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Strong attendance and familiar faces at Honor Ride

Photo by Rachelle Klemme Committee member Karla Richardson faces the flag during the opening memorial service at the VFW parking lot before the Honor Ride kicks off.1 / 3
Josh Philips of Menahga releases balloons in honor of Troy Schultz of Pelican Rapids. Schulz, 33, passed away in 2006 while serving in the Army. Standing are Eli Hartwig, far left, and Matt Nygren.2 / 3
Lt. Col. Michael Pazdernik, originally of Alexandria, was the main speaker at this year's annual VFW Honor Ride. Pazdernik led the Wadena unit in 2004, and all the soldiers in the unit returned home safely.3 / 3

Despite the heat, there was strong attendance at this year's annual VFW Honor Ride.

Committee member Karla Richardson said about 130 people on about 100 motorcycles attended the 9th annual ride July 14. The year before, about 80 people showed up when the event fell on a rainy day.

The ride began outside the Wadena VFW and ended up at the Menahga VFW. But rather than being a straight shot up U.S. Highway 71, the route took motorcyclists through less frequented county roads and small, unincorporated towns.

"We had a lot of good comments. They liked the routes of going through the farm country and seeing all of that," Richardson said.

Lt. Colonel Michael Pazdernik returned to Wadena to speak in the VFW parking lot before the ride took off.

Introducing him, Wadena VFW past Commander Jim White said Pazdernik led a deployment of 152 area soldiers in 2004.

"All 152 returned safely," he said.

Pazdernik agreed it was the proudest moment of his career.

He also said it was comforting to return to Wadena and see that several years later, community support was still strong.

"Events like this are critical," he said.

The Honor Ride proceeds benefit soldiers and military families. Pazdernik said community aid to military families helps soldiers concentrate on their job and know things are taken care of back home.

A balloon release in honor of area fallen soldiers was new this year. White said the event was planned last year, but not possible because of the weather. He said it was well-received, and next year they may invite the parents of area fallen soldiers to the event.

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