By Laurie Montoya, BikerDown Foundation

Riders love the freedom of the ride!  This is what most motorcycle riders will tell you when asked why they ride.  Motorcycle riders are an eclectic group of individuals.  They are patriotic and have an unexplainable love of country, probably because motorcycle riders get to enjoy this beautiful country that we call home.  The love of the ride isn’t the same as driving a car. You get to feel the wind on your face, see the majestic beauty in every turn, and all the stresses of life melt away.  As a rider, you begin to understand FREEDOM.  Freedom that our veterans and active military have fought for over the decades and continue to fight for today.

On Wednesday, I had the distinct honor and privilege of joining veterans and motorcycle groups and clubs to give Sgt. Donald D. Stoddard an honor motorcade from DIA to his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. 

Who is Sgt Stoddard?

Stoddard was a member of Company B, 6th Marine Regiment, 2nd Division. He was killed in action on Nov. 22, 1943, during the Battle of Tarawa, a bloody fight in which U.S. forces vied with the Japanese for control of the South Pacific island of Betio. Stoddard died as a result of an artillery explosion during a Japanese banzai charge. He was 22 years old.

Stoddard was buried in a mass grave on the Tarawa Atoll. His family was initially informed that the body was “unrecoverable.”

Honor Motorcade

The call to the veteran community went out on Tuesday, and we arrived at the cell phone lot at DIA around 9:30 a.m.  Veterans from the U.S. Vets, Combat Veterans, American Legion Riders, and other individuals and veterans who had seen the viral social media posts began to arrive.  The fellowship of veterans is unmatched in any other type of group I have ever seen.  These veterans don’t see color. They see others who have put their lives on the line for the freedom and protection of this country.

We all knew we were there for a solemn moment.  None of us knew Sgt. Stoddard, we didn’t know his family or friends.  All we knew was that there was a veteran who, after 73 years, was finally being brought home.

Around noon, the Hearst and family arrived, and the riders lined up ready to escort this veteran home.

As we respectfully and with such precision began to follow them, law enforcement took the lead and began blocking us thru the intersections.  We were asked not to honk or wave at any spectators who might be waiving flags.  Our goal today is to honor Sgt. Stoddard.

I was overwhelmed with emotion as we proceeded flawlessly thru the streets of Denver; how many people had come out with flags to honor this fallen veteran, residents of Denver who also did not know Sgt. Stoddard, but might have understood what this family had gone thru, maybe they had lost a loved one in war, and they were never returned.  

Emotion struck me as fire and police departments that had been commissioned that day to help with traffic control had positioned their vehicles and trucks in such a way to keep traffic at bay. They stood saluting this veteran as the whole motorcade rode by.

Finally, we proceeded down Hwy 36, we could see the majestic view of the  Boulder Range, and all I could think of was a job well done, Sgt. Stoddard, you are now finally home!

BOULDER, CO – JUNE 23: Members of U.S. Marine Corps Combat Logistics Battalion 453 carry the casket of U.S. Marines Corps Sgt. Donald Deloy Stoddard to the chapel at Crist Mortuary on Wednesday, June 23, 2021, in Boulder, Colo.(Timothy Hurst/Photographer)

It was a solemn moment when seven Denver-based Marines were present and saluted the casket as it was removed from the hearse and carried into the funeral home with family members waiting. Active military personnel, the Colorado Patriot Guard Riders, came to the funeral home to form a flag line, and we all stood at attention as the casket was moved inside the building.

Colorado riders and veterans who could not attend Wednesday’s memorial ride are encouraged to attend Stoddard’s official reburial ceremony on Saturday, June 26.  Michele Stoney-Cathcart and Joel McCoy will be gathering at Dirty Dogs Roadhouse in Golden at 8:30 a.m. to ride to Boulder.  Click here for event information. The committal service will be held at 10 a.m. at Mountain View Memorial Park on Kalmia Avenue. He will be buried next to his parents, George and Bess Stoddard. 

Video provided by Colorado Rider News – click here