Tour of Duty riders stop to say thanks

The international Tour of Duty ride, honoring military members and first responders from the U.S. and Australia, stopped at Jayco's headquarters Thursday afternoon.

Posted on Aug. 31, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

MIDDLEBURY — After 18 days on the road, the Tour of Duty ride stopped at Jayco headquarters Thursday afternoon to thank the RV company’s employees for helping support their ride.

The two dozen military, police and firefighting personnel from across the U.S. and Australia rode side-by-side with Jayco employees from Elkhart’s east side to Middlebury, where the group paused,

“It’s fantastic to come here,” said Paul Ritchie, the Australian coordinator for the ride, which is a fund-raising effort for the Wounded Warriors Project and the New York Police and Fire widows and children fund.

“Without your support, none of us from Australia, from America, would be able to be here,” Ritchie said, standing near one of the RVs Jayco donated to accompany the two dozen riders across the U.S.

They left the U.S.S. Midway museum in San Diego Aug. 12, and plan to arrive at the U.S.S. Intrepid museum in New York on Sept. 11.

Jon Sculley, one of the riders from Melbourne, Australia, said, “The support of the people we meet along the way encourages us to keep going.

“You stop every night and have a beer and talk. It’s not all sweat and blood,” he said, though it is a major undertaking.

“It’s an honor for us to do it,” Sculley said.

Ritchie said the whole team has a great attitude.

“Right from the word go, the spirit of the whole team has been fantastic,” he said. “I’m very proud of all the team members ... each and every one of them is a class act,” Ritchie said.

Middlebury police and firefighters and Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers all welcomed the riders. “The warriors are always going toward hazards,” Rogers told them.

“Thank you so much and welcome to Elkhart County,” Rogers said.

Derald Bontrager of Jayco said, “Thanks to all our first responders for what you do in our communities and our countries.”

When the Tour of Duty ran as a relay race a couple of years ago, Jayco’s Australian affiliate provided RVs for the effort, said Wilbur Bontrager of Jayco.

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