A parade of motorcycles and military representatives will roar through the streets of Beaver Dam on Saturday as the Nation of Patriots motorcycle tour of the country comes to a close.
The tour saw one American flag transported 14,500 miles through all 48 continental states by motorcycle riders to raise funds for disabled veterans. The journey took 110 days to complete.
Bill Sherer, founder and executive director of the Nation of Patriots, said, “We have so much to celebrate, including crossing the $1 million milestone in funds raised and distributed to this point. America’s veterans deserve our deepest respect and highest praise. Anything that the Nation of Patriots can do to ease their burdens, relieve some stress and show gratitude for their service and sacrifice is time and money well spent.”
The parade is expected to roll into town at noon. A homecoming ceremony will start at 1 p.m. at Swan City Park followed by an activity-filled afternoon.
Tracy Propst, co-director of redevelopment for downtown Beaver Dam, said there will be two Vietnam exhibits set up in the park for the community to experience.
Seventeen portable panels will be on display as part of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum’s Traveling Exhibit Program.
“Wisconsin Remembers: A Face for Every Name” features a photo for each of the 1,161 Wisconsinites officially listed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. The exhibit also includes additional photos for names that are listed on The Highground Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Neillsville. Wisconsin Remembers is a tribute to lost life and lost potential.
It took eight years for volunteers from throughout Wisconsin to collect the photos in an effort led by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association and Andrew Johnson, publisher of the Dodge County Pionier. It is a mission Johnson has continued as president of the National Newspaper Association, encouraging other states to complete their walls.
Friends and family of those who were killed in Vietnam submitted photos, but so did students, teachers and others who simply wanted to put a face to the names listed on the Wall in Washington, D.C. Wisconsin was just the fifth state in the nation to find a photo for every resident listed on the Wall.
As part of the homecoming committee, Propst approached members of Hyland Prairie 4-H Club to see if they were interested in helping at the event.
She said the club was enthusiastic about joining together with the Nation of Patriots and began brainstorming. They found another exhibitor to complement the traveling photo exhibit.
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“The Vietnam Experience, America’s First Ten Thousand Day War” is housed in a 1968-era U.S. military G.P. medium tent. The tent is set up to be accessible for older veterans with mobility concerns.
“I was told it takes 12 hours to set up this exhibit, which includes military artifacts from the Vietnam War,” Propst said. “It sounds fascinating.”
Both exhibits are being supported by Hyland Prairie 4-H Club, Thrivent Financial and the 4-H Endowment.
The 4-H Club will lead family-friendly activities at the park, which will include patriotic face painting and tattoos, games and a letter-writing station where people can write to soldiers and veterans as well.
“They will also be showing people how to make para-cord bracelets for Operation Gratitude (an organization that sends care packages to active duty U.S. military members, first responders, veterans and families),” Propst said.
A Junior Patriot Tour for ages 3-11 will take place where kids are encouraged to dress up and decorate bikes, wagons, pets and strollers. Prizes will be given out for those chosen most patriotic.
Martial Arts America is going to bring out a “boot camp” course for kids.
There will be food, beverages and music to round out the afternoon.
“Beaver Dam is so lucky to be chosen by the Nation of Patriots to celebrate this event. It just keeps growing and we need to rally behind them and our veterans,” Propst said.