Hundreds gathered at the Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Midland today for the annual Ride to Remember.
It is a part of a 20-year tradition to remember those who have paid the ultimate price. President of Permian Basin Vietnam Veterans Memorial, John Philbeck, says participants always ride in honor of special individuals each year. This year’s ride was dedicated to the life of Midland County Sheriff, Gary Painter.
Painter served two tours of duty in Vietnam during his time in the Marine Corps.
Speakers stood in front of the crowd and shared their sentiments regarding the fallen veteran. A flag was flying where Painter once stood to honor him.
“Gary was a good friend of mine,” said Founder of Ride to Remember, Bill McNeill. He started Ride to Remember back in 1999.
“For the very simple fact that if they hadn’t given their lives, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. We wouldn’t be free. So we’re going to honor them every year, we ought to honor them every day.”
Philbeck says the growth and impact of Ride to Remember is immeasurable.
“For many guys, this is the welcome home that they never got,” explained Philbeck. “A lot of the guys are not ready to go to the wall in D.C., and this is their first step of coming home.”
And while the true meaning of Memorial Day often goes unnoticed, it is something dozens in this audience understand across the board.
“Less than one percent of the population actually serves in the military, so it’s a small microcosm family that actually realizes 100% why we celebrate and honor the fallen,” said Philbeck.
And one particular rider in the audience, realized all too well this year.
“I’m riding in memory of my uncle Dwayne. He’s a Vietnam vet. He’s succumbing to cancer and only has a couple days to live. He was a mentor to me during my 21 years of service in combat and helped me heal a lot of wounds when I came back. I love him, and I’ll miss him.”