The NoogaStrong Memorial Ride, say the organizers on its Facebook page, is an annual motorcycle ride that was created to remember and honor Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Lance Cpl. Skip Wells and Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith.

Smith lived in Fort Oglethorpe.

The five military men were killed July 16, 2015, when a terrorist opened fire at a U.S. Navy Reserve center on Amnicola Highway in Chattanooga after he had driven by a military recruiting center on Lee Highway and fired shots into it. The shooter was killed by police after he had loosed over 100 rounds of ammunition on unsuspecting people.

The members of the military who were killed, say the many reports on the incident, all died in the process of trying to help others escape harm. Four of the men, Marines, died at the Reserve Center where they were shot. Smith, the sailor who was killed and who lived in Fort Oglethorpe, died in a hospital two days after he was shot.

For four years there was an annual memorial motorcycle ride honoring the fallen men. This fifth year, says Fort Oglethorpe City Council member Paula Stinnett, COVID-19 turned the final memorial ride from a public event to a private one. State laws restricted the number of people who could be involved to 50, a far cry from the 500 riders and others from previous commemorations.

This year’s NoogaStrong Memorial Ride for the Fallen Five took place July 18. It started in Chattanooga on Lee Highway with members of Rolling Thunder TN 2 and Rolling Thunder 4/Johnson City making their way along a route that included the National Cemetery and ended in Fort Oglethorpe at Honor Park: A Tribute to Those Who Serve, where there were speeches and a Missing Man Table ceremony conducted by Rolling Thunder TN 2.

“It was an honor to be chosen,” says Stinnett, who is also the founder and Council Ambassador for Honor Park, “as the last stop on the last memorial ride for these heroes.”

When the motorcade reached the Georgia line, says the NoogaStrong Facebook page, the Georgia State Patrol escorted the motorcycle riders. Fort Oglethorpe Police and the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Office assisted. “Catoosa County Fire/Rescue set up the Ladder Trucks and provided First Aid standby (for the heat).”

Catoosa County Fire and Rescue also situated two ladder trucks opposite each other on Lafayette Road, raised their ladders toward one another and hung a large American flag between the two trucks. The motorcade passed under the flag on its way to Honor Park.

While this year marked the last memorial ride for the fallen men, Stinnett says their heroism and sacrifice will never be forgotten.

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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