Real heroes serve, and once they muster out, real heroes continue to serve in any way they can. Jared Tomlin is one of those heroes, and he has come up with an idea to continue to help even though his days in the Army are passed.
Tomlin is chairman of the Freedom Isn't Free Motorcycle Ride that will be May 11 at the James E Ward Ag. Center.
Attached to the 101st Airborne out of Fort Campbell and with three tours of Afganistan under his belt, he decided he hadn't done enough. So he came up with the idea for the motorcycle ride to help struggling military families.
"I grew up in Middle Tennessee all my life, and I attended school at Wilson Central High School. I served in the United States Army for seven years, and I was deployed to Operation Enduring Freedom on three separate deployments," Tomlin said. "I was wounded on my first deployment."
Like most soldiers who have seen combat, Tomlin downplays his injuries.
"It wasn't too bad," he said. "I had some shrapnel, a concussion and a blown ear drum – nothing too serious."
He said last Memorial Day he was riding his bike and was struck by the idea to hold a motorcycle ride to help military families.
"My heart is still in the military," Tomlin said. "I miss it; I miss the brotherhood of it."
After talking it over with his buddies, the ride seemed like a good way to give a bit more. But starting a charity is more complicated than it seems.
"We are officially recognized as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. We are operating on limited funding and a tight budget," he said. "We wanted to just donate the money to families, but there was no fair way to donate it. So we went to the Armed Forces Fund. We will donate all the money to the Wounded Warrior Project, to help them out in any way we can and help spread the word."
Tomlin wanted to make sure everybody who wants to help can do so.
"What's unique about this ride is we will not have a registration fee like most motorcycle rides," he said. "Instead we will take donations from the riders. We want people to give the most they can, no matter how much it is."
Participants will meet at the Ag Center at 8:30 a.m. for registration and hit the road at 10:30 a.m. The ride will travel to Center Hill Dam and back. While the ride is going on, a band will set up at the Ag Center to greet the returning riders and entertain everyone involved. Volunteers are also needed help with registration, T-shirt sales and parking.
Anyone who would like to join the ride can email email@example.com.
"We don't know what to expect, but right now it looks like we'll have between 100 and 200 riders," Tomlin said. "Our goal is to raise $10,000 for the Wounded Warriors Project."