Warrior Run remembers, honors and helps veterans

By: 
Alexis Barker

Photo by Alexis Barker/NLJ

Riders check in for the Warrior Run last month at the VFW in Newcastle on Aug. 21. They then traveled throughout the Black Hills. The event was a fundraiser for a Rapid City veteran, and to remember and honor several veterans who lost their lives. 

 

Alexis Barker

NLJ News Editor

 

On Aug. 21, patriots from across the area came together for a bingo run to honor and remember U.S. Army Spc. Dennis G. Jensen, recognize Gold Star Wife Taunya Offdenkamp and raise funds for a Rapid City veteran. 

Christine Bestgen, a Gold Star Mother who lost her son, Spc. Jensen, in 2011 in Afghanistan, helped to organize the Ninth Annual Warrior Bingo Run. 

“What you witnessed in there was real patriotism,” Bestgen said after the event during an interview with the News Letter Journal. “My son did not die in vain over there.” 

This year’s run was to remember and honor Jensen, who lost his life on Aug. 16, 2011. A group of motorcycle enthusiasts from four different states (Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota) participated in the daylong event that raises funds for a veteran in need. 

“We are really just trying to do what is right,” Bestgen said of the group. 

What is right, according to Bestgen, is helping and supporting those who fought for and served this country, as well as their families. 

This year’s proceeds, roughly $3,800, were raised through the ride and a silent auction., The money will benefit Ron Root, the ride captain for the Legion Riders from Legion Post 22 out of Rapid City. 

“Ron was in a motorcycle accident earlier this month on his way home from helping other veterans,” Bestgen said on Aug. 21. “His left arm is broken, his hip is broken, and doctors had to remove his left leg just below the hip and he could use our help.” 

Before the beginning of the run, Bestgen helped to present a gold star flag to Taunya Offdenkamp, whose husband, a veteran, died in the early 2000s. 

“Part of my mission – I was tasked with spreading awareness of the flag,” Bestgen said. “I have accomplished it in South Dakota, and I think Wyoming and I are working on the others (Montana and North Dakota).”

According to uso.com, no one wants to be part of a gold star family. 

“The title, which is reserved for families of military members who have died in the line of duty, is meant to honor the service member’s ultimate sacrifice while acknowledging their family’s loss, grief and continued healing,” the website says. 

The phrase dates back to World War I, a time when military families displayed service flags featuring a blue star for every immediate family member serving in the armed forces, according to the website. The color of the star would be changed to gold if the loved one was lost in war. 

“Individual military family members who lost a loved one also started to be referred to as ‘Gold Star Wives,’ ‘Gold Star Mothers,’ etc.,” the website continues. 

In 1928, Grace Darling, a Gold Star Mother, took the informal term and founded
the American Gold Star Mothers group. 

The membership-based organization is devoted to keeping the memory of deceased service members alive by working to help the military community. 

As the country became more involved in conflicts, additional organizations to honor gold star families were created, including the Gold Star Wives of America in 1945. 

The vision of these wives, including Offdenkamp, who was presented with a gold star flag in front of a VFW hall
full of people, is to “work diligently and unselfishly in the interest of all of us who have been called upon in a very personal way to share in the last full measure of devotion to our country and mankind.”

While the gold star families receive the recognition, Bestgen said, the events are about remembering those who have been lost, coming together to support a fellow veteran and continuing to promote the patriotic beliefs of all those who participate. 

“We are united. That’s what we are supposed to be; it is in the name,” Bestgen said. “We just want to do what is right for those who need it.”

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