'A REAL HERO': Patriots Pack honors Clifton Brooks Sr.
KEYSER - Not many people can say a group of veterans from all over the United States rode their bikes some 3,000 miles to honor them.
Clifton Brooks Sr., however, can not only say that, but he can also say family and friends joined those riders for a celebration unlike any other in recent memory in Keyser.
Brooks, 99 and a lifelong resident of Keyser, is a veteran of the famed Tuskegee Airmen and was active with them as a cryptographer during World War II. He is believed to be one of the few remaining Tuskegee Airmen alive today.
Sunday, members of the Patriots Pack, a group of veterans who annually participate in rides across the United States to honor their fellow veterans, rode into Keyser after having started their journey a week earlier in Arizona. Their biker vests, adorned with various patches and medals, gave witness to the locations from which they had come - Arizona, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Tennessee, among others.
Along the way, they picked up riders from Cumberland, Oakland, and several American Legions - all for one common goal: to honor Clifton Brooks Sr.
“This ride means everything to me in the world,” Mike Stramaglio, one of the organizers, told the News Tribune. “How often do you get to meet a true icon?” he asked.
“I rode 3,000 miles to get here and I wouldn’t have missed it.”
The riders - and Brooks himself - were escorted through Keyser by the Keyser Police Department and Keyser Volunteer Fire Department. Along the way they were met with cheers and waving flags from those who came out to honor Brooks and the Patriots Guard.
The riders circled around and ended their tour at the Moose Lodge for a short program and meal together.
“This has become an annual event for us, where we travel across America for Americans,” Stramaglio said. “It’s for patriotism. It’s not about politics; it’s just patriotism.”
Stramaglio said the ride gives them a chance to meet “real Americans, and there is no finer example than Clifton Brooks Sr.”
Another member of the Patriots Pack also called Brooks a true hero.
“He fought the fight in Italy, in battles we can’t even imagine,” he said. “Obviously, he has the spirit of a warrior.
“We salute you,” he told Brooks. “We’re proud of you and we thank you from the bottom of our heart.”
At that point, all the Patriots Pack and Patriots Guard members stood at attention and saluted Brooks.
Family members, many of them with tears in their eyes, clapped for their beloved patriarch.
Keyser mayor Damon Tillman also spoke briefly to the crowd, noting that it is his intention to initiate a move to declare a day in Brooks’ honor in Keyser.
“Mr. Brooks, you’re a hero,” he said. “We love love.”
American Legion members Kent and Doug Twyman presented Brooks with a plaque honoring him for his 75-year membership in the veteran’s organization.
Twyman noted that Brooks is “the only one that’s ever gotten one of these” as the only member of the Legion to have been a member that long.