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Bikers hit the highway for veterans at Martinsburg VA Center

June 04, 2007|by JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Celebrity status suited Elton Ensor well on Sunday.

He shook hands, posed for pictures and flirted with women while simultaneously watching over his blue Harley-Davidson FLHT.

At noon, his motorcycle began to guide a thousand more like it on a 45-mile journey to the Martinsburg (W.Va.) Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

"They love to see us. I circle the whole VA hospital," Ensor said.

He planned to be near the stage at the medical center, where motorcyclists who participated in the 17th annual Operation God Bless America ride were to be thanked. Ensor also wanted to interact with a few veterans, who have gotten younger and younger, he said.

"All the money we make goes to veterans," said Ensor, of Warfordsburg, Pa.

It's a cause that suits the 82-year-old well. He served 30 years as a U.S. Navy SEAL, with deployments in the Korean and Vietnam wars and World War II.

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"I feel good that I'm out here at 82 and able to do this," Ensor said, remarking that World War II veterans are "dying by the minute."

The Operation God Bless America ride raised more than $41,000 for the medical center's services, according to Mary Anne Davenport, a member of the ride's steering committee.

The fundraising total spiked when a $25,000 check was written by Wayne and Hattie Nicarry of Chambersburg, Pa., she said.

Bobby Stouffer, an employee of Volvo Powertrain, posted fliers at work to raise money.

"It's more about the veterans than it is about us," he said.

The Waynesboro, Pa., man rode with his wife, Joann, and excitedly described how the motorcycles, which are guided by police escorts, spanned 13 miles on last year's journey.

"I look forward to it every year," said Stouffer, who has ridden for 16 of the 17 years.

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