A motorcade of 147 motorcycles rumbled up I-88, and the state Thruway toward Bethlehem on Tuesday, Aug. 7, leading The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. as it made its way through town toward Elm Avenue Park.
"This is pretty impressive," said Nan Lanahan, town recreation administrator as her staff and the residents swimming at the Elm Avenue town park pool watched the motorcade makes its entrance under a giant American flag held up by ladders from the Elsmere and Delmar fire departments.
"We go all over with it, wherever we're invited," said Cary Dees, site manager for The Wall That Heals. Dees takes turns with Barbara Smith driving the truck that carries the exhibit from community to community across the country.
"I'm a driver by trade," said Dees. "It's nice to see community people and smell the roses instead of seeing a town through a windshield all the time."
The replica of the Washington monument stands 250 feet long with 58,249 names of U.S. veterans who lost their lives or are still considered missing from the Vietnam War. Several motorcycle groups, including Rolling Thunder, the main motorcade escort, and other groups like the Red Knights and Booze Fighters, escorted the Wall That Heals.
"Our group has been around since 1946," said Booze Fighters Albany Tri Cities chapter member Jim Hodge, known as "Hodgie" to his fellow chapter members.
Booze Fighters was founded in Hollister, Calif., and is one of the oldest active motorcycle clubs made famous in the 1947 movie "The Wild One" starring Marlon Brando and Lee Marvin.
John Rucinski, eastern director for the Red Knights motorcycle club, brought five members with him to ride with The Wall That Heals to Bethlehem.
"I was one of the people who put the ride together for 'The Wall' that stopped in Ballston Spa last year," said Rucinski who recalled that last year's ride was "wet and rainy."
The Wall That Heals will be at Elm Avenue Park throughout the week. Opening ceremonies are slated for Thursday, Aug. 9 at 10 a.m.