Story & Photos by Diana Olmstead
On Friday May 16th Northwest Harley-Davidson was packed to maximum capacity with thousands of Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers and their family members. It was an unbelievable sight as I rolled off the I-5 Exit 111 and took in the view of the dealership to my left.
As I made my way to the roundabout at the end of the off-ramp, several Olympia PD officers were there directing traffic in and out and all around Freedom Lane making for a smooth entrance into the NWHD parking lot.
The gathering was for a great and significant cause, to honor the men and women from the 2nd Stryker Brigade, also known as the 2-2, who’ve lost their lives since the 2011 terrorist attacks. The 2nd Stryker Brigade is the only brigade without a memorial at JBLM.
The spouses and family members, known as the Hearts Behind the Shield, came up with the memorial idea and created the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund; a private, nonprofit organization that provides assistance to the soldiers and families of the 2nd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division located at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.
The memorial is designed with two tall pillars of granite with the names of the fallen etched in stone and a bench that sits between the two pillars with footprints walking away.
In addition to their primary goal of sustaining the memory of the Brigade and honoring the fallen with a memorial at JBLM Memorial Park their mission is to also provide for the health, comfort, welfare, and morale of their fine soldiers and their families during difficult times such as deployments.
The Lancer Soldier and Family Fund goal is to raise a total of $60,000 to complete the memorial and fly the family members of those lost out here for the dedication and they expect to have the memorial finished by May of next year.
This huge fundraising event kicked off with 200 bikes taking part in a scenic tribute ride that left the dealership at 10am and returned at noon. One of a kind “Ride in Remembrance” shirts were available for purchase – $10 for soldiers and their family members or $15 for civilians. The shirts were a huge hit and they were selling like hotcakes!
There was plenty to do and lots to enjoy throughout the entire day – a delicious free BBQ lunch was served to all, the Bruce Maier Band rocked the crowd, there were a couple of cute classy girls washing bikes, along with several great vendors including the Drag Specialties demo truck and Arlen Ness booth who were showcasing their latest must have parts and accessories, plus a bouncy house for the little ones to enjoy!
I was extremely impressed with how well executed this large scale event went. My guess is that around 5,000 soldiers and their families showed up to support the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund Fundraiser.
Special kudos to Northwest H-D who worked with all of the local area businesses to accommodate off site overflow parking and shuttle busses to and from the dealership, the Olympia PD who were fantastic with handling the high traffic volume and to all of the vendors who were set up in an organized fashion and were truly having a great time.
Julio Valdenegro and Joe Deck, Northwest H-D owners and Tina Torfin, Northwest H-D Marketing Manager were extremely gracious hosts during the course of the entire day.
Thank you to the entire Lancer Soldier and Family Fund team who have worked tirelessly to achieve their goal and thank you to all of the soldiers, their families and the civilians who showed up to support building this memorial.
No question about it, this event was a deeply meaningful and profound charity event. Throughout the day I spoke to hundreds of young men and women from all over the U.S. who are currently stationed at JBLM. As I looked into their eyes I felt privileged to stand before them. They sacrifice so much, time away from their loved ones and the greatest risk of all – not making it home, just to ensure that we have and will always maintain the freedom that makes living in the United States of America so damn great.
I asked Julio, Joe and Tina “What was it that made you get involved in this project?” Tina replied, “We are very proud of the work we do for Joint Base Lewis-McChord! We recognize these men and women put their lives on the line for us every day, so we see it as our responsibility to do what we can for them every opportunity we get.
Last November we were approached by the Lancer Soldier and Family Fund, and when they told us the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team was the only brigade on JBLM without a memorial built to honor their fallen soldiers and that they had an idea for a huge scale fundraiser and needed our help to make it happen, we literally jumped at the chance.
We put together a planning committee; we had Lacey Police Department and City Officials on board as well. Our goal was to raise $40k to help build the memorial; we raised over $38k with this one event alone! It was a huge community effort! There are no words to properly express just how proud we are to be a part of this.”
Julio continued to say, “And this isn’t a one-time thing, we as a dealership work hard for our soldiers every day. We are very involved with JBLM, we sponsor motorcycle safety courses, host events for military families, help provide hams and turkeys to military families during the holidays. Tina, our Marketing Manager is the President of our local AUSA (Association of the United States Army) Lacey Subchapter and she is also the Secretary for PMBA (Pierce Military Business Alliance) and we also belong to AFA (Air Force Association). Our involvement and efforts to support our military community go on and on, and we really haven’t even scratched the surface, there is more work to be done and gratitude to be given to these brave men and women and to their families, and it is our honor to continue to work hard for them and to give back and help in any way we can!”