As Victory Motorcycles promoted its support of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) during Veterans Week events in New York City, a tremendous collection of noble, selfless military veterans from several eras was brought together to hear the cheers of a grateful nation.
On Veterans Day, Nov. 11, Victory and thousands of grateful people lining New York City’s magnificent Fifth Avenue saluted military veterans who served in the WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the modern Middle East eras. The veterans marched or rode – horses, cars, military vehicles, and Victory motorcycles – in “America’s Parade,” the country’s largest Veterans Day parade.
Victory & IAVA
Victory had its largest presence ever in New York’s Veterans Week activities because the brand is elevating its support for IAVA, an organization “dedicated to standing with the 2.8 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan from their first day home through the rest of their lives.”
Among the ways Victory is supporting IAVA is with “The Road Home,” through which Victory will contribute $500 to IAVA for each new Victory motorcycle purchased in November and December. IAVA uses contributions from supporters such as Victory to fund programs that support and empower the newest generation of veterans, to raise awareness about veterans’ issues, and to advocate for policy that supports veterans, from the national to the local level.
Victory-Riding Veterans in America’s Parade
A large contingent of several hundred IAVA members marches in the New York City parade each Veterans Day, and Victory and IAVA determined that a fleet of Victory motorcycles would heighten the group’s impact in the 2014 event. A few of the nearby Victory dealers nominated four Victory owners, who are veterans, to ride in the parade and hear the crowd’s cheers of thanks – cheers not heard upon his return home from Vietnam by Victory rider Lloyd Morrison.
The Victory-riding military veterans in the parade were U.S. Navy veteran Bob Gulley and three U.S. Air Force veterans: Lloyd Morrison, George Sturgis, and Mike Wells. They were joined in New York by Lloyd’s wife Alicia, a career military wife, and George’s wife Angela, an Air Force veteran.
The Victory veterans were joined on the parade bikes by three motorcycle journalists invited by Victory to write articles about the parade experience, and three members of the Victory team, including Steve Menneto, VP Motorcycles, who led the riders aboard a white Cross Country featuring star-spangled custom paint.
Tremendous IAVA Spirit in the Parade
Early on Veterans Day the riders rolled the bikes out of a Midtown storage facility and wove their way through city traffic and multiple parade checkpoints to get staged for the parade. They spent a few hours prior to the parade with IAVA members and learning the stories of the Victory veterans. These men served proudly, honorably, and humbly, and riding in the parade gave them the opportunity to hear well-deserved thanks from cheering crowds.
The parade featured veterans from all branches of the military and from service eras dating back to WWII.
There was no group in the parade as energetic and spirited as IAVA members who pumped up the crowds and smiled at the appreciative applause. IAVA’s contingent hit the parade route after a rousing pre-parade speech from “The Gunny,” retired U.S. Marine, Victory rider, and actor R. Lee Ermey. Gunny praised the veterans for their service, told them to march proudly, and pledged that America would not forget them as they returned to civilian life after serving.
Leading IAVA’s contingent were members carrying 22 American flags. The number of flags carries deep significance as it represents the 22 veterans that die by suicide daily. This is exactly the type of desperate behavior IAVA is working to eliminate by providing the new generation of veterans with support and a sense of community with their fellow veterans.
Following the proud flag-bearers came the 10 Victory motorcycles, and then almost 700 cheering, fist-pumping IAVA members and their families. These members wore military uniforms or IAVA sweatshirts featuring the Victory logo on one sleeve and the Twitter tag #VetsRising on the back.
The parade frequently stopped momentarily, and that’s when IAVA members kicked into high gear. One, two, or more members would take one of the American flags and hold it high while sprinting around the perimeter of IAVA’s contingent. During longer pauses a relay of runners circled the group while hoisting the stars and stripes. The crowds along Fifth Avenue cheered as these young veterans celebrated their day with patriotic dashes.
Post-Parade Party & Ground Zero Visit
Following the parade, IAVA members gathered for an after-party at a church along Park Avenue. Along with relaxing and learning about IAVA support and resources available to them, the veterans lined up for photos and autographs from Gunny, who stayed until the very last veteran had the chance to meet and greet him.
The next morning, the Victory owner veterans and the two wives joined IAVA personnel at the 9/11 Tribute Center. Among the IAVA staffers on hand was Matt Colvin, Senior Associate for Strategic Partnerships. He works closely with partners such as Victory, and Veterans Week and the visit to Ground Zero held special meaning for him. Matt was in the process of joining the U.S. Air Force on Sept. 11, 2001, and he served multiple tours in Afghanistan – including flying more than 100 combat sorties.
Matt is like so many IAVA team members: A new veteran who understands veterans’ needs and is committed to providing the great support IAVA offers those returning home from service.
The Victory veterans saw the exhibits inside the 9/11 Tribute Center, then took a walking tour of the World Trade Center site. Their tour guide was a retired New York Fire Department Captain who helped direct post-attack cleanup at the historic site that is now home to several new buildings, including the Freedom Tower.
IAVA Heroes Gala
The final day of Veterans Week activities was Thursday, November 13th, when IAVA’s 10th Anniversary Heroes Gala was held to “Honor the New Greatest Generation” and raise funds to keep IAVA’s programs and operations free for veterans.
The event’s emcee was Willie Geist from NBC’s “TODAY” show, and guests of honor included Victory dealers from Rollin’ Fast Cycle Sports in Lebanon, N.J., and Victory of Southern Maryland in White Plains, Maryland.
Several items were auctioned off to raise funds, including a beautiful new green Victory Gunner that was on display at the gala. Excited bidders competed against one another until the gavel fell and the Gunner sold for $45,000, with all proceeds benefitting IAVA.
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