19th annual Lori Piestewa Navajo Hopi Honor Run brings 150 riders to honor fallen heroes
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — The Navajo Hopi Honor Riders remembered all Gold Star families and fallen heroes at the Piestewa residence Aug. 21 during the 19th annual Navajo Hopi Honor Run, with approximately 150 riders in attendance.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions on the Navajo Nation, the board members of NHHR decided to consolidate the four-day event to be a one-day ride from Window Rock to Flagstaff. The riders typically meet with Gold Star families across Navajo and Hopi communities. This year, the ride concluded with an outdoor gathering to remember all the fallen heroes by saying their names and a moment of silence.
Navajo Hopi Honor Riders gathered early in the morning of Aug. 21 at Window Rock Veteran’s Memorial Park where Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez greeted the riders.
Also in attendance was the Honorable JoAnn Jayne, Chief Justice of the Navajo Nation and Vince James, Navajo Nation Council Delegate from Ganado, Arizona.
“Every year, I see the turnout of riders. It humbles my heart to know they travel many miles to ride for Lori and all our fallen warriors, and that they will never be forgotten,” said NHHR President Bobby Martin, as he welcomed all the riders from across the United States and the variety of military organizations; such as Nation of Patriots, American Legion Riders, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, Flags of Honor Escorts, Run for the Wall and Wind & Fire MC.
This year, Dan and Becki Smith from Nation of Patriots were selected to lead the honor run. Dan is the regional commander for NOP Arizona and a U.S. Air Force Vietnam veteran.
“When Becki and I were chosen to be the lead riders for the 2021 Lori Piestewa Honor Ride, I was absolutely awestruck by the honor we were given. We are all in this together, with common goals, and all that we do is to help the veterans, men and women who have served this country so honorably,” Dan said.
The brisk morning began with the sound of motorcycles rolling into the capital of the Navajo Nation, comprised of veterans, civilians, men and women of all ages. Some riders attended for the first time while others have been riding annually. Not everyone rode a motorcycle, many volunteers arrived in vehicles to help set up registration, be a part of the chase crew and to help with merchandise sales.
“As an American Legion Rider, a program within the American Legion. It follows under our four pillars; supporting veterans, their family, children and youth and promoting patriotism and Americanism amongst the community,” said U.S. Infantryman Alfredo Gomez, from Belen, New Mexico. “So it is such an honor to represent and promote the American Legion with an event like this with the same intentions, and they do a great job.”
Gomez is also a part of a program called, Flags of Honor Escorts, coordinated by David McElroy, Air Force First Sergeant.
Gomez is the guardian of the ‘For the Fallen Flag,’ which has traveled across the country three times supporting events and visiting various memorials such as the Vietnam Wall in Washington D.C., the Pentagon, Twin Towers Memorial in New York City, Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania and the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.
The newest flag to be introduced is the Navajo Hopi Honor Flag, which will travel with the non-profit organization Navajo Hopi Honor Riders, Inc.
On Aug. 21, the Navajo Hopi honor flag was escorted by Army SPC Joseph Hudson to the residence of Gold Star Mother Percy Piestewa, and later was transferred to Army veteran Ted Martello.
“It’s always an honor to ride with NHHR and I am honored to be part of the NHHR family,” Martello said.
While making a stop at the Hopi Veterans Center in Kykotsmovi, riders were welcomed by Hopi Vice Chairman, Clark Tenakhongva, the American Legion Lori Piestewa Post #80, Hopi Royalty Rose Marie Honanie, Princess, and Kaitlyn Bailey Hough, 2nd Attendant and Geno Talas, Director of the Hopi Veterans Services.
U.S. Army SPC Lori Ann Piestewa was from the Hopi Tribe. In honor of her, the American Legion Post #80 was renamed Lori Piestewa Post # 80 on Nov. 10, 2011.
“As a family, we feel that Lori’s purpose was to bring people together in peace and unity,” said Percy Piestewa, as she welcomed the honor riders to her home in Flagstaff. “As the years have gone by, we have met so many wonderful people. We have been so blessed by the friendships, by the support. I thank each and every one of you.”
Gold Star mothers in attendance included; Leslie Laselute, Virginia Cambridge and Percy Piestewa.
Brandon Whiterock, who was only four years old when he lost his mother, Lori, is now a young adult at 22. He thanked all the riders for traveling far and riding through different elements. He expressed his appreciation for the bikers and for their dedication to honor.
“You are all here for a purpose, the weather conditions you ride through, countless miles and hours of riding, I just want to thank you for coming out and remembering all the Gold Star families and fallen heroes,” Whiterock said.
Fallen heroes KIA since 2003; Army SPC Lori A. Piestewa, Army PFC Harry N. Shondee, Army SGT Lee Duane Todacheene, USMC LCPL Quinn A. Keith, USMC LCPL Kevin B. Joyce, Army CPL Lyle Cambridge, Army SGT Marshall A. Westbrook, Army SGT Clifton J. Yazzie, Army SGT Christopher N. Gonzalez, Army SGT Troy O. Tom, USMC LCPL Alejandro J. Yazzie, Army SPC Christopher J. Moon, Army SGT 1st Class James E. Thode and USMC SSGT Jonathan D. Davis.
The honor riders extended special thanks to Apache County Sheriff’s Office, Navajo Nation Police — OPVP Executive Protection, Navajo Parks and Recreation, Office of the President and Vice President, Hopi Vice Chairman, American Legion Lori Piestewa Post #80, Hopi Veterans Center and many other individuals who made donations or volunteered to make the honor run possible.
All motorcycle escorts requested by military families will be shared on NHHR facebook, twitter, instagram and website.
The group is working on the upcoming Gold Star Family Day, which will be on the last Sunday of September. Also follow the Navajo Hopi Honor Flag, through FOHE as it is currently on mission in New Mexico and Colorado.
More information about the Honor Riders is available at www.NavajoHopiHonorRiders.com.