Jim Parks is not one to back away from telling folks that he served in Vietnam.
The retired Army staff sergeant said troops at that time received little respect when they returned.
“Vietnam veterans didn’t get the homecoming that everyone really deserves,” he said. “I’m proud to say that I served.”
Parks is determined to keep alive the memory of all who have served, especially those who stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.
Parks led 100 motorcycles on the sixth annual D-Day Run on Saturday.
The event, sponsored by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 155 in Geistown, is to raise money for the Hollidaysburg Veterans Home in Blair County.
“It’s our way of saying thanks to all of the veterans,” Parks said.
The three-hour run included stops in Hollidaysburg and VFW posts in Schellsburg and Central City.
Last year the group raised nearly $5,000, a sum that members hope to top this year.
The VFW ladies auxiliary and club members made gift baskets and sold T-shirts.
Auxiliary member Kelly Coleman said the bikers will present a check to the veterans home.
“They deserve it,” she said. “They gave us everything – our freedom. It’s the least we can do for them.”
State Rep. Bryan Barbin, D-Johnstown, joined the riders as police from Geistown and Dale boroughs and Richland and Stonycreek townships escorted the bikers from Lamberd Avenue.
For VFW member Michelle Graham, it was her first D-Day ride.
“A lot of my family members were veterans,” she said. “It’s very important keep the memory alive of all those who supported our country.”
Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on twitter.com/PatBuchnowskiTD.