Never Forgotten Freedom Cruise
On September 11th, we will be honoring our men and women who sacrificed their lives for our freedom in Sparta. We are honored to be the location of the event at Sparta High School with an honor ceremony at 10 am for the Fallen Honoree Army Sergeant First Class Richard J. Herrema. The 30 mile cruise will begin at 3:30 pm following the route below and we encourage the public to find a place on the route!
Below is an excerpt of what Sparta TODAY Published in the August 2021 edition after a sit-down with Tom Antor, one of the founding members.
Freedom Cruise Invading Sparta with Motorcycles, Classic Cars…
All to Honor Veterans, First Responder’s and Gold Star Families
What: Patriot Game * Honor Ceremony* Portrait Presentation * Thirty Mile Cruise/Escort
Where: Sparta High School / Sparta, Algoma and Alpine Twps.
When: September 10th and 11th * (Freedom Cruise Rain Date – September 12th)
Information at www.freedomcruisegr.com / (616) 690-3121 (Tom Antor)
There is nothing as exciting about talking to someone who is so passionate about a cause, that they gush with delight at the opportunity to discuss their mission. Sparta TODAY had the opportunity to sit down with Tom Antor, a Kent County Commissioner and passionate board member for the Freedom Cruise event.
Sparta is gearing up for the 8th Annual Freedom Cruise this year and there already seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for the event across the area, can you elaborate on it?
For the first time in our seven-year history, this event will take place on 9/11 which not only places emphasis on our military, veterans and Gold Star families but also honors fire and police as well. Unfortunately, we are at a place in our history when police departments are literally being de-funded, flags are being burned and the sovereignty that so many fought and died for is being thrown under the bus. I know that collectively, as a nation, we are better than this but the craziness is getting all of the headlines which makes this event so important! We must honor those who serve or have served, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice. I would like to see this West Michigan event, offset the bad news we are watching every night on the news or getting slammed with on social media. We MUST let all those who protect us know that we have their backs, and that we will never forget!
Obviously, 9/11 was a very sad time in our nation’s history and since this is the 20th Anniversary, are you expecting larger than normal crowds in and around Sparta?
It is interesting that you mention history because most of our High School graduates were not alive on that day and I’m not sure that what occurred on September 11th 2001, is being taught in some school districts around the nation. The second worst thing to happen to these Gold Star parents, all of whom, notified of the death of their child by a knock on the door, is the fear that their son or daughter’s death will be, or has been, forgotten. I have had way too many heart wrenching conversations with these parents, some of whom saying… “I can’t believe my son died for this”. In my mind this is totally unacceptable and we must erase those thoughts from their minds. I am adamant on this issue and I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to exercise OUR responsibility to NEVER FORGET and give these Gold Star parents, a sense of peace. I truly believe West Michigan and especially our district up here, will rally around this event, come out in full force with families, friends, neighbors and co-workers to support these families while we ALL reflect on the sometimes-agonizing, cost of OUR freedom.
Sparta TODAY: What exactly is this event going to look like for anyone that may have never heard of or participated in it before?
The event this year will actually kick off on Friday, September 10th with the football game between Sparta and Comstock Park. Both schools are working together and renaming it the Patriot Game which we hope will become an annual game that emphasizes pride and honor for our veterans and first responders who have served this country. It will be the Game of The Week on local television with incredible surprises in store for everyone that attends. This will be unlike any football game anyone in this area has ever seen and I can guarantee you both Sparta and Comstock Park High Schools are going to provide a life’s worth of goose bumps before and after kickoff. We are thrilled that both schools embrace this event and want to make this an unforgettable game, part of a big, patriotic weekend!
The following morning on Saturday 9-11, we will begin mustering flag draped, classic cars and motorcycles from across the State and beyond, in the Sparta High School parking lot at 10 AM. The Sparta Sports Boosters will be serving food along with a couple of the area’s best food trucks. ODR will be playing classic rock songs on our main stage in the parking lot, which will also feature Veteran Service organizations from across the area for Veterans and their families.
At approximately 1:30 PM, Bagpipers will march through the parking lot, leading all attendee’s, including this year’s Honor Recipients, the family of Rick Herrema into the stadium along with many other Gold Star Families and dignitaries. The Honor Ceremony will feature the unveiling of a specially commissioned original portrait of Rick Herrema, presented by renowned artist, Jim Tostrud, of Kenosha Wisconsin.
This ceremony including some VERY SPECIAL surprises and incredibly emotional portrait reveal is a life changing event for all involved…you do not want to miss it!
Immediately following the Ceremony inside the stadium, the Gold Star families will be seated in special vehicles at the front of the escort procession with all other participants including bikes, classic cars and emergency vehicles following them through Sparta, Algoma and Alpine Townships. All along the route, residents, business owners and church congregations will be standing along the roads waving American Flags! KCSD will be blocking over thirty intersections during this massive procession, because our Gold Star Families absolutely deserve the best, along with our promise to NEVER FORGET!
Sparta TODAY: We are confident that Sparta will rise up for this and stand in the gap to make this vision a reality!
Thank you, I absolutely share your optimism because we are at a crossroads in our nation’s history and I believe those who cherish our way of life, flag and Veterans need and want to get together to express our love and devotion to those who protect us and their families. I truly believe Patriots will show up in droves because we are always better together, and this event is our responsibility and promise to NEVER FORGET!! This will put Sparta on the map in a big way, for all of the right reasons and I believe it will be a historic!! * Freedom Cruise rain day will be Sunday, Sept. 12th (If necessary).