Nearly 40 motorcycles arrived at the American Legion Francis Scott Key Post 11 on Taney Avenue Friday afternoon, underneath an American flag hung by the Independent Hose Company.
The ride — the Gold Star Legacy Run — was originally scheduled for June. But when the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all American Legion rides, Joe Gladden, co-chair of the Maryland Gold Star Legacy Run, knew the show had to go on. The ride raises money for the American Legion Legacy Scholarship Foundation, which provides scholarships for children of veterans who died or became severely disabled while on active duty.
The new weekend for the ride would begin on Sept. 11, which made the day all the more meaningful for Gladden and the rest of the riders. Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.
"It was a day that changed my life in the way I view our country, in the way I view the world," said Gladden. "So to be able to ride this weekend to raise money for scholarships ... just makes the whole charity just mean even that much more."
The ride began in Towson Friday morning and made its way to Frederick. On Saturday morning, the ride continues to Havre de Grace. The ride will end Sunday, back at the Towson American Legion Post 22.
Gladden said that there's a kindredship among motorcycle riders that makes the process worth it. He, along with past commander of FSK Post 11 Keith Clevenger, have participated in numerous national rides, which usually take place over the course of five days.
"So riding together for a cause is even more exciting and fun," Gladden said.
Following the arrival of the riders, FSK Post 11 held a dinner to commemorate Sept. 11 and collect donations for the scholarship fund.
"Americans rediscovered their devotion to our country and to our neighbors that day. We boldly stood as a nation and refused to succumb to fear and despair," said Dave Swiderski, Commander of Post 11, as he addressed the guests. "It truly became one of our finest hours."
He also asked the guests to reflect on all the first responders lost on that day, many of whom went into the towers to try to save others, but did not make it out themselves.
"We witnessed rescue personnel and ordinary citizens become true heroes that day, in some cases sacrificing their own lives to help complete strangers," Swiderski said. "And as the dust settled and America rallied her forces, a new generation of service members answered the call to duty."
Two Gold Star families were in attendance at the event. Mary Jane McWilliams spoke about the death of her son who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2010. Lynda Kundrat gave a speech following hers, thanking the FSK Post 11 and the rest of the American Legion riders for their acts of service.
Her son, Marine Staff Sgt. William Kundrat, died in a plane crash in Mississippi in July 2017.
"There were 248 motorcycles at his funeral. They lined the entire side of the driveway into [the Arlington National Cemetery] with motorcycles," Kundrat said. "I'll never forget that, never, never."
She spoke of the importance of keeping the memories and names of the fallen alive — and how important the scholarship fund is to doing so.
"Each one of you, every mile that you are on that bike is important to us as Gold Star families and Gold Star people," Kundrat said. "How do you say thank you? There isn't enough expression in those two words to say how much it means to our hearts."
The FSK Post 11 raised $12,441 on Friday alone, pushing their overall donations to more than $20,000 in Maryland thus far.
After the ceremony, members of FSK Post 11 and the American Legion Department of Maryland laid a wreath in front of the American flag outside in honor of those who died on Sept. 11, 2001, and in the resulting wars since.