NORTH OGDEN — The hurt from the 2004 death of his son while serving in the U.S. Army in Iraq doesn’t fade.
“It’s still tough,” said Daniel Ferrin, father of Sgt. 1st Class Clint Ferrin, killed when the military convoy he was traveling in while serving in Baghdad hit an explosive device.
Mindful of such sentiments, a contingent of motorcyclists crossing the country stopped in North Ogden on Wednesday, paying tribute to Ferrin, five other area military service members who died while serving, and the families of the six. The group, part of the annual Tribute to Fallen Soldiers Memorial Torch Motorcycle Ride, is bound for Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, stopping along the way to honor service members who have died while serving.
“This is awesome,” said Daniel Ferrin, who’s from North Ogden.
It’s been 16 years since his son’s death, he said, and Tuesday’s event was one of the largest tributes he’s received.
James Hammon, stepfather of Jared Reaves, another honoree, offered similar sentiments. Reaves was a chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard when he died of leukemia last year.
“It’s pretty awesome. It’s pretty amazing,” said Hammon, also from North Ogden.
Tribute to Fallen Soldiers, a nonprofit group based in Eugene, Oregon, is headed by Warren Williamson. Williamson said the group’s aim is to let survivors of military service members know “that we love them, care for them.”
In all, Williamson and the rest of the contingent, traveling on motorcycles and expected to number from 40 up to 90 riders, depending on the leg, will honor 67 service members en route to Virginia. That will bring the total that the group has honored over the past 11 years to more than 800. The ride started on July 12 in Oregon, and it culminates on Aug. 2 with a ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony.
Another honoree on Wednesday was Brent Taylor, the North Ogden mayor who was killed in 2018 while serving in Afghanistan with the Utah Army National Guard. His widow, Jennie Taylor, was on hand, and she said such events serve a dual purpose — recognizing the families of those who have passed as well as the actual service members.
“Their light never went out. They just passed the torch on to those of us who are still here,” she said.
Also recognized and honored Wednesday were Army Sgt. 1st Class Elliott Robbins, Army Cpl. Michael Pursel and Army Pfc. Jeremiah Pluim and their families.
The ceremony was held at McGriff Park in North Ogden, and after speaking about each of the six honorees, Williamson offered surviving family members a plaque and large custom photo of their loved ones. He said the group honors service members who have died while serving, whether in combat, in accidents, by suicide or via other means.
“It doesn’t matter how. What matters more to us is honoring their service,” he said.
The group hauls a torch, keeping it lit all along the route. Many of the motorcyclists taking part in the ride, meantime, are military veterans themselves, though not all of them.
Neil Wagner of Salem, South Carolina, was one of the motorcyclists. He said many of his family members served in the military, but not him.
“I felt years ago that I needed to do something,” he said, explaining why he’s taking part in what is now his fifth ride with the group. “Every veteran has sacrificed something, some more than others and some everything.”
Wednesday’s event was unusual in that six service members and their family members were honored in one ceremony. Typically, the group visits the surviving family of individual service members who have died and are to be honored. After North Ogden’s ceremony, the group was to go to Clearfield before traveling to Colorado and points further east.