CALHOUN, Georgia — Thousands of motorcyclists turned Interstate 75 into a patriotic thoroughfare Saturday, August 1, as part of a ride to honor a U.S. Marine slain in a mass shooting at a pair of military installations July 16 in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
More than 2,000 motorcyclists participated in the procession that started at Sprayberry High School, the alma mater of Marine Lance Cpl. Squire “Skip” Wells. Bikers left the Marietta, Georgia, high school at 11 a.m. for the 90-mile journey.
Wells and four others — U.S. Marines Gunnery Sgt. Thomas J. Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David A. Wyatt, Sgt. Carson A. Holmquist and U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith — were killed after a gunman opened fire on a pair of military installations — a recruiting center and a naval reserve center — in Chattanooga. The gunman, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, was killed.
Along the interstate Saturday, people flocked to overpasses to catch a glimpse and cheer on the procession. They displayed signs and flags in support of Wells and the bikers honoring him.
By the time the procession reached Calhoun, Georgia, northbound traffic on Interstate 75 had all but stopped, yielding to the bikers. It took 14 minutes for the procession to pass.
The reverence for the moment was broken only by the sounds of motorcycles’ engines and mufflers, cheers from spectators and motorcyclists honking of their horns to acknowledge the crowds standing above in amazement and appreciation.
“Any time that we can participate in or recognize military personnel, it’s an honor for us,” The Daily Tribune News quoted Sheriff Clark Millsap as saying. “…They not only put their lives on the line, they go overseas, they go into places that put their lives in danger, and they do that because America is a great country.”