Riders raise $12K for VA hospital

More than 200 patriotic Americans gathered Friday at American Legion Post 281 in Tyrone for the fourth annual Freedom Ride, a family-friendly, 10-mile long bicycle marathon.

This year, Freedom Ride USA raised a total of $12,000 for

the Van Zandt VA Medical Center.

“We wanted to honor our local veterans,” said coordinator Eric Sloss. “Every year on the Fourth of July, count on us being here.”

Just as the event began, Sloss announced: “All we ask is that you ride as free as possible; we’re going to be celebrating USA all day.”

Countless Star Spangled Banners waved as the motley bunch of bicyclists departed from the American Legion Post at 10 a.m.

“We had the Legion Riders come out and lead us through town to get us through the stoplights and everything,” Sloss explained.

As riders rounded the first corner, an approaching carrier train suddenly halted the patriotic ardor. The crowd’s spirit was far from defeated, however; as the final carts were approaching, the lively group erupted with a fervid hurrah.

Among the crowd of patriots was Jay Paterno, son of late Penn State football coach Joe Paterno.

Dressed in the Red Sox jersey of former U.S. Marine Corps pilot Ted Williams, Paterno enjoyed his second Freedom Ride in a row this year.

“All different types of people, all here for the same reason, all having a great time – what else do you want on the Fourth of July?” Paterno said.

“I came last year, and I had a blast, and obviously it’s for the VA hospital, which is a very worthy cause. For all the veterans that did so many things for this country, why wouldn’t you?”

After the race concluded, Paterno commented: “I got a little burn in the thighs. I’m not going to lie.”

“We don’t get enough credit for just being American,” said Marine Corps veteran Fred Egerer. “We can win wars by beating people up, but we mostly win wars because we’re good people, and we got freedom. In the end, that’s what changes culture, and that’s what’s important.”