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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

A motorcycle parade marking Memorial Day during the pandemic likely will become annual event at Spokane cemeteries


Motorcycles with flags flying and historic military vehicles paraded through three cemeteries and past the Veterans Administration Hospital Monday morning as part of the Fairmount Memorial Association’s Memorial Day Celebration.

The association hosted a full slate of events at its cemeteries this weekend, said CEO David Ittner, including a concert and 5-kilometer race, both to benefit Meals on Wheels. Monday morning’s events at Riverside Memorial Park on Government Way included a pancake breakfast to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank and the flag cruise.

The breakfast started as an annual event in 2018, though it was canceled last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This event is to honor those who have served and those who have gone before,” Ittner said.

The association also wanted to raise money for organizations that benefit veterans, including Meals on Wheels and Second Harvest.

“That’s really the primary purpose of the breakfast, other than to honor those who have served and who gave their lives,” he said.

The flag cruise with riders from the American Legion Riders was created when the usual Memorial Day events were canceled, Ittner said. It went so well that it was made a part of this year’s breakfast.

Richard Gulling, director of the American Legion Riders for Spokane Post #9, agreed that last year’s ride was well attended.

“The parade last year just turned out phenomenal,” he said. “We normally help out the Marine Corp Legion at Fairmount (Memorial Pak) with their service.”

Gulling, who comes from a family of veterans, retired from Fairchild Air Force Base after 24 years with the Air Force. During that time he served in multiple overseas missions, including Operation Enduring Freedom, Desert Storm and Desert Shield.

“I’ve been across the pond 26 times,” he said.

Memorial Day is important to Gulling as a veteran.

“That’s how I remember the friends I have lost,” he said.

This year the American Legion Riders were joined by the Indian Motorcycle Riders Group #1998, a group of riders who all own Indian brand motorcycles. The flag parade was one of three events the American Legion Riders participated in on Monday, in addition to participating in two other events earlier in the weekend.

Several historical military vehicles were part of the parade, including a 1952 Army M-211 6x6 truck owned by Chris Phillips. The truck has been in Lilac parades and episodes of Z Nation, Phillips said.

The truck’s olive paint was clean and polished for the event. Phillips, who is not a veteran, said he bought the Civil Defense truck as a project about 10 years ago. It took him two years to restore, though it wasn’t in terrible condition when he got it.

The truck is much as it was in 1952, meaning there are little to no shock absorbers, not much cushioning in the seat and manual steering. Phillips said it’s a beast to drive.

“Going straight is not so bad as long as the road is not bad,” he said.

Quite a few people gathered to take pictures of Phillips’ truck and the other military vehicles, including two Jeeps.

Ittner said he’s been trying to organize more public events at the seven cemeteries his association runs. In the 1950s it wasn’t unusual for events to be held in cemeteries, including picnics. He said he’d like to see that be the norm again.

“If cemeteries are forgotten, then history is forgotten and then even people are forgotten,” he said.

Editor’s note: This story was changed on May 31, 2021 to correct the spelling Richard Gulling.