July 13, 2014 at 6:17 PM
CLARK, NJ - Approximately 400 motorcyclists gathered this morning at the Deutscher Club on Featherbed Lane to participate in the 6th Annual Waterson/Dunham Valor Ride. The fundraiser, a police-escorted group motorcycle ride and all-day barbecue, is sponsored by Clark PBA Local 125. It honors two fallen Marines, William Waterson and Jason Dunham. Proceeds from the event are used to fund scholarships in the Marines’ names.
The event began with a processional of bagpipers and drummers and a brief opening ceremony at the club. Event organizer Danny Joy led the crowd in a heartfelt Pledge of Allegiance. He spoke of the heroism of those who were being honored. Of the fallen Marines, Joy said, “Every day that we honor them, we keep them alive.”
After a moment of silence and a mournful playing of “Taps” by a lone bugler, Joy stood at attention while the bagpipers played the “Marines’ Hymn.” Brother Rick of Riders for Christ offered a blessing for safety, and then it was time to ride.
The bikers headed to their motorcycles without delay. Within minutes, a seemingly endless procession of motorcycles streamed from the entrance of the Club escorted by State Police, local police and emergency vehicles.
Police Officer Michael Devlin was one of the riders. This is his sixth Valor Ride. He proudly served in the United States Army from 1986 to 1995 and currently serves as the president of the Kenilworth PBA. “I come out to support the Clark PBA and because this a good cause,” he said, “I’ve been here since the beginning.”
The riders followed a route from Clark, through Scotch Plains and Fanwood, to Route 78 and then back toward the Garden State Parkway before they returned to the Deutscher Club for an afternoon barbecue that featured food, drink, a live band and camaraderie.
The Garden State Parkway was closed to traffic for a short time to make way for the procession. A helicopter flew overhead signaling the approach of the riders. The bikes traveled along the right lane of the empty Parkway. Occasionally a police siren broke the steady hum of the motorcycles.
Watch a video of the riders on the Garden State Parkway (taken from the Raritan Road bridge):
Joy said that riders have come from as far away as North Carolina. While many of the participants are from law enforcement, many others are members of local motorcycle clubs or individual riders who come out to support the PBA and enjoy the day. As one young rider said, “This is brothers supporting brothers for a cause.”
About the Honorees
William Waterson served as a Marine in Vietnam. He returned home and became a patrolman with the Clark Township Police Department. He was a graduate of Arthur L. Johnson High School and came from a police family. On July 4, 1971, he was shot and killed while investigating a robbery at a hotel in Clark. He is the only Clark police officer to have given his life in the line of duty. The scholarship that bears his name is awarded to two Arthur L. Johnson seniors annually.
Jason Dunham served as a Corporal in the Marine Corps in Iraq. He died in 2004, at age 22, after he heroically threw himself on a live grenade to protect his fellow Marines. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and is the first Marine to receive this military decoration since the Vietnam War. Although they were not stationed in Iraq at the same time, Dunham and event organizer Danny Joy served in the same security force unit. The scholarship that bears Dunham's name is awarded to an active duty Marine or Navy sailor who wishes to pursue a college degree.