Ride honors fallen Recon, Raider Marines

Pictured is Recon Raider Remembrance Ride organizer Keith Waldrop, a Marine Special Operations Command Raider and Reconnaissance Marine veteran. Photo credit Disabled American Veterans

More than 100 United States Marines, veterans, Gold Star families and charity supporters honored the 201 members of the Marine Recon and Raider communities who died in the line of duty since 9/11 during the Sept. 9-10 Recon Raider Remembrance Ride.

On Saturday, the riders departed from the New River Harley Davidson in Jacksonville, North Carolina. From there, they took part in the NC Freedom Fest in Goldsboro before making their way to Quantico National Cemetery on Sunday.

The convoy-style operation, organized by Asymmetric Solutions, generated awareness of the sacrifices made by silent warriors, connected participants with resources and raised funds to support Disabled American Veterans; the Marine Raider Foundation and Marine Reconnaissance Foundation. 

Participants include Jessica Jenson, widow of Sgt. Chad Jenson, a Raider who was killed in a training accident in 2017 and Mary Strong, the mother of Sgt. Charles Strong, a Raider killed in Afghanistan in 2014.

“It makes us feel good when we do something to give back to those who served with our children and also to honor our nation’s fallen,” Strong said. “As long as you say their name, they will always be remembered and never forgotten.”

Strong serves as president of the Gold Stars Mothers chapter in Hampton Roads, Virginia. The nonprofit is made up of American mothers who have lost sons or daughters in the service of the nation.

“It’s one of the organizations you don’t really want to join,” Strong said.

Gold Star Mothers has two chapters in Virginia, in Alexandria and Hampton Roads. The Hampton Roads chapter was founded in 2005.

“We’ve got at last count 24 moms that are part of our chapter,” said Strong.

The Hampton Roads Gold Star Mothers volunteer at the local Department of Veterans Affairs hospital, raise funds to help veterans in the community and work with other organizations to assist veterans.

Both of Strong’s sons served as Marine Raiders. Charlie was the youngest of the boys and was 28 when he was killed while on his last mission in Afghanistan on Sept. 14, 2014.

“They call it a green-on-blue situation,” Strong said. “He had just finished up his mission and was waiting on a helicopter to come in and pick them up.”

One of Charlie’s team members later told her that as they were waiting to be picked up, two Afghani commandos they had been training opened fire, killing Charlie and severely wounding the U.S. Navy corpsman who was next to him.

Strong’s other son was also in Afghanistan and escorted his brother home, she said.

Charlie was so organized that he left behind a letter with details about what he wanted to be buried in and what he wanted engraved on his tombstone.

When Strong learned the Recon Raider Remembrance Ride would take participants to Quantico National Cemetery where Charlie is buried, she invited them to stop at his grave.

“He’s the only Raider buried at Quantico,” she said. “What an honor that is. I know Charlie was absolutely thrilled because he was totally into motorcycles. He was having one custom built for him.”

On Sunday, riders made their way to Arlington, where they were escorted from Arlington National Cemetery and the Marine Corps War Memorial before departing the capitol region to return to Wilmington, N.C. for closing ceremonies.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Disabled American Veterans