HONOR RIDE: Patriots Pack to honor Clifton Brooks Sr.
KEYSER - The Patriots Pack will be arriving in Keyser Sunday, May 23, to honor city resident Clifton Brooks Sr. as one of the last remaining Tuskegee Airmen alive today.
Brooks, now 99, was part of the Tuskegee Airmen - the African-American military pilots and airmen who served in the U.S. Army Air Corps - during World War II. They formed the 332nd Expeditionary Operations Group and the 477th Bombardment Group.
He will be honored by the group with a parade and an event where he will be awarded a citation and plaque.
According to John Brostrom, who along with Mike Stramaglio created the Patriots Pack, the riders will be leaving North Ridgeville, Ohio, and make the journey to Keyser to honor Mr. Brooks for being the hero that he is.
Brostrom said the Patriots Pack began with a dream that Mike had, or actually a bucket list idea where he wanted to ride in Rolling Thunder, the massive motorcycle rally staged in Washington, D.C., every Memorial Day weekend to honor veterans and bring attention to prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action. The ride always drew hundreds of thousands of people to D.C every year. They held their final ride in 2019; now to be taken over and renamed “Rolling to Remember Ride.”
Stramaglio, who was a veteran of the Navy, had always planned on taking the ride and finally made that dream come true in 2013. Two years later they did it again, and have made the ride every year since that with the exception of 2020, when the ride was cancelled for COVID.
They didn’t just ride in the rally, though; they were joined by others and the Patriots Pack began. Now they ride with an RV that lists their sponsors and have anywhere from four to 16 riding with them at any given time.
The Patriots Pack gets sponsors and holds a motorcycle raffle each year, with the motorcycles are donated by Clover Imaging. In 2019 they were able to raise $150,000 for the Jillian Fund, which provides financial support for families with a child battling cancer, to allow the family members to better focus on supporting their sick child.
During their rides people can follow them real time on Facebook and or on their blog as they travel across the country. Their website is www.patriotspacks.com.
Stramaglio says the group had heard of Clifton Brooks, and knew he was one of the last, if not the last remaining airmen alive.
“We wanted to honor him last year and COVID stopped that,” he said. “So we made it happen this year since Mr. Brooks is 99 years old.
“Mr. Brooks is everything we stand for,” Stramaglio said. “He is a true hero and we really want to do this for him.”
The group will also be joined by the Patriot Guard, which is a national organization that follows the motorcade for veterans who have died and participates in parades and such for the living. They will continue to Keyser where they will perform a parade in honor of Mr. Brooks, along with they Keyser City Police.
A ceremony will be held in Brooks’ honor. Mayor Damon Tillman will be in attendance; there will be speakers and they plan to have Mr. Brooks’ favorite hymn sung.
Mr. Brooks will be presented with a folded flag that is encased with a plaque that has a saying from his favorite hymn. They will also give a plaque for him to display as well.
“I hope we can do him justice," said Stramaglio. “The Tuskegee Airmen are historically famous, and he has earned every honor we give him.”