'We don't want to forget those who sacrificed it all'
(Update: Adding video, comments)
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- There are 999 veterans across the state of Oregon who are still considered missing in action from WWII to today. Several others were prisoners of war over that span. That's what inspired a cross-state motorcycle ride last weekend - to show everyone they won't be forgotten.
"We want to know that if we were ever missing, nobody would forget us. They'd come looking," Ray Rose, president of the Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association told NewsChannel 21 Thursday.
The ride began in Bend, following the 471-mile Oregon stretch of U.S. Highway 26, from near Seaside to Ontario, which was named the POW/MIA Memorial Highway by the Oregon Legislature last year. It was a three-day trip, from Friday through Sunday.
Rose said it was a 1,050-mile round trip, with pit stops along the way in Prineville, Madras and John Day.
He called the experience "pretty exciting."
"It's like the Veterans (Day) Parade down here, is what it felt like to me," Rose said. "The streets were lined with people waving flags at us and waving, and they were just glad to see us. There are some good people out there."
Rose said at its peak, 80 motorcyclists were traveling together along the route.
"I think they'd appreciate that we're keeping their memory alive," Rose said.
People had to buy a ticket to officially join the ride, with all proceeds benefiting the Oregon Veterans Motorcycle Association, to help veterans in need.
Rose said the ride raised more than $4,000.
"When we hear of a local veteran in need, we try to get them some cash right away to help them out, pay a bill that they are having trouble with or something like that," Rose said.
At the end of the route in Ontario, a rainbow glowed in the distance. Their presence is commonly known as a symbol for serenity and peace. Rose called it a sign of hope.
"We had completed our mission, and to see that rainbow, that was neat," Rose said.
Rose said it's crucial to keep the memory alive of all POWs and MIAs. That's why he said this year's first-ever cross-state motorcycle ride may become an annual event.