BEAN STATION (WATE) - As Americans across the country celebrate Memorial Day weekend, remembering the men and women who have died serving this country, hundreds of East Tennesseans honored these fallen heroes with a memorial motorcycle ride.
More than 1,200 people rode in Sunday's 13th Annual Smoky Mountain Thunder Memorial Ride.
"If someone died in service to our country, those are the people we're here to honor today," said Ron Giddis, founder of the Smoky Mountain Thunder Memorial Ride.
It's a 60-mile trek from Sevierville to the Veteran's Overlook on Clinch Mountain in Bean Station.
"Almost everyone up here today is a veteran, who served with those who didn't make it back," said Giddis. "There was a promise made that they would never be forgotten, and on this Memorial Day weekend, this is what motorcyclists do to ensure that doesn't happen."
They say no American should ever forget the ultimate price that's been paid for freedom.
"This is what they fought and died for," said Giddis.
They also honored those killed with a song, military salute, and traditional folding of the American flag.
The memorial ride hits especially close to home for the riders who have lost loved ones in the military.
"It's a day for all of us to recognize the sacrifice. But to families of those who have been killed in battle, Memorial Day is really every day," said Gary Swanson, whose son SSG Christopher Swanson was killed in Iraq in 2006.
The ride is one way to ensure that Christopher's life, along with the countless lives of other Americans who gave all, are never forgotten.
"A lot of people sacrifice their lives so I could do this," said Giddis.
Sunday's ride was one of the largest Smoky Mountain Thunder Memorial rides ever, and organizers hope it continues to grow every year.