Eilers honored with ride for vets

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Jo Nell Coates hugs Adam Eilers during the Silly String Ride's stop in Guttenberg. Coates has been organizing the ride for six years. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

The roar of many engines echoed through Guttenberg last Saturday as the sixth annual Silly String ride pulled into town. The group of motorcycles and accompanying vehicles parked side-by-side, nose to tail in the street on the closed 500 block of South River Park Drive. A DJ at the Dam Bar played patriotic tunes while tickets were sold for a patriotic raffle and community members joined the group to honor local veteran Adam Eilers.

Eilers, a 2006 Clayton Ridge High School graduate, received a Purple Heart after being injured in a roadside bomb blast during his 2011 tour in Afghanistan. All the proceeds from the ride went directly to Eilers. Ride organizer Jo Nell Coates of Cuba City was directed to Eilers by the Telegraph Herald, which was familiar with his story.

“All the monies we make that day go to him to help with whatever it is he needs help with – for the fact that he sacrificed and earned a purple heart. He’s a good kid and still suffers a lot from his injuries,” said Coates. 

The caravan arrived in Guttenberg around noon last Saturday, Sept. 10, with police and fire department escorts. Eilers and his family traveled the entire 150-mile ride by truck, escorted from Hazel Green, Wis., where the ride kicked off with the singing of the National Anthem and a Dubuque cadet sendoff, through Guttenberg, stopping for lunch in Prairie du Chien, Wis., enjoying another special ceremony in Glen Haven, Wis., and returning to Hazel Green for a hog roast and live music at Sandy Hook Tavern. 

“The Silly String Ride is a full day of patriotism, honoring Adam and honoring all American service men and women and all vets,” said Coates. She called for a moment of silence during Saturday’s gathering before riders, community members, and Eilers’ friends and family released 300 red, white and blue balloons over the Mississippi River in honor of the men and women who have served and lost their lives for our freedom.

Eilers was given an original artwork by his close friend Chad Schmelzer, who told crowds the metal piece bearing the words, “Lest we forget,” was given to him by the artist to pass along to Eilers.

In Guttenberg, the first stop on the ride, it was apparent just how many people were there to show Eilers their respect and share a few moments with him. Mothers shared stories of their own children, strangers came up to say hello, and old friends gave hugs. 

“The coolest part was probably all the local support; people that came on the ride and were waiting at the stops, pulled over along the roads waving the American flag," said Eilers. "Seeing all the people from Paradise Valley out on the highway with flags meant a lot - Paradise Valley people are my extended family." 

Eilers told The Press that in Prairie, the fire department and police had blocked the roads so that ride participants could have the best view of the water. "Glen Haven was awesome. I haven't been there for years. And there were a lot of people in that small town," he recalled. He appreciated traffic control in Guttenberg, Glen Haven, Prairie du Chien and Hazel Green. He enjoyed music by Black Water Gin in Hazel Green, and was given a signed guitar by Coates and the band. There were 50/50 raffles, a silent auction, and the Eilers family was also given two flags used on the ride. 

Eilers’ mother, Kathy, noted that he and his family are extremely humbled by the experience and the honor. 

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