The Lander Police and Fire Departments escorted Wyoming Thunder down Main Street and to the Fremont County Courthouse. (Joshua Scheer photo)
(Lander, Wyo.) – The crowd gets bigger and bigger. This year Wyoming Thunder, the Cowboy State’s version of the Vietman Veteran’s “Run to the Wall,” motored across Fremont County Saturday and paraded Sunday through downtown Lander with over 200 motorcycles and supporters. The large group ended up on the lawn of the county courthouse on North Second where a welcome and salute to the veterans occurred at the Fremont County War Veteran’s Memorial.
New this year was a stop in the heart of Lander where two large flags, Old Glory and the POW/MIA flags, hung over Main Street. The Thunder subsided as the motorcycles went quiet, the veterans stood at attention and recited the Pledge of Allegiance before remounting their machines and parading to the courthouse.
There, The Richard Pogue Post #81 of the American Legion in Fort Washakie posted colors and, while the Scout River Drum sang two honor songs, including “Solider Boy,” a cedaring was held for those in the audience who wished to participate. Afterwards, Master of Ceremonies Brian Scott Gamroth of Casper introduced two Native American Vets, WWII veteran and Prisoner of War Starr Weed Sr., and Wade Lebeau. Both wore traditional war bonnets. Speaking to the crowd of more than several hundred onlookers, Weed said he “was glad to be free.” The 95-year-old Eastern Shoshone Elder thanked everyone who “prayed for him and the boys” back then, and for those who “prayed for all boys here who fought in wars. Some are gone, those who came back are why we are gathered here today. Thanks to the boys who served,” he said to long applause by the appreciative audience.
Fremont County Sheriff’s Deputy John Applegate, at the edge of the crowd, said he remembered how thankful some of the Vietnam Vets were last year for finally being thanked for their service. “About 10 of those men cried last year and I saw more with tears in their eyes this year. This is long overdue,” he said.
Gamroth then proceeded to read letters of support to the assembled crowd from U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis, from U.S. Senator John Barrasso and from Governor Matt Mead.
The City of Lander, the Lander Fire Department and the Lander Police Department were all recognized for their support of the event, and representatives from each were awarded plaques and a long ovation from the crowd, with shouts of “we’ll see you again next year” coming from the assembled vets.
Several more prayers were offered from representatives from the Wyoming Veteran’s Commission and the Wyoming Legacy Veterans; the Lander VFW Post then presented the colors and a 21 shot salute and Veteran Charlie Carpenter put a bugle to his lips for the playing of Taps.
“Thanks for coming, thanks for hosting us again, drive safely and we’ll see you next year, God Bless You,” the Casper radio personality said in closing the service.