SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — The 16th annual Veterans for Veterans Biker Event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Riverpark Church (former Hamel’s amusement park) in the 3200 block of East 70th Street in Shreveport.
On tap are a Freedom Motorcycle Ride at 1 p.m. , a car and bike show, children’s activities, a silent auction, speakers and a drawing. The event’s proceeds go toward helping locally hospitalized veterans.
”It’s important to for us to support our vets because they are the ones who came before us, especially as being an active-duty military member," John Maattala said. “They put up with all the struggles we are going through right now. And we being the modern military are in the little bit better position when we get out, whereas the resources that are afforded to them aren’t as great, I guess. So for us to be able to take care of the guys who came before us, it’s really a part of our mission.”
Maattala, secretary of the Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club Chapter 75 out of Barksdale Air Force Base, says their club has been involved with the event for the past few years. The Green Knights mentor motorcycle riders on base but say they also try to help out any cause that involves helping children and veterans in the community.
“There just wasn’t any events going on to honor veterans around this time of year,” Maattala said. “The founder, Theresa, got the event started and a few years ago and us being the active-duty military motorcycle club out of Barksdale met up with her. She did motorcycle instruction for our members on base, so it was a natural progression to start helping out with getting the event set up, getting it organized. We have a classic car and bike show that we do at the event that we run ourselves. That’s how we got started.”
The Remembering Our Fallen traveling photographic war memorial has been set up for this year’s event. It honors our country’s military fallen from The War on Terror (9/11/2001-present). The memorial is available for viewing 24/7 from Thursday, Nov. 5, until noon Sunday, Nov. 8.
“In the towers, we have about 70% of those who we have lost,” said Noala Fritz, who travels across the country with the memorial. “It’s about 5,200 and they are pictures. That’s what’s unique. It’s a pictorial memorial.
“On the towers, we have six pages and each page holds about 56 soldiers, Marines and airmen," Fritz continued. “We asked for one picture in their military uniform, it didn’t have to be a formal one, just one in their military uniform. And then we asked for a picture of them just loving life, loving family, showcasing their hobby, whatever it may be. Below each picture is their name, their age, their rank, their branch, the day they died, how they died and where they died. That’s 29 of the towers.”
The memorial also has a tower with a red background.
“On that tower, we remember those who we lost during training missions or those preparing to Iraq or Afghanistan,” Fritz said.
"Then we have two towers with blue backgrounds to showcase those we lost who brought the battle home and we lost here at home. I think it’s a very encompassing and educational memorial.”
The memorial and its message are close to Fritz’s heart. She lost her son Jacob Fritz in 2007 in Iraq. His picture is on the memorial along with the last photo they took as a family.
“I am a Gold Star mom,” Fritz explained. “I lost my oldest son. First Lt. Jacob Fritz was executed while in POW status Jan. 20 in 2007.
“We started this in 2017, and we’ve traveled to 44 states and set it up over 80 times,” she continued. "I have heard so many heroes' stories. These are my kids, too. I travel with them and I have had the privilege and the honor of meeting their families and the guys they served with. I am also a Blue Star mom. I have a son who is active with the Nebraska Guard who is a major; and I have a son that is active Army currently at Fort Sill in Oklahoma.”
She, like many other Gold Star families, does not want her loved ones to be forgotten. It’s a message and impact echoed by those working to help our country’s veterans.
“They have been put through all the struggles we are going through now," Maattala said. "So it’s going to be a really cool event to raise money for veterans for veterans so they can support veterans locally who need help with medical expenses, finding shelter or just support that they normally might not get through the VA.”
Fritz said: “These brave men are going to stand on the line, whether that’s in a foreign country or on our soil. I think that’s important for us to remember that and honor that.”