Bikers are an unpredictable bunch, so Glenn Shriner doesn’t know whether five motorcyclists or 500 will escort a bus full of Vietnam veterans when it leaves Lincoln later this month.
But he’s hoping for a crowd.
“It doesn’t matter if they ride Harleys or crotch rockets or whatever,” he said. “As long as they ride.”
Inspired, in part, by recent military honor flights, Shriner is organizing a free trip for Vietnam vets to a motorcycle museum in Tecumseh. He has one bus — capable of taking 29 vets — already chartered, and will reserve a second if needed.
That’s just half of his plan. Vietnam veterans didn’t always get the respect they deserved when they returned home, he said, so he’s calling on all bikers to provide a rolling escort during the 100-mile roundtrip.
Picture all of those motorcycles leading the veterans down South 27th Street, he said, and then east on Nebraska 2 to Syracuse, south to Tecumseh.
“How cool would that be?” he said. “It’s something that’s never been done.”
Shriner isn’t a veteran. He’s not close to any Vietnam vets. But a few months ago, he started thinking about how service members from most wars — from World War II to Iraq and Afghanistan — were warmly welcomed home. Those who served in Vietnam often weren’t treated as well.
“They got forced it into it, they were drafted,” he said. “They went through this life of hell and when they got back it wasn’t very pleasant.”
Shriner is a motorcyclist. He rides a Harley-Davidson and last year founded the Nebraska Riders group, which organizes rides open to any kind of biker. After he toured the new Montz Motorcycle Museum in Tecumseh, he knew how he could thank the veterans for their service — his own version of an honor flight, a ride down memory lane.
The museum’s collection includes military motorcycles and the types of bikes the vets might have owned when they were younger. And many motorcycle groups can trace their origins to Vietnam vets, he said.
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“So I thought: Why not take these guys to a museum where things started; they started this whole motorcycle club thing we have going on. That would be a great way to honor these guys.”
It took a few months, but the plan fell into place. The bus — or buses — will leave the Center for People in Need at 10:45 a.m. June 30. Digital Sky will film the trip and the motorcade, from the ground and with a drone.
In Tecumseh, they’ll tour the Montz Motorcycle Museum and have lunch. The VFW will be there, stamping replacement dog tags. The vets and riders will leave for Lincoln at 2 p.m.
The escort riders are responsible for their own lunch, but the town’s economic development department pledged $750 to feed the veterans, said Mayor Bill Montz, who started the museum with his wife, Carla.
He’s looking forward to his town, and then his museum, filling with veterans and motorcyclists.
“It’s going to be a deal,” he said. “It is going to be a really emotional deal.”
Shriner is still seeking veterans, and he’s still raising money. An online fundraiser hasn’t generated much, so he’s also seeking corporate donations.
If he raises more money than he needs, he’ll donate it to the VFW with the requirement it be used to help pay for medical costs for Vietnam veterans.
If he doesn’t raise enough, he’ll open his own wallet to cover the costs.
“These people are well worth it. I’m grateful for what they did.”