For the Gold Star Mission, the physical pain of pedaling a bicycle for 500 miles within five days pales in comparison to the emotional pain of those who lost loved ones who were serving overseas for the U.S. military.
Still, the willingness to endure some physical pain to remind the public that hundreds of Illinois citizens have given their lives for freedom and that their families have, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”
This year the Gold Star 500 will start Sept. 21 at the Illinois Army National Guard’s Decatur Readiness Center and end during Gold Star Weekend on Sept. 25 at the Scheels Store in Springfield.
The ride schedule is:
Ride Day 1 (Sept. 21) — Decatur to Urbana (105 miles)
Ride Day 2 (Sept. 22) — Urbana to Lawrenceville (126 miles)
Ride Day 3 (Sept. 23) — Lawrenceville to Mount Vernon (94 miles)
Ride Day 4 (Sept. 24) — Mount Vernon to Effingham (103 miles); stops include Altamont VFW at 3:22 p.m. and Effingham National Guard Armory at 4:30 p.m.
Ride Day 5 (Sept. 25) — Effingham to Springfield (94 miles); stops include Strasburg Community Center at 8:10 a.m. and Shelbyville VFW at 9:24 a.m.
The riders will stay overnight at Illinois National Guard facilities along the way.
“While we have reached so many in our first four years, we know we have just begun our mission.” said Trenton Thompson, the president of Gold Star Mission. “We will continue to engage the public and give selflessly to ensure our Fallen Heroes are never forgotten.”
Gold Star Mission pays tribute to Fallen Heroes and their families, encourages and builds selfless service, enlists public support for Gold Star Families and provides unique programs honoring our Fallen Heroes.
Thompson, who is a retired veteran of the Illinois National Guard, said the Gold Star 500 bicycle ride and scholarship program are just part of the Gold Star Mission efforts to keep the memories of Fallen Heroes alive. Together, with other initiatives of the Gold Star Mission, 164 scholarships honoring Illinois Fallen Heroes have been awarded.
For more information about Gold Star Mission or to participate, visit https://goldstarmission.org.