MARSHALL - As hundreds of motorcycles rumbled into Marshall on Saturday for the 7th annual L.T.D. Memorial Motorcycle Tour, Pat and Gary Timmerman stood side by side, smiling and waving a red, white and blue flag high above their heads.
It was a bittersweet day for the Timmermans, whose son Jason was killed in the line of duty alongside fellow Minnesota soldiers Jesse Lhotka and Daniel Day in 2005.
"Of course, we're remembering the three, and especially Jason, but also the friends that we've made through this," Pat Timmerman said. "Every year, you see them out there again, showing up and supporting everybody. It's very emotional. It's totally awesome the support out there."
Photo by Jenny Kirk
After making a first-ever stop in Marshall, the 2012 L.T.D. Memorial Motorcycle Tour proceeded past Timmerman Drive, named for First Lt. Jason Timmerman, who was killed in the line of duty on Feb. 21, 2005.
The memorial tour, Pat Timmerman said, encompasses more than the intended tribute to the three fallen soldiers whose initials give the L.T.D. ride its name.
"Really, this ride is not just about Jason, David and Jesse," she said. "It's about all the troops that were over there and it's about the constant support for our troops. I think it's so important that we always remember to pray for our troops and their families. They put in as much of a sacrifice as the troops do."
Like his wife, Gary Timmerman appreciates all the recognition that the ride brings to military families.
"This year, they're pushing almost 600 bikes," he said. "And we recognize a lot of people as they come through the tour."
Kjersten Dahl of Granite Falls usually rides every year but chose to bring her 11-month-old son Devyn to Marshall this year.
"Jesse Lhotka was my first cousin, so we had to come out and support him," Dahl said. "It's a big thing we always do every year."
Dahl said that Lhotka's sister Vanessa also makes T-shirts for the little kids in the family. The message on the back this year read: "We ride our motorcycles loud so that you can hear them in heaven."
"Devyn's got his own shirt," Dahl said. "And, he's perfected his wave."
After departing from the Swift County Fairgrounds in Appleton Saturday morning and continuing through Milan, Watson, Montevideo and Clarkfield, the tour made a first-ever scheduled stop in Marshall.
"We're so excited that they stopped in Marshall this year," Pat Timmerman said. "That was great."
The motorcyclists also used the stop to converse with others in addition to fueling up, using the restroom, eating and drinking.
"I like the stop in Marshall," rider Hilary Kesteloot of Cottonwood said. "It's nice because this is where Jason was. It makes it not such a long ride."
Kesteloot said her husband Terry was also in Iraq when the three soldiers were killed.
"Terry wants to ride to honor them," Kesteloot said. "It means a lot for him to come out here."
Welcoming Kesteloot at the Marshall location were her parents, Mike and Colleen Wreath of Balaton, and her 21-month-old son Riley.
"It's awesome to roll through the towns and see the support," she said. "There were people out in the country, too. Some had flags on the hood of their cars. It's cool."
The unexpected support also caught the attention of Angela Anderson of Balaton.
"Even farmers outside of city limits were waving flags," she said. "It brings tears to your eyes."
Anderson said she and her husband Jason led the 2012 processional.
"Jason was especially honored to be the lead bike," she said.
The Boys Scouts Troop 238 were also part of the action Saturday. Daniel VanKeulen, Ben Leek and Daniel Bauer proudly held flags as the motorcyclists neared their first stop.
"We're here for the three guys who died over in Iraq," VanKeulen said. "We're honoring them. It's also a (Boys Scout) fundraiser. We're providing food for the riders."
Eleven Patriot Guard members from the area also chipped in, controlling traffic and keeping the tour on track.
"As long as they've had a ride, we've been down here," Alan Peterson said. "This year, we finally got the ride to stop. It's always good to support our troops. This is one way we can show support to the families that have lost some of theirs."
This year's tour was also being filmed for Pioneer Public Television, Todd Johnson said, though it'll take some to put it together.
"It'll be for an upcoming episode of 'Postcards,' which is a show about local interests," Johnson said. "We're going to get it on the air finally."
Johnson, an engineer for Pioneer, said he feels a connection with the three fallen soldiers, in part because he came from the same Guard unit, though it was more than 30 years ago.
"It means a lot and I support the troops," he said. "This is an important thing for us to film because out here, everyone has somebody in the Guard, knows somebody in the Guard or has been in the Guard. It's a big family unit out here."
As the riders mounted their bikes and continued on this year's route, more people, including Tim and Sheila Green of Marshall, lined up to pay their respects.
"I was deployed the same time as Jason (Timmerman)," said Tim Green, Readiness non-commissioned officer at the Marshall National Guard Armory. "It's moving because people haven't forgotten."
Green said he's also familiar with the K.M.S. ride, which began as a tribute to fallen soldiers Brent Koch, Kyle Miller and Joshua Schmit. Shortly afterwards, the memorial ride also included Matthew Kahler and the Greens' nephew James Wertish, who was killed in 2009.
"It brings back so many memories because they do the K.M.S. run, too, along with this one," Tim Green said. "You get tears in your eyes just seeing it."
For the family of Jason Timmerman, there seemed to be an added sense of pride this year as the motorcycles passed by Timmerman Drive and onto the next destination.
"It's emotional, all these people remembering Jason and the other two boys," Gary Timmerman said. "It's seven years later and they're still doing it. It's nice to see."