Members of the Southeast Alaska Tongass chapter of the Harley Owners Group head down Glacier Avenue past Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on their way to Evergreen Cemetery for a moment of silence for deceased U.S. military members on Monday, May 25, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Members of the Southeast Alaska Tongass chapter of the Harley Owners Group head down Glacier Avenue past Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé on their way to Evergreen Cemetery for a moment of silence for deceased U.S. military members on Monday, May 25, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Riding through rain, bikers show support for fallen soldiers

A group of Harley motorcycle owners celebrated Memorial Day with a star-spangled ride

A little rain didn’t stop members of the Southeast Alaska Tongass chapter of the Harley Owners Group from taking a ride through Juneau for Memorial Day Monday, as a salute to the country’s fallen soldiers.

“Normally we go down to the cemetery for a ceremony,” said Jeff McKinight, member of the Harley Owners chapter and organizer of the event. “The ceremony’s not gonna be held this year because of the crisis we’re dealing with, so we’re just going to show support for the brave men and women who gave their lives for this country.”

About 20 bikes adorned with flags and other patriotic decor left from the Safeway parking lot in the Mendenhall Valley before heading to Evergreen Cemetery for a moment of silence.

Not all the participants were veterans, though there were some present, and others were Harley Owners but not members of any group. They came, they said, for the cause.

Jeff McKnight, center, helped organize this year’s Memorial Day ride and has participated in the event for several years. McKnight was joined by his 14-year-old son, Tyler, who said that like his father, he enjoys paying respects each year by joining the ride. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Jeff McKnight, center, helped organize this year’s Memorial Day ride and has participated in the event for several years. McKnight was joined by his 14-year-old son, Tyler, who said that like his father, he enjoys paying respects each year by joining the ride. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

“I’m a vet, enjoy the cause,” said Mike Anderson, a U.S. Army veteran, who said he served in Somalia during a United Nations intervention in that country from 1989-1992. Anderson said he is not a member of the Harley Owners Group but participates in the ride every year he can.

“It’s to show respect to our fallen soldiers and our living,” Anderson said, “but this is about remembering our fallen soldiers.”

The ride has taken place annually for about 20 years, though no one present could remember the exact year they group began.

“Been riding with the Harley Owners ever since they got started here in town, 2007 or so,” said Butch Fleek, wearing a dark blue veteran’s baseball cap with gold lettering reading “U.S. Navy Veteran” and “Vietnam Veteran.”

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Fleek served in Vietnam in the late 1960s, he said, and liked to ride to remember fallen soldiers.

“Just to pay respect to the past. Passing members,” he said.

According to McKnight, the number of riders who show up is usually based on the weather. On a sunny day the ride could draw up to 50 participants, McKinight said, but on Monday morning with light rain in the Valley getting heavier, he didn’t expect a big turn-out.

But McKnight did have one person he could count on to show up, his 14-year-old son, Tyler.

“Rain or shine he’s here in shorts,” McKnight said.

Bikers head down Glacier Avenue flying American flags on Memorial Day. Participants said they enjoyed showing support for the U.S. military by riding through town every year. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Bikers head down Glacier Avenue flying American flags on Memorial Day. Participants said they enjoyed showing support for the U.S. military by riding through town every year. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

The younger McKnight, an incoming freshman at Juneau Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, said he had joined his father on about 90% of the rides.

“I try to attend every single year,” Tyler McKnight said. “I like supporting like (his father) said and just like to come along and have all the bikes out here.”

Even with the rain, the elder McKnight said he thinks people should come out to show their support for the U.S. military and service members.

“I think that people should take time this day to get on their bike and get out here and join us so we can have a larger and larger group every year to show our town how much we support our military,” McKnight said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnoEmpire.

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