By: Stephen F. Seymour
If you are driving around on the Cape on Saturday July 19, somewhere between Bourne and Yarmouth, you may see a long procession of motorcycles riding down streets lined with spectators waving flags or holding signs. If you do, I ask that you take a moment and thank all those brave men and women who have served and continue to serve our country today, for the line of motorcycles and their passengers are doing just that.
On July 19, hundreds of people will take part in the 5th Annual “Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen.” This annual memorial motorcycle ride from Bourne to Yarmouth is held in memory of United Sates Marine Corps Corporal Nick Xiarhos and to honor all of our fallen heroes with ties to Cape Cod as well as all Veterans past, present, and future. Nick is one of 14 “Fallen American Warriors” from Cape Cod who made the ultimate sacrifice in America’s longest war.
What does Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen mean?
Like many who may be reading this article, I did not know much about “Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen.” However, that changed when I was fortunate enough to speak to Yarmouth deputy chief of police Steven Xiarhos, Nick’s father, and founder of the memorial motorcycle ride, who was gracious enough to share Nick’s story.
Similar to many other Americans, Steve explained that Nick was affected by the terrible attacks on September 11, 2001. Even at the young age of 13, Nick knew that he wanted to serve his country and just days after graduating from Dennis-Yarmouth High School, he joined the United States Marine Corps.
In the spring and summer of 2009, Nick, along with 12,000 other soldiers from several divisions of the armed forces were deployed to Afghanistan. Shortly after arriving in Afghanistan, Nick was able to speak to his parents. “Don’t worry about me mom,” he told his mother, Lisa, “I’m living the dream.” It was the last time Lisa or Steve spoke to Nick.
On July 23, 2009, Cpl Nicholas G. Xiarhos was mortally wounded by a roadside bomb while attempting to rescue a group of fellow marines during combat operations in Afghanistan’s Helmand province while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
Why the Motorcycle Community?
I asked Deputy Chief Xiarhos why he chose a motorcycle ride as the best way to honor his son and those who sacrifice their lives for their country. He explained that it first started during Nick’s funeral procession. It was the roaring of the motorcycles in the Patriot Guard Riders escort that provided a feeling of security, he said. The sound reminded Steve, in a time of tragedy and loss, that he and his family were not alone. It was that feeling that caused Steve to start riding in the fall of 2009.
Once he started, what Steve found in the motorcycle community was a strong, patriotic group of people, he said. It became a support system of friends and families, many of whom had experienced similar loss that provided a sense of camaraderie and belonging. It was this tight-knit community that made him realize there was no better way to honor the fallen and celebrate their lives.
One year later, Deputy Chief Xiarhos started what is now an annual motorcycle ride from Bourne to Yarmouth in memory of his son, to honor all those who have served in the past, present, and future, and to help those who have made it home but may still be struggling.
The 35 mile ride begins on the morning of the 19th near the Massachusetts National Cemetery in Bourne, where Nick and his fellow fallen heroes rest. The starting point signifies not only the beginning of the Cape, but also the beginning of what would have been a trip home for many of the fallen heroes. The kick stands go up and procession travels down historic route 6A, passing Nick’s childhood house where Marines stand at attention and salute the riders as they move towards the Nicholas G. Xiahros Veterans Memorial Overpass in South Yarmouth. Finally, the motorcycles reach Dennis-Yarmouth High School, where Nick played football and worked towards his dream of serving his country.
If I don’t ride motorcycles, how can I get involved?
Being a person who has never ridden a motorcycle, I asked Deputy Chief Xiarhos how those who do not ride can participate in the event. “Just be along the ride,” he said. Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen provides an opportunity unlike any other event. He explained that, due to its length, people can “line the streets all the way from Bourne to Yarmouth” showing their support by waving flags or holding banners of thanks as the procession travels across the Cape. Supporters can also meet at the high school after the ride for a family friendly celebration that includes a barbeque and live music. Overall, it is a great way for people on the Cape to come out and honor those who have died for our country and to raise awareness for those that have made it home, and those who continue to fight for the freedoms we often times take for granted.
In its fifth year, “Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen” is an event that allows everyone to take part in remembering Nick and the fallen heroes of the Cape. Please come out on Saturday July 19, not just to commemorate their deaths, but to celebrate their lives and to honor all the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country today.
Below is a list of all those with ties to the Cape that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country in America’s longest war:
- United States Army Staff Sergeant Alicia A. Birchett of Mashpee
- United States Army Private First Class Paul E. Conlon of Mashpee
- United States Navy Captain Gerald F. DeConto of Sandwich
- United States Army Sergeant Alexander H. Fuller of Barnstable
- United States Army Sergeant Matthew R. Gallagher of Falmouth
- United States Navy SEAL Kevin A. Houston of Barnstable
- United States Marine Captain Eric A. Jones of Mashpee
- United States Marine Private First Class Daniel A.C. McGuire of Mashpee
- United States Army Sergeant Matthew A. Pucino of Bourne
- United States Army Private First Class Clinton E. Springer II of Bourne
- United States Army Sergeant Zachary D. Tellier of Falmouth
- United States Army Sergeant Mark R. Vecchione of Eastham
- United States Marine Commander Francis T. Williams
- United States Marine Corporal Nicholas G. Xiarhos of Yarmouth
For more information and details on when Big Nick’s Ride for the Fallen will take place, please click the below button: