East County vets ride to South Bay to honor fellow veterans

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It was a spectacularly sunny morning.  Maybe a bit on the cool side by local standards, for motorcyclists it promised to be a perfect day for hitting the local back roads.  A small group of riders from the El Cajon Harley Owners Group (HOG) met up at El Cajon Harley-Davidson with the plan of rolling along some of those roads.

It was a spectacularly sunny morning.  Maybe a bit on the cool side by local standards, for motorcyclists it promised to be a perfect day for hitting the local back roads.  A small group of riders from the El Cajon Harley Owners Group (HOG) met up at El Cajon Harley-Davidson with the plan of rolling along some of those roads.

But this day’s ride was going to be much, much more than just another day in the saddle.  This morning, when each rider awoke, he/she did not decide that Veterans Day 2017 was going to be 26.5 hours long, so they could participate in something special.  They were going to give of the one thing no one can create more of…their personal time.  We can earn more money.  We can buy more things.  But we cannot make more time in any day.

On this day, these riders were going to give their time to visit individuals at the Veterans Home in Chula Vista.  Yes, they took the proverbial long way around to get there from El Cajon.  But once there, they focused on giving their attention to the veteran residents.  A couple of the riders sat to share lunch guys who were, prior to today, complete strangers. Air Force veteran Daryl, Army veterans Ed “Senior” and Ed “Junior,” and Navy veteran Jerry.  Ed “Senior,” who served in the Pacific during WWII, earned distinction as “Senior,” because he is 98 years old.

Ed “Junior” was an Army brat prior to being drafted.  (For those not familiar with the term, being a service brat means having been raised in a military household.)  Ed lived at many stateside posts and overseas during his youth, including time in Germany.  As he told it, after getting his induction notice during the Vietnam War, he was sent to Germany, for which he quipped, “Thank you very much.”  He told of working on microwave communications equipment, including climbing a 90-foot radio tower to chip off the ice during the German winters. 

Air Force veteran Daryl spent plenty of time in Europe, including Spain, where he met and married a local gal.  After his active duty days, he joined the Federal Bureau of Investigation, eventually being assigned to Los Angeles.  After leaving the Bureau, he was a private investigator for a time.

Navy veteran Jerry was a submariner, serving primarily on diesel boats.  However, he reported having experience on the USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine.  As Jerry told it, he was there when the sub went through its first major maintenance refit, recalling that they had to wear badge that measured roentgens, that is exposure to gamma rays.  When the badge read a certain level of exposure, the sailors were taken off their work on the sub.  Jerry also proudly spoke of qualifying for the helm of a submarine, tug, and aircraft carrier, a unique accomplishment.

The two El Cajon HOG members sat, engrossed with the stories from these vets, reveling in their experiences.  Asking questions for clarification from time to time, they mostly just enjoyed their company, including a raucous laugh from time to time.  Unsurprisingly, the conversation really picked up when Ed “Senior” told them Ed “Junior” built racing engines for motorcycles.  Well, by gosh, with this common area of interest opened up, all started speaking about motorcycles, engines, rides to special places, who had owned what bikes (Jerry’s 1936 Indian inline four drew the most comments), and all manner of things associated with riding a motorcycle.  It was a bit poignant for this HOG member; because it was obvious these veterans were well past their biker days.  But that did not impede them one bit from offering suggestions about rides to take.

Ed “Junior” was particularly enthusiastic in advocating seeing this great country of ours by motorcycle.  “Why go overseas to see natural beauty?” he asked.  “Our country has every kind of natural beauty imaginable.”  So the conversation turned to areas each had ridden in or to, like the Black Hills of South Dakota, Crater Lake in Oregon, Lake Tahoe, and the Pacific Northwest.  The conversation just proved that it does not take much to get veterans or bikers conversing, let alone veterans who are bikers.

After seconds, cupcakes, root beer floats, and much laughter, it was time for the HOG members to head out.  Shaking hands all around, it was absolutely difficult to depart.  Still on the air was the most telling comment of the day.  It came from Daryl, who, speaking of his fellow veterans and residents, emphatically told us that some are having a bad time, but “These guys don’t whine.”

Yeah, the folks from El Cajon Harley Owners Group had just given of their personal time.  Something they can never create more of.  But it was obvious these men and women saw what they had done as an obligation to warriors of earlier generations.

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