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The third annual Freedom Ride in support of Mid-Ohio Valley veterans took place Saturday in Marietta. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

MARIETTA – Hundreds of motorcyclists took part in the third annual Freedom Ride on Saturday in support of Mid-Ohio Valley veterans in Marietta.

Funds raised go to Gold Star Park in Marietta for maintenance and repairs. Some of the money could be used to replace a recently vandalized park bench, according to Robert Fitzgerald, executive director of the Washington County Veterans Service Office.

In addition to raising funds, the event helped raise awareness of resources available to ex-combatants, such as accessing benefits or obtaining help for physical and mental illnesses.

Andrew Blake, a veteran outreach specialist at the Huntington Vet Center in West Virginia, served in the military for 16 years. He said he has seen with his own eyes and has endured many struggles over the years.

“Being a veteran myself and having PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), I know what it is and I want to help others. “ he said. “I met people who had been out of service for years, who didn’t know the services were available and who needed help all the time.

A flag was hung outside the Marietta Foreign Wars Veterans Post in honor and respect of United States veterans. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

Other local organizations were present at the event, such as We Have Your Six, a nonprofit that works to get veterans and their families off the streets.

“Veterans have given so much for this country, and none of them deserve to be homeless. said Steve Seedorf, store manager for We Have Your Six.

With COVID-19 having so recently kept many isolated, the day has also allowed old friends to reconnect and some families to connect with the veterans community for the first time.

“Two years ago my son passed away and his company gave us his flight helmet which had been beautifully decorated. says Gary Ward of Marietta.

Ward had wanted a special case to display the helmet in memory of his son, Army Spc. Christian D. Ward and Howard Jacobson, a retired sailor, handcrafted one for the family.

Hundreds of them showed their support for the veterans during the third Freedom Ride on Saturday in Marietta. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

“I have made 77 flag boxes over the years” Jacobson said. “I never had the opportunity to meet one of these families.”

Ward said he was grateful to his son’s business and local veterans associations for everything, and he was happy to step out on Saturday to show his support and personally thank Jacobson.

During Saturday’s event, a vehicle was also handed over to a military family in need. The selected veteran was Jim Wenzell, who enlisted in the military after high school and was a team leader on a helicopter in Vietnam. He then re-enlisted and received the Bronze Star after rescuing two brothers from a bombed-out dispensary. According to Ken Blume, a member of the Washington County Veterans Service Commission, there are two other vehicles to donate, which are first checked by the Career Center.

Madeline Scarborough can be reached at


At Saturday’s event, a van was donated to a military family in need. The recipient was Jim Wenzell, who served in the military as a crew chief on a helicopter in Vietnam. Gene Venham, left, presented the van to Wenzell’s wife, Audrey Tanzella, alongside Ken Blume, Jamie Collins and George Willford. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

Upcoming events for the benefit of veterans:

* There will be a Memorial Walk on August 7th in Williamstown hosted by We Have Your Six. Runners must pre-register before July 24.

* Plans are underway for a 9/11 memorial service hosted by the Washington County Veterans Service Commission. Those interested can check the office’s Facebook page for more details.

* We Have Your Six will also host a Military Veterans Ball on October 16 at the Grand Pointe Conference Center in Vienna. The cost is $ 45 for a single person, $ 75 for a couple.

The third annual Freedom Ride in support of Mid-Ohio Valley veterans took place Saturday in Marietta. (Photo by Madeline Scarborough)

This display case was made by local Marine Corps veteran Howard Jacobson to display the Army Spc helmet. Christian D. Ward, who died two years ago. (Photo provided)

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