The flag is home for good.
The ninth-annual Patriot Tour finished up at Swan City Park in Beaver Dam on Saturday in the same city where it started. Riders ushered one American flag through every contiguous US state over 14,500 miles and 110 days, as volunteers worked to raise money for wounded veterans and their families.
Since the tour kicked off in May, $60,000 has already helped 36 families. The Nation of Patriots, which organizes the tour, raised just under $250,000 in 2017. This year’s goal is to hit $300,000.
“The momentum is strong and volunteers across the country have stepped up to organize new and bigger events,” said Brad Weber, of the Nation of Patriots and Steelhorse Motorsports.
On Saturday, riders rolled in from Illinois, through downtown Beaver Dam and into Swan City Park carrying state flags and the one American flag that will now be under the care of the city. Mayor Becky Glewen ceremonially accepted the flag, which was placed into a box, on behalf of the city. The flag will be displayed prominently in City Hall.
“What we’re doing is working,” said Bill Sherer, who founded the Patriot Tour. “We are all aligned we are all motivated to push forward because we realize the drastic importance of helping our nation’s veterans.”
He said caring for veterans should be a priority for everyone, not just the government.
“As a group out there, we also realize the important of the symbol that is our flag. It’s not just pretty to look at. It is truly a symbol,” he said. “It doesn’t matter your skin color, your religion, your politics, your sex. I don’t care whatever you like to identify with.”
Sherer said the flag should be a way to unify all Americans.
“Underneath that symbol underneath our flag, we are all Americans and when we come together, free of politics and all the other divisive nonsense out there, we can focus our energy on celebrating the good in this nation, the good in each other,” he said.
At Swan Park, the riders and the flag were quite literally given a big welcome under the newly-restored “WELCOME” sign, which was fully lit after being renovated and reinstalled by a Leadership Beaver Dam Group.
Glewen noted the importance of different organizations working together to achieve goals, whether government, businesses, nonprofits and more, including putting the sign back up and putting together the Patriot Tour.
“We have before us two great examples of what community is, how we work to solve problems, the partnerships that need to occur to get things done, a group of leaders that believed in a cause,” she said.
Glewen said, in reflecting on the Patriot Tour this summer, she was struck by the significance of losing Sen. John McCain, who died late last month after serving in the Senate for over 30 years.
“John McCain found his passion. He looked to solve problems,” she said. “He was a warrior, servant, veteran, prisoner of war, national leader, but most importantly a father, son, uncle, brother. Sen. McCain stood for his beliefs and the institution he loved: love for his country above all and to believe in service above self.
“He realized we can only do this together,” she said.
U.S. Army Reserve veteran Jonathon “Shoey” Schumacher was the lead flag bearer for the 2018 Patriot Tour. Schumacher, a native of Montfort in southwestern Wisconsin, served in the Army Reserve for nine-and-a-half years as a combat engineer. He deployed to Afghanistan twice.
Next year will be the tenth anniversary of the Patriot Tour. Those wishing to donate can do so at http://nationofpatriots.org/donate.