FOLEY, Ala. (WKRG) — Specialist Justin Coleman died a hero in Afghanistan. 10 years later, his name is still on the minds and lips of hundreds of people on the Gulf Coast. This is thanks to the hard work of his mother, Penny Rauhuff, and hundreds of dedicated bikers.
Saturday in Foley, Rauhuff and those bikers gathered for the now annual “Ride for the Fallen, “we honor all heroes, veterans, police firefighters,” she says. And for the tenth year in a row they did just that. The bikers started at the American Legion post in Foley Saturday morning, riding in the blistering heat to locations all across Baldwin County. The column of riders, many veterans themselves, raised awareness for veterans issues and money to help Racing 4 Vets (click on the link if you’d like to help), an organization that helps veterans transition back into civilian life.
One veteran who told me he had a tough time getting back into civilian life is Mark Wakeley. Wakely is a 94-year-old WWII Navy veteran. He was on a gunship in Japan. His job was to shoot down Japanese planes. “A lot of them didn’t come back, because they were really trying sink us,” he told me. Wakeley says he came back nearly blinded and nearly deaf from the constant gunfire he and his shipmates unleashed on the enemy. He struggled to get used to civilian life, but eventually started his own home improvement business.
For the past two years, he’s been the grand marshal of the Ride for the Fallen. He escorts the ride from high above, not on a Harley, but in a helicopter. He and a pilot hover over the riders as they ride up Highway 59 in Foley.
Back on the ground, Penny Rauhuff could feel more blessed about how her son has been remembered, “the last thing he wrote on his Facebook page was that he didn’t want to be forgotten, and as you can see that’s never going to happen.”