Published July 10, 2014
By Patrick Lacombe, Journal reporter
Escorted by the Temple Police Department, the Iron Soldiers Motorcycle Club roared onto the grounds of the Temple VAMC last Thursday afternoon to honor the memories of those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
Club President Archie Sharp led the procession of bikers to the lake area in the rear of the hospital grounds and began directing his members to help unload the food and beverages from the club van.
“We’re going to have our Battlefield Cross ceremony first and then we are going to have BBQ burgers and soft drinks available to the attendees afterward,” Sharp said.
“Our mission is to honor the military heroes who gave their life for their country and to honor those Gold Star family members who have lost their loved ones in combat,” William Sharp, CEO of the club, said. “Today we have family members of SSG Kris Higdon in attendance, and we’re going to present a plaque in honor of him to his family.”
The American Gold Star Mothers Inc. was formed in the United States shortly after World War I to provide support for mothers who lost sons or daughters in the war.
The name came from the custom of families of servicemen hanging a banner called a Service Flag in the window of their homes. The Service Flag had a star for each family member in the United States Armed Forces. Living servicemen were represented by a blue star, and those who had lost their lives were represented by a gold star.
“Our mission is to keep the memory alive,” Archie Sharp said. “We had a father of one of our deceased soldiers come to us saying that his biggest fear is that people will forget his son and why he died. I told him that it’s our job to make sure that Americans remember the brave men and women that died. That’s why we are going to hold this ride every year and stop in different cities to let the Gold Star families know that we appreciate them and the sacrifices they have had to make.”
The crowd moved to the park across the street for the beginning of the ceremony, which began with the singing of “The Star Spangled Banner” followed by a short speech given by William Sharp in which he thanked everybody for attending and also thanked all present and past military members.
Sharp also thanked VAMC administrator Sallie Hanfelder for allowing Iron Soldiers to hold the ceremony on the grounds. Hanfelder was in attendance along with several of her staff members and patients at the VAMC.
The Battlefield Cross ceremony ended with the presentation of a plaque to the daughter of SSG Kris Higdon who was killed by an improvised explosive devise (IED) in 2007 while serving in Iraq. Kacie Higdon, 9, accepted the plaque from the President of Iron Soldiers with tears in her eyes.
After the ceremony, Kacie, along with her aunt and grandmother, thanked the club for remembering SSG Higdon and all the others who gave their lives in the line of duty.
After lunch, the club headed to the Bell County Expo Center to set up for an evening rally.
On Friday, the Iron Soldiers made a stop at the veterans’ cemetery in Killeen and then continued on to the state capitol in Austin for a memorial on the Capitol grounds.