Police officers and firefighters from the Carolinas are riding more than 600 miles through both states this week to honor their fallen brethren.
The Brotherhood Ride starts Monday morning in Moncks Corner and ends in Pineville, NC six days later. This is the ride’s seventh year.
Firefighter Bill Suthard from the Huntersville, NC Fire Department said the ride is to “honor their memories and support the families that they leave behind.”
The 600-mile route takes riders to the departments and stations where a police officer or firefighter has been lost in the line of duty. Money raised from the ride goes toward scholarships and financial support for the families of those fallen.
“When they lose (that loved one), they immediately lose a source of income,” Suthard said. “So a lot of families, especially in South Carolina, are kind of caught flat-footed. They’re dealing with the loss of a loved one, sometimes a sole source of income and they’re struggling a little bit to make ends meet.”
Suthard said the organization works to help those families.
“What we do is we give them a year of healing before we show up,” he said. “There’s a lot going on in the first 18 months after losing a loved one. And so we roll through shortly after that . . . try to provide them that emotional support and that financial support. Try to pick them up by their bootstraps and tell them that they’re part of a large family now and we’re here for them whenever they need us.”
Suthard said investigations into a fire that caused an on-duty death can take a long time because information gathered is used for education, prevention, equipment upgrades and safety practices. Families often do not get insurance payments until those investigations are complete.
“Certain states take quite a bit of time to do an insurance payout,” he said.
Suthard said 70 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers.
“We’ve got a lot of men and women in the Carolinas,” he said. “They miss holidays. They miss birthdays. They miss time with their families because someone else in their community needs help. They will drop, at a moments notice, their personal and professional life to go help a fellow community member and some of them die in the line of duty doing that and they die loving it.”
Suthard said the grueling ride is purposely done in the heat of the Carolina summer.
“We’re realizing some pain and the sacrifice that they made,” he said. “There’s a reason why we pedal over 600 miles in July. Because it’s hot. And it stinks. And it’s hard. And dying in the line of duty is not easy. So we want to sacrifice ourself as well . . . it will be painful but it is rewarding.”
Suthard said the pain is worth it to honor fellow firefighters and police officers and get to know the people who loved them who they left behind.
“We’ll learn the stories of the fallen and hang out and meet the families of the fallen and let them know that they have a lot of big brothers and sisters and uncles and aunts that are there for them whenever they need something,” he said. “I’m part of that family now. I’m just a phone call away.”
The caravan of bicyclists, support vehicles, police escorts and firetrucks depart Moncks Corner Monday morning. They head to Conway where they will spend the night. The next day is a 70-mile ride to Pembroke, NC. That is followed by an 88-mile ride to Siler City, NC. The next day is a 126-mile ride to Sherrills Ford, NC. The group then rides 114 miles to Greenville, SC before making a 106-mile ride to Pineville, NC.
One week out before our 2018 Ride to honor the 2016 #LODD‘s. Plans are wrapping up, we’re ready to ride & honor the fallen while supporting the families left behind. We’d love to see you along the route; so here are some details about the ride.#CBH18 #Brotherhood #NeverForget pic.twitter.com/kQD8VYnI1z
— Carolina Brotherhood (@CarolinaBhood) July 2, 2018
“Working in the fire service and working in public safety, it’s truly an honor to serve our community and every one of the men and women that ride feel the same,” he said. “And we’re really looking forward to this week and if you see us on the road, give us a honk and a wave and let us know that you support us and you support the fallen’s families.”