It was a little more than a year ago when I sat at Carmie's Grill & Bar with some of the members of Seneca County For Veterans to talk about the American Veterans Traveling Tribute and the Traveling Wall coming to Tiffin this week. I could tell the group assembled were excited to see a then-4-year-old dream was getting closer to becoming a reality.
One of the hopes was that the motorcycle escort that accompanied the wall to town would dwarf that of the event that preceded it in 2005 in Wyandot, a record-breaking parade of 9,283 motorcycle riders.
While the overall goal of the event was to raise funds for a Vietnam memorial in Tiffin and to set funds aside to help veterans in Tiffin who cannot get aid in other ways, the record also was on the minds of the organizers.
Sadly, that record was not achieved Wednesday when about 3,500 riders accompanied the truck carrying the memorial. But something else was achieved - a sense of community, one that maybe had been laying dormant for a while. In fact, I would go as far as to say this was the community coming together more than they had since a certain building was removed in downtown Tiffin. Maybe longer.
All throughout town, you could see people preparing for this event. Organizations, military and otherwise, have been making plans completely separate from the events at Camden Falls and Carmie's to welcome the riders and visitors. All along the route to the site, people were setting up flags, standing outside, and waving and cheering as riders made their entrance to town.
Yes, it was a phenomenal way to recognize those who have served our country, given their lives, or have been lost but never forgotten during the Vietnam War and other wars, but what we also feel proud of is that our community (and not just Tiffin, but Seneca and Wyandot counties, Findlay, Fostoria and surrounding areas) came together to honor them.
The group closest to the event, the men and women of Seneca County For Vets - especially organizers Fritz Smith, Bob Hill and Adam Smith - did an incredible job planning Wednesday's ride and the weekend activities. The staff at Carmie's also did an impressive job coming together, not knowing whether it was going to be as big as a typical Bike Night at the restaurant or as big as five of the events combined (as one of the servers joked when I asked how he was feeling).
And all of their hard work appeared to pay off, because I did not see a single person Wednesday who didn't seem to be having a good time. Not just the riders, but the people who just came to welcome them. Some were veterans, old and young, who were there to honor those who served, and others were citizens, happy to make the trip, to take part in the event.
So, while the record may not have been broken this week, I think something just as important happened - the community came together to recognize those who deserved honor years ago and never received it and to do something we can all be proud of.
I urge you to visit Camden Falls this weekend to see the wall, to visit the museum set up in the banquet hall, and take in an experience we should all be honored to have in our backyard.
Nick Dutro is Sunday editor for The Advertiser-Tribune..He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.