New trees for Memorial Grove to get special escort Saturday to Memorial Park in Fort Wayne

Mark Stafford of the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department cleans the Allen County Veterans monument in Memorial Park in preparation for the planting of new trees in the park's Memorial Grove and a dedication ceremony on Veterans Day on Nov. 11. (By Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel)
Wooden stakes mark locations where some of the 71 trees will be planted after their arrival Saturday at Memorial Park, Glasgow and Maumee avenues. The Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club has raised about $40,000 to buy the trees and plant them in Memorial Park to restore the park's Memorial Grove commemorating Allen County's World War I military dead. (By Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel)
Gary Perkey (By Kevin Kilbane of The News-Sentinel)

Gary Perkey describes the locally based Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club as a “relatively small organization trying to do big things.”

They will fulfill one of their biggest missions yet on Saturday, when they and military and emergency vehicles escort 71 trees from Shade Trees Unlimited in Columbia City to their new home in the Memorial Grove at Memorial Park at Glasgow and Maumee avenues in Fort Wayne.

“This is not a celebration,” said Perkey, the Warrior Breed president and one of the group’s three co-founders. “It is a funeral. We are transporting trees that represent the war dead.”

The tulip, white oak, hackberry and elm trees will be planted in the same locations in the grove as trees planted 100 years ago to honor the 125 Allen County residents who died while serving in the U.S. military during World War I.

They need to plant only 71 new trees because a few of the original trees still are standing, and some of those that died or sustained severe storm damage over the years were replaced previously, Perkey said.

The trees and the restored Memorial Grove will be dedicated in a special public ceremony at 2 p.m. Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.

The Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club, whose members are honorably discharged U.S. military veterans, was formed about five years ago, Perkey said.

Along with enjoying motorcycle riding and the brotherhood they shared during military service, members also wanted a mission, said Perkey, who served from 1977 to 1981 in the U.S. Marine Corps. They decided to focus on taking care of U.S. veterans.

Group members have built homes and ramps for veterans, found them jobs and provided them with food, among other projects, he said.

“These guys are dealing with a lot of issues,” he added. “PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and suicide are scourges. We are here for them.”

After hearing about Indiana Tech’s proposal this spring to build athletic facilities in the park, including in the area containing the Memorial Grove, club members attended a public meeting on the proposal, Perkey said.

They heard a lot of veterans and others speak in favor of keeping the park as a memorial to U.S. veterans, which was its original intent, he said. So club members decided to do something about it.

The effort, which they have dubbed Operation MP-125, now has raised about $40,000 to pay for the 71 trees and to maintain the Memorial Grove in the future, Perkey said. Any donations in excess of what they need for those goals will be used to help restore monuments in the park.

Perkey also has served on the task force created by the Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Department to study Memorial Park and to recommend improvements. At park board meetings, task force leader Garry Morr, parks department deputy director of finance and support services, has praised Perkey and the Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club for taking the initiative to raise the money to buy the trees and restore the Memorial Grove.

Raising donations for Operation MP-125 has been “the easiest sale in my life,” said Perkey, who is vice president of mechanical operations at Shambaugh & Son, a local contracting and engineering firm. But he and Warrior Breed club members hope to raise more funds, especially from individuals, to make sure the Memorial Park monuments are restored and maintained.

“The effort doesn’t end on Nov. 11,” he said.

MEMORIAL PROCESSION

WHAT: A funeral-style procession will escort three truckloads of trees through western Allen County and downtown Fort Wayne to Memorial Park at Glasgow and Maumee avenues They will be planted in the park’s Memorial Grove to honor Allen County residents who died during U.S. military service in World War I.

WHEN AND WHERE: 10 a.m.-noon Saturday.

* The Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club will escort the trees at about 10 a.m. Saturday from Shade Trees Unlimited in Columbia City to The Hearth at Sycamore Village, 611 W. County Line Road S.

* They will be joined there by representatives from local emergency-service agencies and locally based military units, and will leave there about 11:30 a.m. for Memorial Park.

* The procession will take Indiana 14/Illinois Road east to Jefferson Boulevard, and then Jefferson east through downtown Fort Wayne to Memorial Park. The vehicles should pass through downtown about 11:45 p.m. and arrive at the park about noon.

NOTE:

* Downtown residents and Memorial Park neighbors have been invited to come to greet the procession as it passes by.

* To donate to Operation MP-125, send a check payable to Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club to P.O. Box 217, Leo, IN 46765.

DEDICATION CEREMONY

WHAT: A special community ceremony will be held to dedicate the restored Memorial Grove in Memorial Park.

WHEN: 2 p.m. Nov. 11, which is Veterans Day.

WHERE: Memorial Park, Glasgow and Maumee avenues

VETERANS EVENT

WHAT: The Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club will sponsor Military Appreciation Night at the Fort Wayne Mad Ants game. All past and current U.S. military personnel and their families are invited and will receive free admission.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Nov. 10

WHERE: Memorial Coliseum, 4000 Parnell Ave.

COST: Free for past and current U.S. military personnel and their families. Currently, it appears only $5.50 and $11.50 seats remain for the general public.

THOSE WHO SERVED

A member of the Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club has researched and compiled biographical information on all 125 Allen County residents who died during World War I U.S. military service and were remembered by a tree planted in the Memorial Grove in Memorial Park.

Five new biographies are being added to the postings daily on the club’s Facebook page for the Operation MP-125 project, https://www.facebook.com/operationmp125.

To learn more about the Warrior Breed Motorcycle Club, go on Facebook to https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=warrior%20breed%20motorcycle%20club%20inc.

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