Freedom Cruise canceled; fallen soldier still honored

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds typically line the streets near Fifth Third Ballpark for the yearly Freedom Cruise Honor Ride. This year, only one car showed up Sunday after bad weather and sweeping rains prompted a cancellation of the event late Saturday night. 

Event volunteer Bruce Ayers said that while the turn of events was disappointing, the most important part of the event will continue, rain or shine. 

“Our main objective is to honor the Gold Star families who lost a loved one in the years after 9/11,” Ayers said. “While it’s sad the fun part (the cruise) is not going to happen this year, the most important part will.”

Organizers had planned a 25 mile cruise from Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park to Sparta and back. On a typical year, hundreds of motorcyclists and classic cars make the trek with a police escort. 

This year, only the family of Grand Rapids native Sgt. Chad J. Vollmer, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2006, was escorted. The high school in Sparta opened its doors to the organization for the Fallen Soldier Ceremony, at which a hand-drawn portrait of Vollmer was presented to his family. 

A Sept. 22, 2019 courtesy photo shows the family of Sgt. Chad Vollmer accepting a hand-drawn portrait of him. (Tom De Vette/ReportIt)

“It’s something you’ll never forget,” Ayers said of honoring the Vollmer and his family. “It makes the hair on your neck stand on end. You just feel so proud to be an American and do something good for a family that has lost so much.”

The cruise benefits the Finish The Mission veteran relief fund. Finish The Mission says its primary objective is to make West Michigan the most veteran-friendly community in America.

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