Craig salutes Veterans Charity Riders | CraigDailyPress.com

Craig salutes Veterans Charity Riders

Motorcycle program for soldiers stops passes through Northwest Colorado

Combat veterans participating in the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis group together around their bikes Friday afternoon outside Craig's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265. The venture for those who have served their country passed through Northwest Colorado en route to Sturgis, South Dakota, first starting in Los Angeles.

They've served in some of the most brutal parts of the world, fought through the loss of body parts and sustained some memories that might still give them nightmares — to say the least, the participants in the Veterans Charity Ride to Sturgis have earned some fun.

The cross-country effort to raise awareness about combat veterans and giving something back to them pulled into Craig Friday afternoon to a small but enthusiastic greeting at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4265.

Local VFW Commander Johnny Garcia was among those who greeted his brothers in arms with great reverence.

"All I can say to them is 'Welcome home," they deserve it," Garcia said.

With about 16 bikers with military backgrounds on the road from Los Angeles en route to Sturgis, South Dakota this week, the venture has seen tremendous reactions everywhere they've gone, with groups of hundreds of bikers joining in certain locations and sizable crowds at Las Vegas's Tropicana and in Moab, Utah, before coming to Northwest Colorado.

The route stops, updates and rider profiles can be found at veteranscharityride.org.

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It's been an experience "like winning the lottery," said David Maxwell, who served in the Marine Corps.

"The scenery, the people, the towns, the veterans we've hung out with, it's all been first class," he said as he and fellow rider George Nickel, an Army vet, stretched their legs in the VFW parking lot.

Indian Motorcycle and Champion Sidecars provided much of the gear for the ride, which goes 1,776 miles — a number that's not a coincidence — to the 75th annual Sturgis Rally.

Several bikers on the trip are wounded warriors who now use prosthetics after action overseas sent them home missing limbs.

Glen Silva, a native of Denver, lost his left leg after stepping on an IED serving with the Marines in 2010 in Afghanistan.

"It was a blast," he joked about the experience.

Riders keep each other in high spirits during the journey, which Sean Carroll, also a Marine who lost his right leg in Iraq, said has been nothing but fun.

"It's really good therapy being on the open road with a group of nice guys, a lot of joking and similar experiences," he said.

Josh Ferguson carries with him an American flag that has gone through three deployments in the Army, including the 2007 skirmish in Iraq that left him with only one leg.

Being on a motorcycle with a prosthetic can be a challenge, but he's faced worse.

"If you want to figure out something, you'll find a way," Ferguson said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.