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2,500 motorcyclists ride for VA center

June 07, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

GREENCASTLE, Pa. -- Greencastle residents tailgated and set up folding chairs on the sidewalk for the 19th annual Operation God Bless America motorcycle ride, which attracted 2,500 motorcyclists in support of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.

Don Gordon of Mercersburg, Pa., has ridden in the massive line of motorcycles every year since 1991. He said he rides in memory of his late uncle, who was unable to use veterans resources during an illness because his military records were lost.

"It's a gathering of like-minded people for a worthy cause. The more money raised and people that are aware of these issues, the better chance they have of getting the resources they need," said Gordon, who rode a Harley-Davidson Softail.

Approximately $62,000 was raised Sunday, according to steering committee member Mary Ann Davenport.

Participants, guided by police, traveled 45 miles from Greencastle to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center. There, they joined veterans for lunch, something Wendy Onstead and friends called "emotional."

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"It's a good cause," said Jay Mock, who traveled 90 miles from Bedford County, Pa., with friends to register at the starting point.

It was the group's second year participating.

"Last year we got drenched," Onstead said.

Pat Baxter had the day off from work and was able to join her husband, Jeb, and father, John Miller, for the first time.

"My dad is a veteran, so he likes to participate. He also volunteers with the VA," Pat Baxter said.

Jeb Baxter was riding the 1963 BMW motorcycle that his wife said she "grew up on the back of." She rode a Suzuki Shadow.

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