For 22 miles – from Parkhill American Legion Post 970, into the City of Johnstown, up Dishong Mountain, along Route 22 and eventually to the East Taylor Township Municipal Building – a group of motorcycle riders will participate in a local version of “Rolling to Remember” on Sunday.
American Veterans, a national organization, originally planned to hold a large demonstration on Sunday in Washington, D.C. It was to be the successor to “Rolling Thunder” that, on Memorial Day weekends for 32 years through 2019, attracted hundreds of thousands of bikers to the nation’s capital to raise awareness about the more than 80,000 POWs and MIAs still unaccounted for, dating back to World War II.
However, AMVETS canceled the three-day “Rolling to Remember” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a replacement plan, the organization asked veterans and supporters to hold local 22-mile rides to recognize the 22 veterans who commit suicide every day, according to an often-cited number.
“The awareness is for the American people to realize that these veterans are going through a traumatic time in their life,” said Red Loya, a member of the American Legion Riders-Parkhill Post 970. “It’s a shame that there has to be 22 of them committing suicide every day. Hopefully, one day, it will be down to zero.”
In announcing the cancellation a few weeks ago, American Legion Riders Chairman Mark Clark encouraged riders to “pick up the challenge, ride where you’re at, and focus on making sure that we don’t abandon the children of the fallen and the children of those who have come home carrying both the visible and invisible scars of war,” in a video posted to YouTube.
The Parkhill riders want to keep their event low-key, with only post members and friends participating due to the restrictions on large gatherings during Pennsylvania’s pandemic response.
“If it would be open, we would have advertised it and we would have asked anybody and everybody that wanted to to participate,” Loya said.
The ride is scheduled to begin at noon.
A small gathering will be held afterward at the Parkhill American Legion.