PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Hundreds of motorcycles will rumble out of Station Square Saturday morning.
The sixth annual Fallen Marine Memorial Run will honor Marine Sergeant Justin Schmalsteig, killed by a bomb in Afghanistan.
Justin’s parents, Pittsburgh police detectives Deborah and John Gilkey, help organizer Jerry Vanasdale with last minute preparations.
“Talking about the event and what this event stands for, it’s helped me get through a lot,” John Gilkey says. “We’re always going to have those bad days. We still have our bad days.”
But Saturday promises to be a good day. There’s a ceremony near the Station Square Amphitheater at 10:45 a.m. About 45 minutes later, 750 bikers will hit the road – including a team of 45 Marines.
Ex-Marine Jerry Vanasdale says he got the idea for the charity ride when he saw a newspaper photo of 2-year-old Tyler Miles.
“Tyler was in a set of dress blues pointing to a flag draped casket and saying ‘Daddy,'” Vanasdale recalls. “So now he associates the American flag as, that’s his dad.”
The first ride honored Tyler’s dad. Sergeant Sean Miles was killed in Iraq. Vanasdale’s motorcycle bears the image of the late Marine.
“I have every intention of giving it to Tyler Miles when he turns 18,” he says. “I wanted Sean’s picture on the back. Sean’s dog tag is on the back. Tyler’s dog tag is on the back. So that when Tyler actually does ride it, his dad can actually ride along with him.”
Registration for the Fallen Marine Memorial Run begins at 8 a.m. Saturday at the Station Square Amphitheater.