ROTTERDAM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The 12th annual Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch Motorcycle Ride, a nationwide event to honor our fallen service members, recognized two local heroes this weekend.
Riders stopped in Rotterdam Sunday morning to show support for Army Sergeant Raymond Warlikowski.
“This means the world to me,” his mother, Jean Kirschenheiter said during Sunday’s ceremony.
The ride arrived at the Elks Club in Rotterdam before a touching ceremony to recognize Warlikowski.
“My son will never be forgotten, and that’s the most important thing in the world to me,” his mother explained.
Warlikowski is one of 75 fallen heroes being recognized during this year’s event. He served for 20 years, including four tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and passed away in 2016.
His mother says he was a great son, and the loving father of four, “He was a very doting father, very doting father. He was always doing things with them. He’d come home, take off the uniform and then go out with them.”
The nationwide ride starts in Eugene, Oregon and continues to Arlington National Cemetery, carrying a torch that’s always lit to recognize the lives lost.
Along the way, riders stop in hometowns of the fallen heroes, presenting family members with a plaque and portrait.
“That portrait came out, the tears, I haven’t cried like that in a long time. That portrait is of my son, that was when he retired in 2014 with his daughter and stepchildren,” Kirschenheiter said.
Now in its 12th year, Warren Williamson, the Executive Director of Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Northwest, says the event has continued to grow.
“It has such an impact on families, on their lives. Seeing it grow like this, and seeing the outpouring of support and love is just overwhelming to all of us. There’s communities we go in and maybe there’s two or three or half a dozen people,” he said.
After being in Rotterdam Sunday morning, the ride continued to Saratoga Springs to recognize another local hero.
Riders will spend the night in Burlington, Vermont before continuing through New England.
The 12th annual event will officially conclude next month at Arlington National Cemetery, where a closing ceremony will include putting out the torch and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.