A leather-clad cavalry of Navajo and Hopi veterans rode into Page last Friday on their Harleys, Hondas and custom-made motorcycles where they paid tribute to Page’s fallen soldiers as part of this year’s Honor Ride. Their solemn procession of more than 100 riders stretched nearly a mile behind their leader as they made their way into Page.
The group stopped at City Hall and gathered at the Memorial Wall for Page’s fallen veterans. There the group was met by Mayor Bill Diak, himself an Air Force veteran, and Judge Donald Roberts who each delivered short speeches praising Page’s veterans who have “made the ultimate sacrifice.”
This is the Honor Rides sixteenth year. The first Honor Ride happened in 2003. It was a much smaller gathering back then. The first ride lasted just one day. Twenty-five riders rode their motorcycles from Window Rock to Tuba City to visit the family of Lori Piestewa, a soldier who had been killed in Iraq.
“The purpose of the ride was to let the family know that we’d be there to support them,” said Bobby Martin, President of the Honor Riders.The Honor Ride now encompasses four days, the riders travel 1,200 miles and visit 24 communities throughout northern Arizona as they pay tribute to every soldier in northern Arizona who has given his or her life in the line of duty.
The majority of the Honor Riders are veterans. Their numbers swelled to 350 riders on Saturday and Sunday.
“Our riders do this to show the commitment they have to memories of Arizona’s fallen soldiers,” said Martin. “The soldiers will never be forgotten as long as we keep doing this ride. We’re not going to let their sacrifice be forgotten. We believe in the slogan that honor has no end and we are proof of that.”
This year the Honor Riders paid special tribute to Lance Corporal Quinn Keith, a Page Marine who died in Iraq in 2004. Quinn’s family was on hand during Friday’s ceremony.
Keith was on his second tour of duty, just ten days away from coming home, when the vehicle he was riding in was hit with an IED, which killed him along with three others in the vehicle.
Keith and his three brothers were taken in and raised by his uncle and aunt when they were boys.
“He was a leader,” said Clyde Quinn. “He led his brothers when they were younger. He liked athletics, especially wrestling. His biggest love was going hunting. He loved music and playing the guitar.
“He was always very happy and always had a smile on his face. I think that’s what people remember most about him.
Page’s Memorial Wall displays the names of five veterans who died during service: Private First Class Silas Lefthand, U.S. Army, Infantry. Missing in Action Feb. 27. 1945 Phillipines.
Hospitalman Michael J. Reinhold, U.S. Marines. Killed in Action Feb. 19, 1968, Vietnam.
Major Douglas P. LeFever, Pilot, Air Force. Missing in Action June 29, 1978, Laos.
Second Lt. James H. Taylor, U.S. Army, 101st Airborne. Killed in Action Feb. 15, 1971, Laos.
Lance Corporal Quinn A. Keith. U.S. Marines. Killed in Action Sept. 6, 2004. Iraq.