500-Mile Trek Honoring 34 Fallen Illinois Heroes Arrives Saturday in St. Charles
The numbers only begin to tell this story:
- 34 riders
- 34 Illinois servicemen and servicewomen who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country
- 500 miles through communities where these fallen heroes lived, worked and served
Starting Wednesday (Sept. 20, 2017), 34 volunteer bicycle riders will begin a 500-mile journey from Cairo, IL, to St. Charles, to honor 34 men and women from the Illinois National Guard who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The grueling, four-day journey called the Gold Star 500 — the first ever of its kind — culminates with a Saturday, Sept. 23, ceremony at Mount St. Mary Park in St. Charles, the hometown of the first Illinois Guard killed in action, Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier.
“The intent of this ride is to carry the torch of personal sacrifice in honor of these service members, to carry on their stories, their courage, and to honor the legacy of their names,” the Gold Star Mission says on its website.
Riders are expected to arrive at Mount St. Mary Park between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. They will share a celebratory meal with Gold Star families and guests from 3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., when the St. Charles American Legion Post 342, AMVETS Post 503 and VFW Post 5036 will present the colors.
The public is invited to the Fallen Hero Remembrance Ceremony after the bicyclists arrive.
“The very idea of cycling 500 miles in four days is difficult to comprehend fully, for each day, the riders will average 125 miles,” the Gold Star website says. “Each day the riders can expect to experience the extreme discomfort of cycling over great distances. However, this discomfort will be a reminder of the pain and suffering endured by the service members, the Gold Star families, their teammates, and their community”
On Wednesday, the 34 veterans will begin the 500-mile journey from Cairo. The route will take them through many of the communities where the 34 fallen heroes served. Riders will stay overnight in Mt. Vernon, Paris, and Kankakee.
Through generous donations, each rider will honor one of the 34 fallen service members killed in action — a way of honoring the service members by assisting Gold Star families and others in need through scholarship opportunities.
“The ride will preserve the names of the fallen by honoring their service and sacrifice, for we must never forget,” Gold Star said.
The Gold Star 500 will raise funds through donations and use the funds to carry on the names and the stories of the fallen service members.
“We intend to help those in need, including the establishment of scholarship opportunities,” Gold Star said. “What better way is there to preserve and honor the names of our fallen service members than through scholarships?”
About Jacob Frazier
SOURCE: Fallen Heroes Project
Air National Guard Staff Sgt. Jacob Frazier was assigned to the 169th Air Support Operations Squadron, 182nd Airlift Wing, Peoria, IL. Frazier was in charge of calling in air support for troops on the ground. He and a Special Forces soldier were shot to death when four gunmen ambushed their convoy on motorcycles.
Frazier was a tenacious football player at Burlington Central High School so no one was surprised when he entered the military the year after his graduation. In 1997, he enlisted in the Illinois Air National Guard and was determined to excel.
He was sent to Afghanistan in January to work with U.S. Army Special Forces. In just two months, he had participated in three reconnaissance missions to uncover information on people believed to be planning attacks on Americans. The missions led to the discovery of numerous documents and personnel and earned him a Purple Heart, Bronze Star and the Illinois Military Medal for Valor.
Frazier was the caretaker in the family, the one who would step up. He watched out for his younger sister – once even giving her high school sophomore date an earful. He is greatly missed for his sense of humor, devotion to his family and his concern for the welfare of all whom he loved.