This Saturday marks the annual in honor of Marine Lance Cpl. Jordan C. Haerter, but with a musical twist. After pedaling on bikes for 30 or 60 miles, or running/walking a 5K, Solider Ride participants and spectators alike will enjoy a picnic, and hear four local bands perform onstage near the finish line at Ocean View Farm. Soldier Ride The Hamptons is a program of the Wounded Warrior Project, which benefits veterans who have service-related injuries.
The musical celebration was organized by Walter Noller, of East Hampton, a volunteer and committee member for Soldier Ride and a retired Sergeant Major of the Army Reserve. “Last year, I came up with the idea with having music to help promote people standing around so there was an audience. When people finish up a 60 mile ride, they don’t want to come home to nothing,” he said.
Noller admits it was ad hoc the first time around with pop-up tents on dirt. But he had good fortune, and it worked out well with Joe Delia as one of the local acts. “He sang an emotionally charged song, people were coming in at 95 degrees, and it was crazy. Here Joe starts this raucous energetic song, and people put on the steam. It promoted a positive response from the riders,” he said.
This year features four local bands onstage: Telly and Hopefully Forgiven, Joe Delia and Thieves, Michael Weiskopf and the Complete Unknowns, and Inda Eaton. Noller, also an accordion player, said he’ll probably join in on a few songs with some of the bands. He wants the event to be, “A celebration of our wounded vets, our riders and walkers, and everybody who participates, through music.”
The musicians are all volunteers, and according to Noller, “A lot are giving up their time and effort so that they can show their appreciation to the veterans their way.”
Noller encourages local residents who are not wounded warriors or athletes to take part in the event. “Sign up, go for a walk. You don’t have to walk four miles, it’s more important that our community show support, and very positive respect for what these kids have done,” he said
During last year’s Soldier Ride, Noller recalled that his son, a marine, was on his third deployment to Afghanistan. “It was a bit of an emotional thing for me. I myself have 32 years of putting on a uniform,” he said, “I do what I can for these guys. Every time a bicyclist comes in all sweaty, I’m going to stand here and applaud."
Music contributes another dimension to the event that helps bring people together. “When one of these kids, who is missing a limb, comes up and says, ‘Thank you for playing my favorite song,’ it’s times like that that musicians wear dark glasses,” he said.