Area veterans support volunteer services came together Saturday to make a donation and raise funds for the Sam Rayburn Memorial Veterans Hospital in Bonham. The third annual Ride for the Vets began at the VFW Post 2772 in Sherman, traveled to the hospital in Bonham and ended at the VFW Post 4852 in Bonham.
More than 50 riders took diddy packs, or toiletries kits, to those being cared for at the Bonham hospital. For those that did not make a diddy pack, a donation of $20 was made to the hospital.
“We made this a community event that is not limited to veterans organizations,” VFW Post 2772 member and event organizer Dom Domingos said. “Anybody and everybody, as long as you have a street legal vehicle, can join in. We have had great success with it. This is the third year we have done it and it has grown greatly every year.”
Domingos said the purpose of the event was to let the people in Bonham know that they are cared for and to bring the community together to show support of veterans.
“This is not an American Legion event,” he said. “This is not a VFW event. This is a community event. This is about community support for our local VA hospital.”
Last year, about 80 bikes participated in the event. There was a Jeep line that included 13 Jeeps ranging from the earliest models to recent body styles. There were also cars and other street legal vehicles in the caravan. This year there were just as many motorcycles.
“In terms of how much we have raised, the total including the cost of the diddy bags and the donations, in the last two years, we have raised well over $7,000,” Domingos said. “In the future, my goal is two fold. We want to continue to work with this group of people in support of the hospital, and we would like to see this catch on state wide. We want organizations to support their local hospital. Eventually, I want this to become a really big event.”
Domingos said that the Ride for the Vets is not just about showing togetherness among veterans support groups, but to promote cohesion in the country.
“We need to keep reminding out veterans that we do care,” he said. “The atmosphere in our country today is divisive. We want to add some cohesion. We want to promote our love of this country. We want to promote our love of the flag. Most of these people are veterans. That is what these people fought for. We want to show our love and that is what we will continue doing.”
Veteran Curtis Ramsey rode his motorcycle in the caravan Saturday. Ramsey is not affiliated with any veterans organizations in this area, however, his wife, who also rode in Saturday’s event, is a member of the Gainesville VFW in the women’s auxiliary.
“I like to ride,” he said. “I love my veterans. They have done so much for our country. Some of them have given their all. They will always need our love and support. My opinion is that Vietnam veterans were done really wrong when they came home. It is a sad situation compared to how our veterans are treated now. I love our military.
This was Ramsey’s first time riding in the Ride for the Vets.
“There is no reason not to support our veterans,” he said. “If it was not for them, we would not have any of the freedoms we have today.”
American Legion Post 231 member Steve Mahia agreed. Since the soldiers took care of America, he said, when they came home as vets, he wants to help take care of them.
“They are the ones that made it so that we can stay here and be free,” he said. “Some of them are down on their luck. We want to take goods to them so that they can make it through the holidays. Hygienically, they can stay clean.”
Mahia said that he likes to especially look out for those who fought in the Vietnam War.
“I think of the Vietnam vets who were abused and spit on, and it is a lot better than it was then,” he said. “They need to be remembered for what they did for us then. I would really like to see the veterans taken care of better than what they have been. It’s like the veterans have been put on the back burner.”
Mahia said that too often he hears people saying they will “take care of them when the next holiday comes around.”
“There are so many homeless vets,” he said. “It’s so sad to see that. They cannot get their medicines because they do not have enough help.”
Pilot Point American Legion member Jeff Justice said that the majority of the nation owes all that they have to a small percentage of the country. He said that what the soldiers have done for the civilians is what makes America great.
“Seven percent of the American population serves in the military or served in the military,” he said. “It means that 93 percent of the American population owes their freedom and their rights to that 7 percent. Whether they were drafted or volunteered, they stood on that line, and kept the other forces at bay. That is what makes America great.”
Justice is a Persian Gulf veteran. He said that in the Army, he learned that service is all about brotherhood. He said that the Ride for the Vets was important to him because it showcases the brotherhood between area support organizations.
“When you are in the military, the person behind you, you have to trust,” he said. “The person in front of you has to be able to trust you no matter what you are doing. You could be doing a police call, picking up trash on the side of the road, or you could be out on patrol. That brotherhood runs deep. We kid with each other all the time, but we have each other’s backs.”