GREENCASTLE, Pa. — When Sam Clark participates in the Operation God Bless America benefit motorcycle ride each year, he is personally aware of how the money raised helps the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Martinsburg, W.Va.
A U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, Clark has utilized services from the medical center. He added his 2007 Harley-Davidson Street Bob to the line of nearly 2,000 motorcycles in the 23rd annual Operation God Bless America ride Sunday.
“I used the VA hospital they’re going to. I’m not only contributing in the ride, but I’m benefiting from it,” said Clark, of Bunker Hill, W.Va.
The medical center uses Operation God Bless America donations to improve comfort for patients and residents. Money raised in the past has been used to purchase flat-screen televisions, Nintendo Wii games and an aquarium.
The 2012 ride raised $36,000, and this year’s event was expected to be close to that, according to Mary Anne Davenport, one of the organizers.
The motorcyclists utilized Interstate 81 on a 45-mile route from Greencastle to Martinsburg. They were aided by police and fire police from several jurisdictions.
Marcy Sipes, Deb Ensminger and Ron Hess joined friends to watch the ride pass on East Baltimore Street in Greencastle. They had patriotic shirts and blankets pulled out for the occasion.
“To see that many bikes at the same time, it’s amazing,” said Sipes, of Greencastle.
Nearby, Greencastle resident Robert Pine staked out a spot to watch the ride. He said he’s seen it grow in the handful of times he’s watched it.
“I just like the benefit of it and the time they take,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter the type of bike. Everyone comes together,” said Krystal Price, another Greencastle resident watching the ride snake past for 20 minutes.
Chris McMonigal of Marion, Pa., was participating for the first time.
“I enjoy the ride, and I like to help out the people. It’s a good cause,” he said.
Inwood, W.Va., residents Michael Gunnoe and Ruby Harley brought out — perhaps fittingly because of her last name — their Harley-Davidson Sportsters.
“It’s an awesome ride,” Harley said.
Cindy Chromek of Front Royal, Va., said she appreciates the event’s atmosphere, which she said is largely created by the spectators waving from sidewalks and overpasses.
“The patriotism you see is wonderful. We rode in the rain before, and they still come out,” said Chromek, an Army veteran.