If you look up the word 'heroism' in the dictionary, you will find descriptions such as 1: heroic conduct especially as exhibited in fulfilling a high purpose or attaining a noble end and 2: the qualities of a hero.
On Monday, November 8, 2004, while serving in Baghdad, Iraq, SFC Clint Wisdom (39) of Atchison, Kansas and Sgt. Don Clary (22) of Troy, Kansas rewrote the book on heroism when they placed their vehicle between the convoy they were protecting and a suicide bomber. These brave men were killed in action that day, but through their selfless act of duty and heroism, their memories will live on forever.
On Sunday, September 11, 2005, the Lest They Be Forgotten, Wisdom-Clary Benefit Ride was held to raise money for War Memorial Statues to commemorate SFC Clint Wisdom and Sgt. Don Clary. The statues will be erected at the Atchison, Horton and Troy Armories.
Around 10 a.m. that morning, Stripe and I pulled into the parking lot at St. Joe Harley-Davidson, and were instructed to park behind a handful of bikes that were already lined up for the ride. Even though it was Sunday, St. Joe Harley-Davidson was kind enough to open their store so riders could use the restrooms, shop and get out of the heat for a while before heading out on the ride. We registered for the ride, purchased a couple 50/50 tickets and decided that since there were two of us covering the event, Stripe would move his bike near the exit so he could ride ahead of the group and find a good vantage point from which to take photos.
Lexie and Rhonda, our August and September cover girls showed up wearing cute little camouflage outfits and proceeded to sell Cycle Connections T-shirts, Koozies and autographed copies of their cover pages to help raise money for the Wisdom-Clary Memorial Fund. Several riders contributed to the cause and were more than happy to have their pictures taken with the girls.
From the way everyone was lining up, I could tell this wasn't going to be your typical poker run, but more like a huge parade in which everyone would ride together from one stop to the next. There were plenty of volunteers on hand to direct traffic into the parking lot, show riders where to line up, plus there were plenty of volunteers helping at the registration table so nobody had to wait in line. The city of St. Joe also provided several motorcycle police officers to help direct traffic and escort our large group to the city limits. We participate in numerous benefit rides throughout the year, and I have to admit that this was one of the most well-organized events I had ever seen.
Shortly before the ride was scheduled to take off, members of SFC Clint Wisdom and Sgt. Don Clary's family were introduced to the riders and thanked everyone for their support and for being there. After a quick prayer for a safe ride, Travis Caw, Director of the Pony Express Harley Owners Group led the group of 224 bikes and 319 riders/passengers out of the parking lot towards our first stop in Atchison, Kansas.
Since we had arrived at the dealership early, we were toward the front of the group. The first leg of the ride went without a hitch, and as we pulled into the parking lot at the Atchison Armory, I hopped off my bike and made a dash for the card table that was set up under a tree. I figured that with this many riders, it would take hours for everyone to draw a card, and I didn't really feel like standing in line all day. I drew my first card, which was something like a six of hearts (yippee) and walked back to my bike to wait for the other 318 riders to draw their card. I figured I'd be waiting for quite a while, but was pleasantly surprised to see several volunteers walking around the parking lot with decks of cards from which riders could draw! How's that forward thinking!
It was a very warm day, so event organizers Jeff and Debbie Hower transported several coolers full of water and soft drinks from stop to stop in the back of their truck, which was greatly appreciated. Drinks were $1 each, with all proceeds going to the memorial fund. I purchased a bottle of water and had just finished it when I heard Travis, our fearless ride leader announce that it was time to head to the next stop.
When we arrived in Horton, Kansas, everyone drew their second card and made their way inside the Armory. A projector and sound system was set up in the gymnasium where a video paid tribute to our fallen heroes. After watching the video, everyone made their way back to their bikes and we were off again.
The next stop was the Armory in Hiawatha, Kansas, where after drawing our third card, we watched a slideshow that included pictures of SFC Clint Wisdom and Sgt. Don Clary in Iraq. From there we headed to Troy, Kansas where everyone enjoyed a great lunch, provided by Keith's Bar-B-Q. The projector and sound system was set up once again for those who didn't get a chance to see the tribute at the stop in Horton.
After a great lunch, everyone drew their fourth card and we headed for our final stop at the 139th Airlift Wing of the Missouri Air Guard, which is located at Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Missouri. Upon our arrival at the base, we were allowed to ride onto the tarmac and park next to a huge C-130 military transport plane, also known as Hercules. By the time everyone got off their bikes, Stripe had huffed and puffed his way to the top of the air traffic control tower where he managed to get everyone's attention just long enough to take an aerial group shot of everyone around the plane. We were allowed to tour the plane, which was very large and very cool.
I saw Rhonda climb into the cockpit, so out of curiosity, I stuck my head in to see what she was up to. There she was, sitting at the controls with this big smile on her face. She was looking at all the buttons and switches like a kid in a candy store, so I suggested it might be a good idea for us to get off the plane before she figured out how to start it and taxi onto the runway.
As soon as everyone had a chance to draw their fifth and final card, volunteers collected the poker sheets and began tallying up the scores to determine the winners. While the poker sheets were being reviewed, drawings were held for all the great door prizes, raffle items and the 50/50 pot. Several items were also auctioned off, which created a lot of excitement.
Hiawatha Fire Chief Gary Shear won $698 in the 50/50 drawing, and after lots of number crunching, the poker run winners were announced. Todd (last name unknown) won $100 for first place, Robert Brunke won $75 for second place and Larry VenAnne won $50 for third place. All money from the 50/50 drawing and the poker run was graciously donated back to the Wisdom-Clary Memorial Fund. What a great bunch of caring people!
Shortly after the ride, Jeff announced that $8,606 was raised and the War Memorial Statues would soon be on their way!
The families, friends and soldiers would like to thank all those who helped and participated in this fundraising ride. The money raised will be a significant help in realizing our goal to get memorials built for SFC Clint Wisdom and SGT Don Allen Clary. We would like to extend our thanks and gratitude to the Pony Express HOG & LOH group for their help with this project. Everyone is invited to the dedication of the first memorial, which will be at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, November 8 at the Atchison Armory.
Donations can be made to the:
Wisdom-Clary Memorial Fund
Exchange National Bank
PO Box 189
Atchison Kansas 66002
Donations will also be accepted at the:
Atchison Armory (913) 367-3441
Horton Armory (913) 486-2148
Troy Armory (785) 985-3823
Story by Mike Schweder
Photos by Mike Schweder, Stripe and Rhonda