COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo - In a crowded office filled with memorabilia, Jim Wear of Pro Promotions patiently promotes his Salute to American Veterans Rally in Cripple Creek every August. He told me as a civilian in a family of veterans he wanted to find a way to honor the military, "Regular folks like me can take the opportunity to thank and do something for veterans."
Nearly three decades ago, Jim owned a motorcycle shop and had a group of Colorado College students come in to the store. In his shop there were prisoner of war or missing in action patches. The students didn't know what those were, because there hadn't been an ongoing conflict since the Vietnam War. Jim said that is when an idea popped into his head. He and others started a weekend motorcycle ride that took them through the streets of Colorado Springs with POW/MIA flags on their bikes. It was a way to salute those who came home and those who didn't. After five years the group of riders numbered into the hundreds. That's when he decided to move the ride and this salute to veterans.
Thousands of riders now make the trip from the starting point in Woodland Park to Cripple Creek in August. It culminates with the Salute to American Veterans Rally in Cripple Creek.
Jim Wear says over the years, slices of emotion that he has seen from veterans have touched his heart. He told me about a Korean War veteran, "He came over to me after the ceremony and put his arm around me and said, you and your biker friends have done more to honor me and others than our government did. "
Jim also told me the touching story of a young marine who did two tours of duty in the current conflict and told Jim, "I've not had my hand shaken so many times in one day, ever in my life."
Jim Wear says it's important for him and others to keep this veterans weekend going and is proud to be part of it, "As long as the city of Cripple Creek has their nose behind it and as long as we are around, I really can't see us not doing it. It's become too important of a gathering and reunion for too many of these vets."
Jim and his group were also part of the push to change the name of Highway 67 between Divide and Cripple Creek. It was renamed the POW/MIA Memorial Highway last August.
You may know someone is a Wear Red Friday Hero. Go back to our Wear Red section and nominate them. I've also put the information on the Salute to American Veterans Rally on our hot button story.