Four corners, four charities, one ride. That's the motto for the father of a fallen Fort Drum soldier as he takes his motorcycle across the country hoping to raise awareness for some military organizations that helped him and his family after his son died. Monday, Don Blanchard trip made a stop on Fort Drum and he tells our Brian Dwyer what this 12,000 mile trek truly means to him.
FORT DRUM, N.Y. -- Don Blanchard says his son, Captain Aaron Blanchard, an apache pilot with the 10th Combat Aviation Brigade on Fort Drum, was living his dream.
"He wanted to fly since he was a small kid," Blanchard said. He'd always been intrigued by the military. Of course, his grandpa and uncles were all in the military."
Aaron's dream turned into Don's nightmare when on April 23rd, Aaron's chopper was shot down. He and another soldier were killed.
"When this happened, I contemplated a lot," Blanchard said. "I wanted to turn a bad situation into a good."
For years, Don and Aaron had talked about Don living out his dream of riding his motorcycle to the four corners of the country. Now Don had good reason, he could do that and help the charities that helped him and his family the days and weeks after Aaron's death. The USO, the Fisher House in Dover that takes in families in Delaware to be there as their loved one's body is brought back home, the Patriot Guard Riders and wounded warriors.
"These organizations, if this happens to another family, I want to make sure these things are maintained and that they're there for these other families," Blanchard said.
And to Don's amazement and relief, one of his best friends decided to ride along.
"After Aaron was killed in Afghanistan, it just really touched me deep," Bruce Stanley said. "No matter what I'd have been doing, I am retired, but I do stay very busy, there was no way that he was going alone."
The 12,000 mile ride started in Seattle. From Fort Drum, it's on to Maine then down to Miami and across to San Diego. A time for Don and Bruce to see some sights, have some fun and also think about Aaron.
"It's peaceful. Like I say, all the stress goes away," Blanchard says about being on the bike. "I'm just at ease."
Now these guys plan to end up back in Washington State sometime around September 28th. If they meet that date, it would be exactly five months and five days since Aaron died.
"He would be, he would say, 'Way to go Dad!'" Blanchard said about how his son would react to him finally taking this trip.
Don says restaurants, hotels and even everyday people have offered to feed and house him and Bruce on this trip.
For more information on Don's ride or the organizations he's hoping to spread the word about, Don has created a Facebook page called "A Father's Tribute Ride."