The Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch Motorcycle Ride traveled through Huntington on Wednesday, July 21, to honor Army Specialist Chad D. Clements, who was killed in the line of duty in 2010.
This is the 12th annual motorcycle ride that Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Northwest has put on. For this ride, they will honor 75 fallen service members as they cross 18 different states and travel a little over 5,000 miles one way.
The ride began in Eugene, OR, where they lit the memorial flame that will stay burning throughout the entire journey.
“The flame, to us, represents the spirit, the life and sacrifice of fallen service members, so we guard it for the entire trip. It stays burning for the entire 28 days and we extinguish it at the end of the ride,” Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Northwest Executive Director Warren Williamson said.
The ride will end at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. on Sunday, Aug. 8.
“It’s something we are extremely privileged to be able to do and we’re proud of,” Williamson said.
Chad’s mother, Anne Tarter, stepfather, Ed Tarter and sister, Danielle Clements, along with several other friends and family members, gathered at Memorial Park to meet the riders when they stopped in Huntington.
Williamson began what they call a “Fallen Soldier Home Visit” by playing “Amazing Grace” over motorcycle speakers.
Next, Williamson read for the gathered family, friends and riders a tribute to Chad, some of which included the following:
“Army Specialist Chad Clements was killed on Aug. 30, 2010, in the Arghandab River Valley in Afghanistan when enemy insurgents attacked his unit with an IED. Four additional soldiers were also killed in the attack.
“Chad graduated from Huntington North High School right here in Huntington in 2002. One thing to know about Chad: he was always hungry for adventure. It didn’t matter what it was, Chad was always up for the challenge, especially whitewater rafting.
“He was naturally social and friendly. One of his army buddies noted that ‘Chad taught him a lot about life while he taught Chad a lot about the army.’
“Chad was always recognized as the guy who could always get things done. Chad always had his take charge attitude. If you wanted something done, Chad was the guy to ask.
“While he possessed a tough and gritty demeanor, Chad was also known for having a tender heart. When he cared for something or someone, he cared deeply.
“Chad was a proud soldier. He had a military heritage. His father, who passed in 2001, served in the U.S. Navy.
“May we never forget the service and the sacrifice of Army Specialist Chad Clements who was 26-years-old at the time of his death.”
After the tribute, Williamson presented the family with a special plaque made to honor Chad.
The following dedication was written on the plaque:
“The Tribute to Fallen Soldiers motorcycle riders who are gathered here today are honored to present this Memorial Plaque of Distinguished Service to the family of Army Specialist Chad D. Clements, Huntington, IN, in remembrance of his everlasting call to bravery, honor and sacrifice in the name of country and duty.
“We as everyday Americans will always be grateful for your fallen hero’s dedication to country and family. With this plaque, it is our solemn promise to never forget your fallen soldier and what he is given in the name of honor, duty and freedom.”
The riders also gifted the family with a canvas of their last family picture before Chad was deployed.
The family was then brought to the memorial flame, where an American flag was draped across.
“That flag travels with us all the way across the country,” Williamson explained.
“We ask our families that we honor to sign that flag. Maybe you want to write a special message to Chad or just sign his name or your name. When we get to Arlington, that flag will be displayed inside of Arlington with all the messages on it.”
To end the ceremony, the gathered veteran riders did a final salute to honor Chad. Family members then rang a bell attached to the memorial flame to “signify that he (Chad) is with them as they journey.”
After the ceremony was complete, Danielle said, “I appreciate all you guys coming. He will always be remembered and I thank you guys for that. We’re always afraid, you know, that our fallen will be forgotten, but with people like you everyday they won’t be and that’s a blessing.”
To learn more about Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Northwest and their annual motorcycle ride, visit tributetofallensoldiers.com.