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Motorcycle procession honors military, first responders on America’s birthday

On July Fourth more than a hundred motorcycle riders rode in the Spirit of Liberty Ride for Freedom that began near the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park and made a brief stop at the Mounty Soledad Memorial before heading north to Oceanside. (Nelvin C. Cepeda/TNS)

Nearly 200 motorcycle riders and several sports cars decked out in red, white and blue took to the freeways of San Diego County Saturday morning as part of a “Spirit of Liberty Ride for Freedom.”

The event, organized by the Spirit of Liberty Foundation and Southern California Patriot Guard Riders, gathered at the parking lot in front of the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park, with a final destination of Oceanside, where three large patriotically decorated cakes were to be devoured.

Rally supporters said they were there to honor not only veterans but healthcare workers, public safety officials and firefighters.

“I think we’re just trying to show the population that we are patriots and we want to celebrate the Fourth of July,”said Leo Zapata, 72, of Chula Vista. “We want people to understand it’s all about the Declaration of Independence and that’s what makes this country what it is.”

A truck with an LED screen blasting songs traveled in front of most of the motorcyclists, displaying photos and short videos depicting the Declaration of Independence, the ringing of America’s Freedom Bell and other patriotic images.

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The rally, which included Stewart “Stu” Hedley of Clairemont, longtime member of the local Pearl Harbor Survivors Association, took a detour to park atop the memorial at Mount Soledad. There, a bugle corps played “Echo Taps” and dozens of visitors at the tourist stopped to take in the moment.

“This is tremendous,” said Hedley, 98, who rode shotgun in one of the decked-out vehicles. “What brings me out here is the patriotic day of the Declaration of Independence. I am grateful for this, to honor all of our veterans who laid down their lives that you and I can do what we’re doing today. Those are the heroes, not us.”

Spirit of Liberty founder Richard Rovsek said the main reason for the motorcycle rally was to honor veterans and “give a thumb’s up to America’s heroes.”

“The problem is we don’t do enough,” Rovsek said. “If you see somebody in uniform, you ought to give them the thumb’s up. It doesn’t matter if they’re veterans, if they’re active duty, whether they’re in uniform from the FD or PD or when you see a nurse or a doctor.”

Along the local route off the Grand/Garnet avenues exit from Interstate 5 on the way up to Mount Soledad, cars honked their horns. Through the streets of Pacific Beach and La Jolla, cyclists waved and people walking their dogs stopped to take photos of the motorcade.

“It’s really basic, it’s July 4, it’s America’s birthday, we’re 244 years old and we’re going through a difficult time,” Rovsek said. “With the pandemic and protests, things are shut down. In San Diego, one of the most patriotic communities in America, with all the veterans, active duty that live here, there’s no way we couldn’t do something to celebrate today’s birthday.

“We decided we had to do something to make a major statement.”

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© 2020 The San Diego Union-Tribune