Forecasts show a dreary morning Friday, but that won’t stop David “St. Louis” Linton.
The Bloomingdale man will peel out of Savannah’s Harley-Davidson dealership at 9:15 sharp, a well-traveled American flag flapping behind him as he heads toward Charleston on his 2004 Road King Classic. If members of the U.S. military can fight and train in bad weather, Linton said, he can ride in it.
“Unless it’s a really bad storm with lightning, (the flag) will be on the back of my bike and I will take it to Charleston that way,” Linton said. “I’ll put my rain gear on, I’ll take my time, but it will go on the back of the bike to Charleston.”
Linton is one of several local motorcyclists participating in the annual Patriot Tour, and he hopes to have plenty of company Friday. Every year, the nonprofit Nation of Patriots sends an American flag on a 14,000-mile trip across the contiguous United States in an effort to raise money for wounded military veterans and their families. The flag’s roughly 100-day journey started in Madison, Wisconsin, on May 27. Each day, motorcycle riders escort the flag to a new city and pass it on to a new group of riders.
“This is good news – happy news, and we need more of that,” Linton said.
There’s still time to join Linton and other riders on Friday. The Harley dealership will open at 8 a.m. to allow for registration, which is free.
“If anyone wants to come (Friday), they are welcome,” said Joe Combs, the Glynn County Volunteer Fire Department official who serves as regional commander for Nation of Patriots. “… Anybody, any motorcycle is welcome to ride. If someone in a vehicle wants to follow, they’re welcome to follow. It’s open to anybody.”
In the past, the local segment of the trip has attracted more than 200 riders at once, Combs said. But on Thursday, there were six riders escorting the flag from Brunswick to Savannah.
U.S. Air Force veteran Josh Stewart, who represents Brunswick veteran-support group Warriors 22, carried the flag into Savannah. Even though there weren’t many riders, people still stopped to watch, he said.
“We had some people honking horns,” Stewart said. “We rode past some guys who were actually saluting us.”
The low turnout is something Combs attributes to uncertain weather and the tour coming through on a weekday. In previous years, the tour headed south along Georgia’s cost and usually came through on a weekend or the Fourth of July, which added to the appeal.
Combs says he hopes more riders make it out for Friday’s leg of the trip, which also has a stop and registration event at 10:30 a.m. at Cross Creek Plaza in Beaufort, where S.C. 280 meets S.C. 170.
“I would like to think that with it being on a Friday, people may take Friday off and make it a long weekend and that we’ll have a good showing from here north,” Combs said.
The military and public safety professions are similar to a degree, Combs said, and he’s always felt strongly about showing support for veterans. When he personally carried the flag from Savannah to Jacksonville last year, he said it felt like “one of the highest honors somebody could have.”
Linton, who will carry the flag to Charleston, says he feels obligated to support military veterans, too.
“I never did serve, for various reasons, and I always want to do whatever I can to help our soldiers,” Linton said. “… It’s my way to help say thank you and pay it back.”
FLAG GOES TO CHARLESTON
Motorcycle riders carrying the Patriot Tour’s American flag will depart the Savannah Harley-Davidson dealership off Fort Argyle Road at 9:15 a.m. They will take Interstate 95 into South Carolina and exit onto U.S. 278. From there, the flag will travel along 278 to S.C. 170 in the Sun City area and follow 170 into Beaufort. The tour will stop at Cross Creek Plaza, where 170 meets U.S. 21, about 10:30 a.m. for a registration event if more riders want to join. From there, the riders will follow 21 to U.S. 17 and take 17 to Charleston, continuing to the city’s Harley dealership.
To learn more about the event, go to nationofpatriots.com.