There was a special guest at Saturday’s military appreciation day at Lone Wolf Harley-Davidson in Spokane Valley – the “Saluting Marine.”
Former Staff Sgt. Tim Chambers got that name because he stands in the middle of 23rd Street in Washington, D.C., in full dress uniform, saluting as a million motorcycle riders participating in the Memorial Day Rolling Thunder event pass by. The annual ride calls attention to POWs and MIAs. It takes hours for the riders to pass, and Chambers stands at attention, saluting, until there is no one left to salute.
Chambers started his annual tradition in 2002 on a whim. “I just got inspired to pop out in the middle of the street and salute,” he said.
Many of the riders are Vietnam veterans who never got a welcome home, Chambers said. As he salutes, he can see that some are crying and others stop their bikes to return the salute. “That became my moral post because of what it means to them,” he said.
Since not everyone can make it to Washington, D.C., Chambers now visits a couple dozen events every year, like the one hosted at Lone Wolf. There was a steady line of people waiting to speak with him and have their pictures taken.
One man, who identified himself as a former Marine gunnery sergeant, began talking to Chambers about his emotional experience with the “Saluting Marine” in 2006, not realizing that Chambers was that Marine until Chambers said something.
“That’s being a Marine,” the man said. “I’m glad I got to meet the fella that stands out and does that.”
Chambers, who served for 16 years, said he does appearances on his own and the Marines aren’t involved. “It’s satisfying,” he said. “It’s something positive.”
The military appreciation day, which included a petting zoo, World War II vehicles and a Civil War re-enactment, is something that the Harley dealership does every year, said Melinda Thompson, an employee.
“It’s something we pride ourselves on giving 100 percent on,” she said. “Harley-Davidsons and the military go together like peanut butter and jelly.”
Thompson said Harley-Davidson riders have a camaraderie similar to the military. “This is truly a family,” she said.
Shawn Warner was there with his Black Sheep Harley-Davidson for Christ motorcycle group to offer free boot shines for veterans. He said it’s important for the community to show veterans they care.
“I think it’s very cool,” he said of the event.
Army veteran Chad Cochran said he’s concerned with the number of veterans who commit suicide every day and believes they need all the support they can get.
“We can’t do enough,” he said. “Every little bit helps. It’s good to see some vets in here.”