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Army vet helps form commemorative ride

Weatherford Democrat - 5/11/2017

May 10--Riding motorcycles on the road for hours at a time with other service members and first responders is how Bob Folmar, a U.S. Army veteran, prefers to spend his time.

Having joined the military shortly after the Vietnam War, Folmar likes to organize bike rides where veterans can decompress astride two wheels and an engine, like the Annual Vietnam War Commemorative Ride he organized last weekend at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4746.

Riding in rural America holds a special appeal, Folmar said.

"The ride is good, we love going down country roads," he said. "We love to see wildflowers. You might not think it, but we love to see wildflowers, green trees and green grass, we love going into the turn.

"My satisfaction of the ride is seeing happiness, and seeing people smile and seeing people enjoy themselves. You get them out, get a little bit of wind in your hair."

Through bike rides, veterans, particularly Vietnam Veterans, have found a niche where they can be honored, Folmar said.

"The country more or less turned their backs on them," he said. "They were spit at, had diapers thrown at them, just ridiculed and called names ... it finally took about 40 years for the U.S. to wake up, for people to wake up and say 'let's start honoring these guys now.'"

Those negative memories still wound many veterans just as much as any physical injury, Folmar said.

"Some will withdraw, a lot won't talk about it and need to, and there's those who do talk about it," he said. "Some have gone to drugs, some have gone to drinking. Some have gone to drinking to erase a memory. You only erase a memory for one night then it's back again."

Americans should remember all wars, including controversial ones, Folmar said.

"This was a part of history believe or not, just like all the other wars we've had," he said.

One doesn't have to go far to find reminders, Folmar said.

"You go to Arlington Memorial Cemetery you'll see it there, you go out to the DFW Memorial Cemetery , you'll see it there, you go to any military cemetery you'll see it there," he said.

Around 2006, Folmar was nearly brought to tears when someone thanked him for his service for the first time, he said.

"The first time I was in Walmart, I was in Kentucky, I was with my girlfriend at the time and I was wearing my BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) jacket, which is in the back of my bike right now, and someone came to me and said 'thank you for your service,'" he said. "That brought me to tears, because I'd never had someone come up to me and say that before."

Folmar has a passion for organizing bike rides and recapturing the same sense of gratitude he felt that day.

"It's an honor for me to do this ride for them," he said.


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