SALT LAKE CITY -- A group of veterans and supporters make a cross-country trip each year in order to honor those who have served, and the group stopped in Salt Lake City earlier this month.
The riders are with the National Veterans Awareness Organization and the group is made up of a mixture of riders who are veterans as well as other who support the cause.
“This is the best thing that I do all year,” said Jerry Conner, who is the president of NVAO. “As a matter of fact, it’s probably the best thing that most of these riders do all year.”
Nora Lyn Snow is an administrator for a veterans' home in Salt Lake City, and she said the ride is a highlight for local veterans.
"The veterans are so excited,” Snow said. “They not only let them come out and look at the bikes but they let them sit on the bikes, and then they come into our building and spend time one-on-one with our veterans; it is an amazing day."
The veterans aren't the only ones who enjoy the experience.
“We’re so excited, we're shooting e-mails back and forth, and it just means everything to us," Conner said. "The opportunity to see these veterans in hospitals and homes across the United States means everything."
The organization's mission is to visit veteran homes across America during their 10-day ride from Sacramento, California to Washington D.C.
“We ride every day, we visit between one and three veterans’ homes, veterans' hospitals a day," Conner said. "[We] participate in one to three memorial services a day and we stop in about half a dozen schools across the United States to talk with them about what’s important.”
Once they arrive in Washington, it'll be time for another ride.
“We ride in what’s called the Freedom Ride or the Protest Ride,” Conner said. “They close all the streets in downtown Washington D.C., and we ride to encourage our government, our federal government, to attend to the veterans, to make sure there’s appropriate funding--there’s a lot of issues out there.”
But, above all, the tour across America is about honoring the nation's heroes and spreading a message to future generations about the freedom we all enjoy.
“It’s important for us to stop in schools and talk with school children about service to their country, the importance of veterans, and service in the military,” Conner said. "...I guess it`s that sacrifice that we need to understand ourselves and make sure that folks who've never served understand the sacrifices that these men and women have made."
The National Veterans Awareness Organization began as a non-profit in 2005. For more information or to register for next year’s ride, click here.