The participants will begin their six-day trip in Wichita Falls and make a journey of more than 500 miles to Corpus Christi, to raise money and awareness for U.S. troops.
U.S. Marine Vietnam veteran and Beeville community member Rudy Garcia is helping to organize the event.
“Most of the soldiers who are riding have been wounded in action,” Garcia said. “They have gone through tremendous personal tragedy and are still able to keep a positive attitude.”
The bikers will arrive at Coastal Bend College on Nov. 10 around 4 p.m. Garcia asked members from the fire department, police department and motorcycle veterans groups to escort them on their ride through Beeville from the college to the courthouse.
Donna Richmond of Beeville has chosen to be part of the event for the third year in a row.
“Three years ago, a man from the club called me and said they (Warriors on Wheels) were coming through Beeville and needed someone to feed them when they stopped here,” she said. “So we took them out to eat when they got here and talked and laughed, and I really enjoyed getting to know them.”
“The next year (2012) we had a small parade. I asked for Rudy’s help and the guys from the Beeville Community Veteran’s Group, and Commissioner Eloy Rodriguez welcomed them.”
During the Warriors on Wheels ride last year, several of the bikers blogged from the road. “One of the bloggers wrote that Beeville was the most patriotic city that they stopped in during their 500-mile trip,” Richmond said. “I said ‘next year will be bigger and better.’ These are heroes, and they deserve a hero’s welcome.”
Richmond set to work on 2013’s bike ride. She called a war veteran with Beeville roots, Staff Sgt. Nieves Rodriguez, to ask if he would be interested in participating.
“Nieves is a big, avid rider, so I asked if he would do it,” she explained. “He agreed, and I am so excited for him.”
Rodriguez, a veteran who completed two tours in Iraq, will make the six-day trek from Wichita Falls all the way to Corpus Christi, stopping in his hometown of Beeville on the way.
Rodriguez graduated from A.C. Jones High School in 1991. He enlisted in the United States Marines in January 1992. He was first assigned to Marine Air Support Squadron 2 on the Marine Corps Air Station Futenma Okinawa, Japan.
A year later, he was assigned to Marine Air Group 38 G-3 as the commander’s driver. His next assignment came in August 1994 when he was assigned to Marine Tactical Air Command Squadron 38 as a squad leader and the safety/hazmat noncommissioned officer (NCO).
In October 1997, Rodriguez enlisted in the U.S. Army, and in February 2003, he was deployed to Camp Taji, Iraq. He was deployed for a second time in January 2005 to Ballad, Iraq.
While serving as a gunner, Rodriguez was involved in a vehicle rollover on a convoy mission to northern Iraq. He suffered a shattered femur and a near right arm amputation at the elbow. He spent about five months recovering at Walter Reed Army Hospital, undergoing two surgeries to reattach his arm and to repair his leg.
In July 2006, he was assigned to Noncommissioned Officer Academy Fort Hood, Texas as the OML NCO and Training NCO, and in January 2008, he was assigned to the U.S. Operational Test Command as the commanding general’s driver and safety NCOIC (noncommissioned officer in charge), where he stayed until 2011.
This is his first year participating in Warriors on Wheels. “I try to do the local club ride with the Stingers every year, so Donna approached me and asked if I would want to do this ride,” Rodriguez said.
Minos Talarantas, the owner of the Beeville Diner, is another community member who wanted to get involved and contribute to the cause. The Diner will provide a free meal for all of the cyclists when they arrive in town.
“This is a community event, and everyone is so willing to help,” Garcia said.
Richmond said the people from the organization that she has come in contact with have taught her to be a better person, and she is committed to the cause.
“I’m not from a military family, but I am an American citizen, and I am able to enjoy my freedoms because of the brave men and women who serve our country,” she said. “I believe in what they do and why they do it.”
“I have embraced them as much as they have embraced me. They bought me a jersey and made me an honorary member, and I am so proud to wear that jersey,” she said. “I love these men and women more than you know.”
“Our goal is to get as many people as we can lined up on Washington Street to wave flags and to show support by welcoming and thanking the veterans,” Garcia said. Riders are expected to be downtown between 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Garcia said that he has flags at Affordable Insurance for those who need them.
Richmond said that all donations go back to the organization 100 percent. The money raised from the bike ride will benefit Wish for Our Heroes, a nonprofit foundation organized to grant wishes for active-duty military soldiers and their families. The organization seeks to relieve burdens from military men and women by helping with medical bills, college tuition and other financial hardships, marital challenges and family separation, job placement for spouses and much more.
Both Richmond and Garcia urge community members to come out on Sunday, Nov. 10, to wave flags and welcome the war heroes who will be biking through town.
“A simple ‘thank you’ means so much to a veteran,” Garcia said.
To donate to the cause, visit www.wowcycling.org or www.wish4ourheroes.org.
Lindsey Shaffer is the regional editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 119, or at regional@mySouTex.com.