Around three dozen area motorcyclists, part of multiple organizations, rolled into the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen Saturday morning to hear from a guest speaker before continuing on their fundraiser ride with multiple stops.
The group set out from Joker’s IceHouse Bar & Grill in Killeen around 10:30 a.m.
The riders participated in the ride Saturday to raise money to purchase more wreaths for the annual wreath-laying ceremony held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The thousands of wreaths will stay on all the headstones at the cemetery until after the holidays.
Doug Gault, a team leader for operations and protocol of the Texas Veterans Land Board, spoke to the group to thank them for what they were doing.
“You just brought a smile to over 100,000 people, and you just don’t realize it,” Gault said.
As of Saturday, he said there were 12,617 people either buried or interred at the cemetery in Killeen.
He explained that if there is an average of three to four family members per person, plus all the people who lay wreaths every November and all the soldiers and veterans who visit the graves, what they do impacts more than 100,000 people.
After leaving the cemetery, the riders were scheduled to go to Veterans of Foreign Wars post in Kempner, Copperas Cove and the American Legion Post 573 in Harker Heights before returning to Joker’s.
Eddie Gilbert, a rider for Wreaths for Vets, said it is an honor to do a ride and fundraiser for the organization.
“I’m retired military, and I’ve got friends out here, I’ve got family members of friends out here also,” Gilbert said Saturday. “And it’s just ... you remember them. You don’t come here and just come in and leave.”
Cary Steele, a Copperas Cove resident and member of the Christian Motorcyclist Association and its chapter out of Kempner, had similar sentiments.
Steele spent over 13 years in the Army.
“I’m blessed, being a veteran myself, and knowing what the families go through and stuff,” Steele said.
Wreath preparation for the annual wreath-laying will be Nov. 20, and the wreath-laying will be Nov. 27.