CLARK, NJ – They numbered more than 500. Men and women representing law enforcement, motorcycle clubs and casual enthusiasts gathered at the Deutscher Club for the Seventh Annual Waterson/Dunham Valor Ride on Sunday.
“People say never forget. That’s why we do it,” organizer Danny Joy said. “So people never forget.”
The escorted motorcycle ride is taken every year in memory of two Marine Corps veterans. William J. Waterson served in Vietnam and is the only Clark police officer to lose his life in the line of duty. Corporal Jason Dunham died in 2004 at age 22 after throwing himself on a grenade to protect his follow Marines while serving in Iraq. Joy told their stories during a short service held before the kickstands went up at noon.
The weather contributed to the day’s turnout, Joy said. But there’s more to it than that.
“The motorcycle community spreads the word,” said the Leathernecks Nation President, who goes by his club name, “Gnome.” “We support good causes. It’s what we do. Jason [Dunham] served with Danny [Joy]. Jason is family to us.”
Proceeds from the event are used to support scholarships given in Waterson’s and Dunham’s names.
The eclectic group included veterans who had served in active duty in Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Gulf War. Clark, Union, Elizabeth and Rahway police officers were there. Clark Councilman Pat O’Connor was there, and so was Clark Board of Education President Carmen Brocato. O’Connor’s son Kyle and his friend Mike Dohn, college students, were riding for the second time. Dohn’s father, also Mike, is the president of the Iron Legion Law Enforcement motorcycle club and started riding when he was a kid.
“Camaraderie. It’s the camaraderie. That’s what motorcycle clubs are all about,” said “Popeye,” a rider with the Leathernecks Nation.
The escorted motorcycle ride left from the Deutscher Club and rode through Scotch Plains and Fanwood on Martine Avenue. Click to view a video of the ride as it comes over the railroad bridge in Fanwood:
The ride continued to Route 78 West toward Warren for a short distance, then u-turned to travel to the Garden State Parkway.
The column of motorcycles stopped for a just a few moments, Joy said, when a deer jumped at a rider on Route 78. The rider swerved and the bike fell.
"For precautionary reasons the rider went to a local hospital. His injuries were not life-threatening," Joy said. According to Joy, the rider sustained minor abrasions on his arms. A trooper stayed with him until the ambulance at the end of the line caught up to the scene. "I don't think we were going more than 15 or 20 miles per hour when it happened," Joy said.
The ride wound its way back to the Garden State Parkway, exiting at interchange 135 and ending back at the club. A barbeque and band greeted the riders for an all-afternoon into evening celebration.
A New Jersey State Police helicopter that had landed in a field next to the Deutscher Club to support the Valor Ride was pressed into service when an unrelated shooting was reported in the township later in the day. The helicopter evacuated the shooting victim to UMDNJ - Newark where he later died of his injuries.