CEDAR SPRINGS, Mich. (WOOD) — Monday will mark 22 years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. In remembrance, a West Michigan organization honored veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

On Friday, a parade of motorcycles and cars hit the streets of Kent County in support of families that have lost a loved one while serving post-9/11.

It was part of the 9th annual Freedom Cruise, organized by the nonprofit Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund.

“These families all lost their sons, and they’re really fearful we’re going to forget about their sacrifice. And sometimes they think our kids died in vain. And that is not acceptable,” said Tom Antor, founder of Finish the Mission.

Each year, one Gold Star Family receives special recognition during the Freedom Cruise. This year, it was the family of Cedar Springs native and Army Specialist Timothy Brown.

“He wanted to be in the military since he was 8, a little kid. He was always said he was going to be in the military,” said Cynthia Brown, Timothy Brown’s mother. “After 9/11, it didn’t change him at all. He still wanted to go.”

While serving in Iraq in November of 2005, Timothy Brown was killed. 

On Friday, a portrait of the fallen soldier was unveiled to his family at Cedar Springs High School.

The annual Freedom Cruise honors veterans and those who made the ultimate sacrifice. (Sept. 8, 2023)
The annual Freedom Cruise honors those who made the ultimate sacrifice. (Sept. 8, 2023)

His sister Stevie said the years after his death have been tough.

“It hasn’t been the same. You picture your life in the future and what it’s going to be like, and it’s completely different than what you can ever imagine,” Stevie Brown said.

She said events like the Freedom Cruise help uphold her brother’s legacy, as well as the legacy of other service members who have died.

“Events like this keep him alive and keep all of them alive to us. Because we will never forget, but other people, we want to make sure that they never forget as well,” Stevie Brown said.

In addition to Gold Star Families, local high school students attended the ceremony in Cedar Springs.

“That’s really important to me because if we don’t understand history, we’re destined to repeat it. So, this is a teachable moment for us,” Antor said.

Timothy Brown’s mother encouraged the community to continue supporting those who have served in the past and present.

“It takes a lot of courage to raise that right hand and take that oath, and just give respect,” Cynthia Brown said.

The Freedom Cruise also visited Kent City and Sparta Friday. 

Antor said he hopes that one day, there will be no more families that have to be honored.