88 Year Old WWII Vet Makes 6,000 Mile Trek

88 Year Old WWII Vet Makes 6,000 Mile Trek

by June 28, 2015

Story & Photos by: Stacy “Snoopy” Conley
Southern Riders Group Secretary & Public Relations
Loggy Bayou, Louisiana

On April 27, 2015,  I had the honor of meeting Dr. E. Bruce Heilman. Dr. Heilman is an 88 year old WWII Marine Veteran and serves as Chancellor at the University of Virginia. He visited the American Legion Hall, Post #14 in Shreveport, LA as he was making a 6,000 mile trek across country. He would eventually travel through 20 states.  On May 10th he left San Diego with an escort taking him to Las Vegas where he joined Rolling Thunder to go to Washington, DC to ride in the National Memorial Day Parade on May 25th.

After learning about this ride Gary Calligas, owner and editor of “Best of Times” magazine reached out to Dr. Heilman and staff about stopping in Shreveport, although Shreveport was not a scheduled stop. Once agreed upon, Gary arranged the escort, the stop at the post, and getting the information out to the public.

The 27th of April was a windy and rainy day. A storm had already moved past us a day or two before and prevented Dr. Heilman from going through Monroe, LA, which was a scheduled stop. I was worried he would have to cancel Shreveport as well, but luckily he was able to go a different route around the storm and spent the night of the 26th in Shreveport.

Dr. Heilman and his escort of Legion Riders and Combat Vets were due to arrive at the American Legion Hall at approximately 11am. Due to the weather there wasn’t a huge escort but he was escorted proudly all the same.

Dr. Heilman’s escorts (per Road Captain, Irish):
Richard ”Doc” Hibbs  30 year Navy Veteran, Vietnam Vet was a Flight Surgeon and Flew F-16 among other aircraft, member of Legion Riders Post 14, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, American Legion Post 14, and 40&8 Votiure 137

Don ”Loco” Brock - 4 years in the US Army, Assistant Director for Legion Riders Post 14 , member of American Legion Post 14, Combats Veteran Motorcycle Association Support Member, PGR, and 40&8 Votiure 137

T.P. Fowler - USAF retired, Vietnam Veteran, member of American Legion Post 202,  Assistant Director of Legion Rides Post 202, PGR, and 40&8 Votiure 137

Stephen “Selfie” Smith - USAF Vietnam Vet, member of American Legion Post 14, Legion Rider Post 14, Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, and 40&8 Votiure 137, he also is a RN at Overton Brooks VA Hospital

Kent “Irish” Harrison - US Army 6 years Armor, Desert Storm Veteran, Director Legion Riders Post 14, XO Charlie Detachment Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, 2nd Vice Commander American Legion Post 14, Cheminot 40&8 Votiure 137

Harry  “Togo” Brunn - US Army retired Infantry, Vietnam Vet, member of American Legion Post 14, Legion Riders Post 14, Vietnam Veterans of America Motorcycle Club, and Combat Veteran Motorcycle Association

Dr. Heilman, National Spokesman for “The Greatest Generation” spoke of The Spirit of 45, which helps the living WWII Veterans know they are still appreciated and not forgotten; he also spoke about the Gold Star Mothers. He stopped at schools along his journey to also discuss WWII, WWII Veterans, and Gold Star Mothers.

I personally had never heard of Gold Star Mothers before Dr. Heilman and I know there are many other people who have never heard of them. Gold Star sounds like a reward and usually it is, but Gold Star in this case means their child did not come home from war; their child had paid the ultimate price.

After he was finished speaking, Dr. Heilman visited and took pictures with everyone and went for lunch before the Legion Riders and Combat Vets escorted him to the next group of Legion Riders in Tyler, Texas.

I will say again it was such an honor meeting a man such as Dr. Heilman who is not only a veteran and educator, but also a very kind, friendly man. He made a point to take time with each person and speak to them. Thank you, Dr. Heilman for all you have done, all you do, and the wonderful experience of meeting you and learning more regarding World War II!