More than 6,000 motorcycle riders flooded Suffolk Downs Saturday afternoon for the culmination of the sixth annual Wounded Vet Run.
The five wounded veteran honorees for this year’s bike ride — Sergeant Kirstie Ennis, 25, of Sudbury, the first woman honored in the bike run’s history; Sergeant James Clark, 31, of New Hampshire; Sergeant Peter Damon, 43, of Middleborough; Specialist Sean Pesce of Connecticut; and Sergeant Eric Rodriguez, 33, of California — each released a white dove into the air before a crowd of biker jackets and Harley shirts, studded with dozens of American flags.
“They don’t want your pity,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Armas, a mentor to Wounded Vet Run founder Andrew Biggio. “They want your respect.”
Speakers included Mayor Martin J. Walsh and state House Speaker Robert DeLeo.
The 25-mile bike ride began in Revere and ended at Suffolk Downs racetrack in East Boston.
“It unites patriots, veterans, city officials. It brings everybody together, even nonbikers, for a good cause,” said Biggio, who was determined to bring the event together after he returned home from serving in Iraq without injuries and wanted to help those who had not been so lucky.
Money raised by the event will go to charities chosen by the honorees.
On June 23, 2012, Ennis, a Marine, was aboard a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter that went down during a combat resupply run to an operating base in Afghanistan. Ennis suffered severe injuries including traumatic brain injury, burns, hearing impairment, and eventually the amputation of a leg a few years later, according to the Wounded Vet Run.
Ennis was inspired to join the military because her parents were Marines.
“I was so proud of them growing up that I wanted people to have that same sense of pride in me,” she said.
She is no stranger to motorcycle culture.
“My whole family rides,” she said.
As Ennis walked to the stage, people behind the security barriers clamored for hugs and photos with her. She obliged.
Ennis, who said she has had 43 surgeries, is receiving treatment at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego.
Now that she is staying put a while, she said, she wants to get her own motorcycle and ride again.
Nicole Fleming can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.