BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – A group of bakersfield army recruits left for training bootcamp Sunday morning with a unique sendoff. It’s called the armed forces support ride. Families and friends come out every Sunday and Monday to say goodbye to new recruits in the armed forces. But those aren’t the only people who show up.
Riders in four different groups come to show their respect and pride for the new recruits. U.S. Army veteran Ben Patten came up with this idea 14 years ago and has done it every week since then.
“I actually founded it as a favor to a friend,” Ben said. “And then the week after we did the very first one, the marine corps actually called me and said, ‘that was pretty cool do you want to do it again?'”
Ben gave a short speech before the riders all lined up and shook hands with the 16 recruits leaving for boot camp. They’ll be at camp for around 13 weeks and will later go deeper into training. There were many tearful goodbyes as the recruits entered the van that would take them away.
“These young men and women, though they wont admit it, they’re scared to death,” Ben said. “Their moms and dads, they’re scared to death. So what we try to do is bring a little bit of levity to a very very stressful day. I was scared to death when I was sending my kids off. So what we want to do is show these parents that it’s okay. And this community loves them and appreciates them.”
As the van left the parking lot, all the riders revved their engines and followed shortly behind. They would follow the van for a few miles before waving goodbye and hanging out for a while on the side of the road.
Bill Pitcher is a part of the Armed Forces Support Riders group. He says his whole family was in the army, and he’s glad to give the recruits the sendoff they deserve.
“A lot of our riders are Vietnam vets, the way they were treated when they came back was terrible,” Bill said. “So they get to see this and they see how the world’s changed, and that makes them proud too.”
Ben encourages all family and friends to write letters to the recruits. And he says it’s something they’ll look forward to in the upcoming weeks.
The armed forces support riders also come to other events to honor all men and women involved in military service.