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Bikers and drivers pay tribute to West Michigan veterans in annual Freedom Cruise in Sparta

An annual event that brings attention to the veteran community was met with a strong turnout, honoring a family that experienced a great loss in years past.

SPARTA, Mich. — Hundreds of motorcycles and cars made their way through the small West Michigan village to honor and remember the area’s many veterans.

The event, organized by Finish the Mission, selects a Freedom Cruise Honor Recipient every year.

The mother of fallen Army Pfc. Nicholas H. Blodgett, Rita Blodgett, was the 2022 recipient.

On July 21, 2004, Nicholas was killed when his patrol vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Abdalluyah, Iraq,

A portrait of Rita’s son was presented to her and the rest of her family during a ceremony at Sparta High School.

“I'm humbled -- I'm honored,” Rita said. “I mean, it's sad. It is sad. But you know, I'm here with other people that are Gold Star families and a lot of veterans and very a lot of people that are very patriotic… It is just beautiful.”

The honoring comes less than a week before what would have been the soldier’s 40th birthday. Connecting with others at events like the Freedom Cruise, is able to help the family.

“It's awesome,” she said. “It gives me it gives me faith in America again. You know -- because everything that's going on in the world sometimes you feel alone and isolate … but when you see all this, it just -- it's beautiful.”

Bill Jackson, a board member with Finish the Mission said almost 500 vehicles took part in the cruise.

“Families were lined up to wave us on and they were waving the flag, really letting these families know, and especially the Blodgett family today, that their sons sacrifice won't be forgotten,” Jackson said. "It's important to all of us on the board that we never put our veterans behind this, whether they're Vietnam veterans Gulf War veterans, or our most recent fallen soldiers here post 911 and the Gulf War on Terror."

Those interested in supporting Finish the Mission’s cause can make donations via their website.

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