell said. "Hey, everyone -- stay strong!"
At the end of the event, a sizable group of children from the SAC attended the finale at Howze Field because an employee from the facility, Joy Ericksen, was the final person to be recognized.
Ericksen was honored for her volunteer efforts on behalf of raising breast cancer awareness, Hooe said at the closing.
"Over the past year, you've done a tremendous amount of volunteer work in support breast cancer awareness, and you've had a hand in helping out through your efforts all of the people whose names are on this flag," Hooe said as he presented Ericksen with a rose, a certificate and the flag that had flown on the back of his motorcycle all afternoon.
In closing, Lt. Col. Juan-Carlos Segura, commander of the 1-13th Avn. Regt., explained to the children present the importance of the occasion and the seriousness of the illness, and thanked everyone who made the event a success, including Hooe, the Directorate of Public Safety, the Directorate of Public Works, the riders and other organizers, and, most of all the six survivors the event honored.
"We presented each of them with a certificate of appreciation, but it's really more a certificate of courage," he said, "because it takes a lot of courage, to get through all of this."