Veterans Elite Tribute Squad performs flag retirement at Hero Day.

Veterans Elite Tribute Squad performs flag retirement at Hero Day.

“Hero Day” at Gover Harley-Davidson in Piqua Saturday, Sept. 14 started with the kind of morning that Americans have come to associate with Patriot Day. A bright, clear September day, flags flapping in the breeze, and a swell of national pride. Gover holds Hero Day to honor everyone who serves their country and community: military members, first responders, public safety workers – and blood donors.
The red, white and blue Community Blood Center (CBC) Bloodmobile was parked between the State Patrol’s new muscle car Dodge Charger cruisers and the vintage Army Jeeps and supply trucks on exhibit courtesy of the World War II 101st Airborne reenactment group. It’s a tradition at Hero Day to feature tributes to the military, including the special traveling memorial to Lima Company, the Ohio Marine Reserve company that lost 23 members in Iraq.
The CBC Hero Day Blood Drive has become part of the tradition. Saturday’s blood drive registered 37 donors and collected 32 donations for 138% of the collection goal.
The highlight of the day was the somber flag retirement ceremony, conducted by the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad. Ageing veterans and young “junior Marines” took part. There was a dedication, the traditional script, the Star Spangled Banner and the Pledge of Allegiance. A vintage military bi-plane performed a fly-over, and more than 600 tattered flags retired from service went up in towering flames.
Hero Day brings together people with overlapping interest in motorcycles, military history, and blood donation. Amanda Penny from Piqua made her first lifetime donation in June and was excited about donating on Hero Day. “It’s very rewarding,” she said from her donor bed on the CBC Bloodmobile. “I feel blessed and grateful to be able to do it. It’s painless and very rewarding to get a phone call saying your blood was used by someone who needed it.”
Amanda’s mother Jan Wintrow of Piqua was also on the Bloodmobile, making her first lifetime donation. “I came out because my daughter talked me into it!” she said. “When she first asked me, I said no. She said, ‘Why not?’ and before you know it, I was here!”
Troy donor Rex Smallwood said he comes to Hero Day for many reasons. “My fiancé works at Gover, so I come to all the blood drives here.” Gover has hosted four blood drives in 2013 and partnered with CBC on the “King of the Road Summer 2013 Blood Drive.” Ten finalists will gather at the Dayton CBC Thursday, Sept. 19 to see who will win a Harley-Davidson Road King Classic motorcycle.
Rex also comes for Hero Day’s patriotism. “The ceremony – the retirement of the flags – is real moving,” he said. Angela Cecil from Sidney made her 5th lifetime donation at Hero Day, and also came for the flag retirement ceremony. “We fly flags at our house all the time. We live out in the country,” she said. “I brought a lot – 13 or so. I’ve been saving them.”
Angela’s flags were added to a giant bundle of flags mounted on a platform in the field behind the Gover dealership. “There’s between 600 to 800 flags,” explained Paul Penny, a Covington member of the Veterans Elite Tribute Squad. “We can’t burn them all. Some will be taken back to the American Legion Post to burn next year.”
The veterans stood at attention and saluted as the platform was ignited. A boil of deep red flames grew, topped by a tower of dark smoke that rose into the blue sky. It evoked another image that Americans will always associate with Patriot Day. When the flames died a fire crew moved in to hose down the remains.
Hero Day is a crossroad between the past and the future. Harry Busse, a World War II reenactor from West Milton, is a member of the I Company, 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne. He was one of a 1,000 people who took part in a D-Day reenactment at Lake Erie in Conneaut, OH in June. “We brought guys in by landing craft and hit the beach,” he said. “Next year will be the 70th anniversary of D-Day and it will be big.”
Nearby the reenactment tents, State Trooper James Boysell from the Piqua Post showed off a 2013 Dodge Charger, part of the patrol’s new fleet of cruisers. “It’s got a hemi in it, so there’s more power in these cars,” he said. “We went to the Mid-Ohio race track for a day of training on the performance and capabilities and the different maneuvers needed to drive these cars.”
For Gover, Hero Day marks the end of the road for a summer of displaying the Road King Classic motorcycle that will be the grand prize in the CBC King of the Road Summer 2013 Blood Drive. “I think it really went well,” said Greg Foughty, Gover operations manager and blood drive coordinator. “We had a lot of people talking about it.”
“This is how we pay it forward,” said Gover Owner and Manager Tracy Gover. “CBC, Hero Day, our Poker Run. I’m honored to be able to make blood donations possible and know that they will help save lives. It’s very humbling.”

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