By Bob Reinert/USAG-Natick Public AffairsSeptember 26, 2011
FORT DEVENS, Mass. -- Would the threat of a little rain prevent you from helping heroes? Well, of course not.
Nor did it dampen the enthusiasm of the scores of motorcyclists who turned out Sept. 24 for the inaugural "Ride for Our Heroes," an event designed to raise awareness of and funds for New England veterans with deployment-related stress and traumatic brain injuries.
On a day when hope prevailed, a two-wheeled procession made its way from Fort Devens and other points around the six-state region to the Harley-Davidson dealership in Manchester, N.H., all in support of men and women who had endured much more than dreary weather in defense of the nation.
Before they departed from Devens, Dr. John Parrish, a Vietnam-era Naval battlefield physician, recognized service members, veterans and Family members who came out and braved the elements.
"Thank you for doing this exercise today," Parrish said. "We do this in honor of our warriors that keep us safe."
Parrish acts as leader and director of the "Home Base Program" at Massachusetts General Hospital, which provides clinical care for veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and came home with post-deployment stress and TBI. The organization, founded in September 2009 by Massachusetts General and the Red Sox Foundation, also provides counseling for veterans' Families.
"They are the providers of those additional resources in our ability to combat PTSD and TBI," said Lt. Col. Warren Bacote, Devens garrison commander, of the Home Base Program. "I'm excited to host the Massachusetts starting location for our Ride for Our Heroes."
Michael Allard, chief operating officer of the Red Sox Foundation and the Home Base Program, told the bikers how important they were to the organization's efforts in providing care to veterans.
"It is individualized, and it is also without regard to one's ability to pay," said Allard of that care. "So your presence here today, your support, really does enable us to provide this without any barriers for anyone who needs that help. Thank you for that."
Brigadier General John J. McGuiness, Natick Soldier Systems Center senior commander, spoke to the riders before they left Devens and greeted them upon their arrival in Manchester.
"I think … we need to name this … the Ride for Heroes by Heroes, because that's what you are," McGuiness told the riders. "You know, you don't need to wear a uniform to serve the nation. You're serving the nation.
"You're helping Soldiers. You're helping Families. You're helping them live better lives from what you're doing today for us. And for that, I thank you. Have a safe ride."
Colonel David Hiltz, chief of the Aerial Ground Surveillance Systems Division at Hanscom Air Force Base, pointed out that deployed service members had made many sacrifices for the nation in the past 10 years of conflict.
"Many of them have come back with the medical needs you've heard about today," Hiltz said. "I thank you for serving them today."
Participants were welcomed to Manchester with a "Rider Appreciation" party at Harley-Davidson. The post-ride event featured food, entertainment, live auctions and raffles. Riders got to see Red Sox World Series trophies from 2004 and 2007 and meet former Boston Bruins and New England Patriots players.
For more information on the Home Base Program, visit www.homebaseprogram.org.