CENTRAL — Crowds gathered at Southern Wesleyan University on Monday welcoming U.S. Special Operations Command Marines on the annual Honoring their Service Ride.
Each year, these service personnel travel by motorcycle and Jeep escort to Lake Keowee to enjoy a period of rest and relaxation. But in a change of plans, this year’s escort skipped Easley and instead began at the Gilbert Track and Field Complex, located along Clayton Street on Southern Wesleyan’s campus.
In a statement, President of the Honor Their Service, Inc. Larry Druffel explained the route bypassed Easley this year because the length of the parade was too long.
“Given the consistent warm and welcoming hospitality you (Easley residents) have shown over the years, that decision was not made lightly,” said Druffel. “I want to communicate the rationale for our decision.
“The Marines have consistently told us that the motorcade route is too long,” he said. “The number of participating motorcycles has consistently declined. The reason so few riders return is that the run is too long given the heat.”
Druffel said despite the excellent turnout of citizens in Easley, the remainder of the run is largely empty until the motorcade arrives in Central.
“Despite our unsuccessful efforts in recent years to increase the turnout, the impact reduces the desired effect of citizen appreciation for the Marines, making the run less effective,” he said.
Another change made this year was the inclusion of the Marine’s spouses.
“Finally for the first time this year, those Marines who are married will be bringing their wives,” Druffel said. “Given the difficulty of the ride for the Marines, we concluded it would simply make it less enjoyable for the ladies.”
In a released statement, The City of Easley stated they were “saddened by the change in the motorcade route, but understands the decision made by The Honor Their Service Ride Board.”
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.