“Hero Day” at Gover Harley Davidson in Piqua has become a traditional tribute to all military and first responders.  But the event Saturday, Sept. 15 was both the biggest and broadest in its five-year history. It honored the Greatest Generation from World War II, the young heroes of the ongoing War on Terror, and celebrated the everyday heroism of blood donors with the first ever Community Blood Center (CBC) Hero Day Blood Drive.

“This is the biggest event in the history of our dealership by far,” said Gover Harley Davidson co-owner Tracy Gover.  “It’s the biggest we’ve ever pulled off,” echoed operations manager Greg Foughty, who wore the special Hero Day t-shirt, emblazoned with “We Support Those Who Serve.  Welcome Home B-Battery. Be Safe 1487th.”

The well wishes for the 1487th National Guard Transportation Company stationed at the Piqua Armory are deeply felt, since the unit will deploy to Afghanistan in January.

On board the CBC Bloodmobile, 1487th member Shawn Stewart from Columbus casually relaxed on a donor bed as he gave blood.  He didn’t know the blood drive was planned for Hero Day, but said, “I figured it was a good time.”  Shawn says his unit will report to Fort Hood, TX in November and will be on the way to Afghanistan by Christmas.  It will be his first deployment to Afghanistan, but he is a veteran of duty in Iraq.  He knows what to expect, but plays down the hardship ahead.  “It will be winter, so hey, at least it will be a little cooler,” he shrugs.

Also donating was 23-year-old Turrell Lewis from Sidney who just joined the 1487th.  He’s so new to the unit, it’s uncertain when he will deploy to Afghanistan.  He didn’t expect know there would be a blood drive at Hero Day, and he was also surprised by the display of pride and appreciation.  “It kind of makes me feel happy to see people trying to give back to soldiers.”

The tributes are everywhere.  World War II reenactors dressed in U.S. Army and Navy uniforms strolled around campgrounds and vintage vehicles. A Red Cross nurse was busy at a hospital tent and nearby German soldier reenactors stood by their own tents, while a German officer pedaled up on a vintage bicycle.

A live band took the stage in front of the dealership and vendors lined the side of the building, selling motorcycle-branded clothing and jewelry and styling hair.  All the businesses donated part of their proceeds to Wounded Warriors and other veteran groups.

There was also a showing from Toys for Tots, the Patriot Guards and Blue Star Mothers.  An afternoon flag retirement ceremony featured the respectful burning of more than 1,000 faded flags.  A 100-mile “Park to Park” ride was the featured event for the motorcycle participants, with proceeds donated to veterans.

Perhaps the most moving tribute was to Lima Company, the Ohio Marine Corps. Unit that saw 22 of its members killed between May and August of 2005 in Iraq. A memorial comprised of several panels depicting the fallen soldiers and the traditional empty boots display with candles was first put on display in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda in 2008.  It now travels the state, including its visit to Hero Day.  Visitors were invited to sign their names to a Marine Corps. flag.

“This is a tribute to the military,” said Gover employee Lauren Outlaw as she made her blood donation on the bloodmobile.  “I think it’s great!” she said about the first Hero Day blood drive.

“It’s a great way to bring people together and it’s more convenient with the bus here, and of course it helps the Community Blood Center.”

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