Army Rocks Sturgis Motorcycle Rally

By Jonathan Agee
The United States Army Field Band

News story photo
Photo credit: Jonathan E. Agee
Sgt. 1st Class April Boucher, The Volunteers’ lead vocalist, performs at The Broken Spoke Campground during the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, Aug. 4.
STURGIS, S.D. -- It started on Aug. 14, 1938. A group of nine men gathered in Sturgis, S.D. and raced their motorcycles in front of a small crowd. More than seven decades later, the event has grown into the largest motorcycle gathering in the world, attracting hundreds of thousands of people each year. But behind the excitement of races, stunts, and thunderous tailpipes is a sentiment shared among many of the riders -- patriotism.

"Bikers are a weird bunch, but they have a lot of respect for the military," said Frank Moyer, entertainment director for the Broken Spoke. Moyer, who studies demographics of motorcycle riders, said there is a brotherhood that exists within the biker community. And that brotherhood has many veteran riders and people who care deeply about the military and its members.

In June, Moyer and his team hosted a motorcycle rally in Johnstown, Pa. where they invited The Volunteers to perform. It was during this event that The Volunteers earned a name for themselves amongst the biker community.

According to Jack S., master of ceremonies at The Broken Spoke, The Volunteers' performance in June stood out more than any other performance during the rally. "It was a different style of entertainment than I've ever seen at a bike rally," said Jack. "For me it is the people I get to meet at these rallies that make 'The Spoke' their home, and that's why we wanted to bring in the band because they are welcomed so warmly here."

Two months later, The Volunteers arrived in Sturgis to perform two concerts, Aug. 4-5, at The Broken Spoke Campground. The patriotic mood was set from the beginning when Sgt. 1st Class April Boucher, lead vocalist, sang the National Anthem at The Wall That Heals, a half-scale replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"She did a marvelous job," said Daniel Little, Vietnam Veteran. "One of the best renditions of the National Anthem I think I ever heard. I really enjoyed it." Little, who served in Vietnam from 1965-1966, said he makes an effort to ensure that our service members are treated with dignity, something he did not experience when returning home from Vietnam. "Hopefully out of that whole Vietnam experience, if our country learned one thing and that is how to treat our veterans coming home today, then to me it was all well worth it," said Little.

Ted Shpak, president of Rolling Thunder, Washington, D.C. and Vietnam veteran, had the chance to hear the singing of the National Anthem and a concert. "It was incredible and the people in there loved you," said Shpak. "The response was just unbelievable."

For the members of The Volunteers the rally was a chance to interact with thousands of patriotic Americans and share the Army story.

"When we can reach out in one event and hit a cross section of America at a festival like that, I think the effort will pay benefits for a long time," said Col. Timothy Holtan, commander of the Army Field Band. "The organizers were so tickled they said, 'Any event that we do, you're welcome back, we'll make room for you.' That really summarizes what The Volunteers bring in terms of telling the Army Story and living the Army Values."

For their second concert, The Volunteers played just before national recording artist, Night Ranger. They performed a set that included the music of Van Halen, Pink Floyd, Johnny Cash and more. When the performance was finished, the audience broke into chants of "One more song, one more song."

The Volunteers performed an encore, then went into the crowd to spend the evening with the patriotic people of Sturgis.

"Motorcycle clubs seem to attract a lot of veterans," said Boucher after the rally. "Many of the clubs especially honor POWs and MIAs as they ride all over the country. It was a great honor to meet so many of them in one place. One particular Vietnam vet thanked us for representing his generation and making it honorable to serve in the U.S. Army. I hugged him and expressed my gratitude for his service. It was a very small attempt to compensate those who served when it was unpopular to do so."

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