'Honor the Fallen' annual bike ride raises funds for local schools

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LADYSMITH, Wis. (WEAU) -- It was a day of remembrance as a local community honored fallen soldiers who gave their lives for our country.

This month marks seven years since Ladysmith native Nathan Vacho was killed in the line of duty in Iraq.

On Saturday, his friends and family, along with the community gathered, saying ‘thanks’ to the men and women who are gone, but never forgotten.

“I said if something ever happened to you, I'd see that you're not forgotten, I had no idea what that's going to be. I had no idea that I would have to fulfill that,” said Nathan’s father, John Vacho.

“My brother John asked me, or said to me one time, Tim, something good is going to come out of Nathan's passing. And I said, 'Brother, look around. What you see here, they're all here to honor Nathan'," said Tim Vacho, Nathan’s uncle.

More than 150 bikers showed up for the annual ‘Honor the Fallen’ scholarship fundraiser bike ride, to help high school kids who share Nathan’s passion.

“My brother was a nurse, an LPN. This event is to help out kids, who want to go into any kind of medical field,” said Ashley Vacho, Nathan’s younger sister.

But besides the satisfaction of raising nearly $15,000 each year, John Vacho, a serviceman himself, said the event is not about death, but about celebration of life of all those who served.

“Nathan was a hoot. He was the light of everyone's life. I mean, he walked into the room and everybody knew him, and if you didn't know him, you were going to,” chuckled Ashley Vacho.

“As a parent, it just fulfills; it’s very satisfying just to know that people remember, you know. We all know why they come. They don't have to say much, you know, what they're thinking. You can look in their eyes and see their hearts,” said John.

The family said the event is about all men and women who died serving their country; reminding everyone that freedom isn't free.

“Every year it gets bigger and every year more and more people have shown their respect to the fallen,” said biker and serviceman Bill Mcbeil.

And even though Nathan is not here to ride, his spirit lives on.

“Spiritually, I think spiritually he's with us today,” said Vacho Senior.

Much like the free spirit his family said he's always been.

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