By Saliha Bayrak and Keren He. All photos by Keren He.
More than 3,000 motorcyclists drove through the North Shore in a massive motorcycle parade on Sept. 19 for the 10th Boston Veteran Run, which raises money for wounded veterans.
Led by motor officers, the parade started at the Boston Harley-Davidson store in Revere and rode through the cities of Saugus, Wakefield, Melrose, and Stoneham, and finally arrived at Anthony’s restaurant in Malden for a final ceremony. With participants chipping in $20, the event raised nearly $130,000 for four severely injured veterans, who were honored at the ceremony.
The four honorees were Cpl. Vincent Mannion-Brodeur, who was injured by an improvised explosive device in Iraq and inspired the first run in 2011; U.S. Army Veteran Christy Gardner from Maine who lost both legs during her service overseas; Army Veteran Mike Liscomb from Maine who lost his left leg in Iraq; and Navy SEAL Dan Cnossen from Kansas who lost both legs during his service in Afghanistan.
During the ceremony, Maj. Tom Schueman described his experiences of tragedy and triumph during his time of service, saying, “I want to talk a little bit about wounded veterans.”
During one remarkable moment, he said his squad leader stepped on an improvised explosive device and had to be carried by a fellow serviceman, during which the squad leader said “I know I’m really heavy if you need to just put me down just put me down.” The leader had to be resuscitated multiple times shortly afterwards, but he was thinking of others moments before his death, Schueman said.
“One of the many things I love that Andy does is…he’s fighting this veteran-as-a-victim narrative,” said Schueman, referring to the organizer of the run, Andrew Biggio. “These aren’t victims here; these are warriors on this stage. It should be that veteran as victor, we’re victors. And I can tell you that based on you all here today, based on all your support today, this is a huge victory for veterans, thank you.”
Biggio, a U.S. Marine veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, operates Boston’s Wounded Vet Run, the largest non-profit for wounded veterans in New England. According to its website, the organization aims to “raise awareness for veterans injured while in military service and host events to raise money to donate to these area veterans in need…”
The organization received a check for $75,000 from President Trump in 2016.
“It’s a point of having things like the Boston Wounded Vet Run to let these veterans know that we have their backs forever, no matter what,” said Biggio during the event.
Biggio’s book, “The Rifle: Combat Stories from America’s Last WWII Veterans, Told Through an M1 Garand,” was published by Regnery History, and climbed to the number 1 spot on Amazon for books on U.S. Military Veterans history. In his book, Biggio wanted to avoid glorifying war and instead depict it in its ugly reality — but he also wanted to show that veterans could go on to live happy lives.
Malden Mayor Gary Christenson spoke at the event as this was the second time the run was held in Malden. World War II veteran Vincent Speranza also spoke.
All of the honorees profusely thanked the organizers for the event. Mannion-Brodeur, one of the honorees, said fondly of the people at the event. “I love them, it’s family. Every year, I make more friends. To me, it’s a gift from heaven and by God himself.”
Saliha Bayrak is a journalism student at UMass Amherst and the Assistant Editor/Coordinator for Neighborhood View. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keren He is reporter/photographer for Neighborhood View and can be hired for professional photography services. She can be reached at email@example.com.