Motorcycle ride supports home for veteran

DOVER — The weather cooperated, and a home dwelling veteran will benefit from the mostly-dry 90 minutes that ensued.

The first Hammer Down Motorcycle Ride and After Party for Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity raised funds toward building a home for a veteran some time later this year, and a group of nearly 70 motorcycles rolled through a 56-mile tour of Kent County in the process on Saturday morning.

With a revving roar in the Walter L. Fox American Legion Post 2 parking lot signaling their departure, bikers and riders first headed north toward downtown Dover, and then continued toward the Smyrna-Clayton area before looping back south.

The riders departed at exactly 10:30 a.m., as was scheduled. The unpredictable weather brought a few sprinkles and cloudy skies, but didn’t hamper the trek at all.

Upon return, a tribute to the anniversary of D-Day — June 6, 1944 — was set to honor two veterans ages 92 and 93. Included was Wyoming resident Donald Bilow, who had never been called for recognition before Saturday.

Granddaughter Amanda Bilow said her heroic World War II veteran didn’t expect to be part of a tribute.

“He was a little bewildered and caught off guard since he was 93 and approached for the first time,” Ms. Bilow said.

“He was excited.”

Mr. Bilow said beforehand that he supported the Hammer Down event because coming home after military service “is not altogether easy.”

Ms. Bilow described her grandfather as an “icon” and said “he was always a rock to me and a lot of it had to do with his service to country.

“He stayed so sensitive and sweet when a lot of veterans have not come home like that because of the terrible things they had to go through.”

Army and Air Force veteran Jesse McMillan, 72, of Greensboro, Md., was another who needed no convincing to support the ride on his motorcycle.

“This is about giving back to the community and the world that has shown us support,” Mr. McMillan said. “Everyone now has more love and respect for veterans and fallen heroes now than in the Vietnam era, and I’m going to help veterans causes as well in any way possible.”

Before heading to a doctor’s appointment in Wilmington, Army and Air Force veteran Ben Hollinger, 77, of Dover, donated funds to the Hammer Down. The Korean and Vietnam war survivor said “So many young guys need help when returning and I’m keeping up with activities here (at Fox Post) that help them out.”

The ride path to South Kirkwood Street in Dover was significant, since that’s where Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity plans to build five of eight residences set to provide affordable housing within city limits over the next seven months or so.

Local police departments pitched in — a Camden motorcycle unit led the group away from Fox Post, joined by Dover and Wyoming PD units. Joining along the way to clear traffic were the Smyrna and Clayton police.

A to Z Cycles followed up in the rear, providing gas, water, repair supplies, a first aid kit and anything else motorcycles might need along the trip. Hammer Down chairwoman Melissa Cornwell, an A to Z co-owner with husband John, said the time was right to help out Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity and ultimately the veterans community.

“I’ve always wanted to get involved with Habitat but didn’t have free time,” she said. “Everything just fell in place to make this something we could support — the veterans, our closeness to Fox Post and the Air Force Base, everything.”

The Fox Post Legion Riders had approximately 16 to 18 bikes in the field, member Frank Satterfield said.

“Habitat is a very good cause and that’s why a lot of veterans are out here,” Mr. Satterfield said. “Anytime we can do something, we do it.”

Lending assistance was Lewin “Smoke” Clay, a Kent County chapter member of the Vietnam Veterans of America that hosted a mobile information unit to assist veterans in an array of life challenging situations. A couple names and relevant information were entered into the Veterans Affairs system though the mobile unit’s presence on Saturday, he said.

Hammer Down’s push to build a home for a veteran played nicely with the Kent County Vietnam veterans aims, Mr. Clay said.

“A lot of veterans come home and are homeless, and they don’t come looking for help,” he said. “We have to find them and reach out, and that’s why the mobile information unit is here.”

The motorcycle run was a precursor to Habitat’s planned “Building Blitz” next week that’s aimed at building two homes in five days for a pair of families in the first block of South Kirkwood Street in Dover. Working days of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. will be required.

For more information on Central Delaware Habitat for Humanity, call 526-2366 or go online to centraldelawarehabitat.org.

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