Amid the whirling activity of thousands of people and the low rumbling of hundreds of motorcycles, one solitary figure is likely to stand out Friday by contrast.
Standing perfectly erect, meticulously attired in his Dress Blues and snapped into a time-tested salute, Frank Holtz will be at his post as America’s 9/11 Ride makes it way through Leesburg Aug. 17 on its way to Washington, D.C.
“I guess it is my small way I can give back to these guys who have been riding all day,” Holtz said. “It’s a way to say ‘Welcome to our town, welcome to Leesburg and thank you for what you are doing.”
After a one-year respite, America’s 9/11 Ride will again be making its way to the memorials sites of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The riders meet up in Somerset County, Pennsylvania, near the site of the Flight 93 crash. The riders are scheduled to make their way through Leesburg between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. on Aug. 17 en route to the Pentagon and then up to the 9/11 memorial in New York City. You can track a local Loudoun rider’s bike at this link on Friday as he progresses to Leesburg – http://tiny.cc/eds2018911
Pennsylvanian Ted Sjersuth started the ride in November 2001, and it grew to about 1,700 participants in 2016. Proceeds from each ride went to America’s 9/11 Foundation and was used to fund scholarships for the children of first-responders.
Sjersuth stepped aside as the event’s organizer after the 2016 ride, and it was canceled last year. The outcry of disappointment and the lack of money to continue providing scholarships provoked Sjersuth to return as the coordinator and restart the event.
“We can’t forget – we can’t let people forget – what occurred,” Sjersuth said.
When the Leesburg Town Council was considering a fee of close to $5,000 to cover overtime for first-responders and other town employees, Sjersuth filled a wagon with the thousands of scholarship applications the foundation was considering and wheeled it in front of the council.
“I didn’t see it, because it really wasn’t publicized that much,” Holtz said of Sjersuth’s actions before the council. “In the end, they did the right thing and waived the fee.”
Holtz said he served four years of active duty in the Marine Corps and was also in the Marine Corps Reserves. He is retired after 28 years as a special agent with the U.S. Capitol Police.
As part of his retirement, he is the Loudoun County coordinator for Toys for Tots.
“It is kind of surprising, since we live here in the wealthiest county in the United States, but we still find needy kids who need toys,” he said. “For about a month and a half every year, that is seven days a week of 12-hour days for me, my wife and about 300 volunteers. I guess that’s what I call ‘retirement.’”
Holtz said he lives very close to the route America’s 9/11 Ride uses as it comes through Leesburg, and he gets a lot in return as the riders show him respect by returning his salute.
“It’s actually very amazing, because some of them even stop and get off their motorcycles by me,” he said. “Some of them give me coins. It’s a great feeling.”
One year, Sjersuth stopped the entire procession and walked over to Holtz to return his salute. YOU CAN VIEW VIDEO OF THAT HERE:
“I didn’t expect him to stop the whole motorcade right in the middle of where I live,” Holtz said. “I guess I gave him an appropriate salute and he gave me one back. He gave me a 9/11 coin, and then he got back in his truck and went on his way.”
Holtz said he is glad America’s 9/11 Ride is back this year and he plans to be in position, snapping off his salute as long as the riders come through Leesburg.
“I’m 58 now, so I’m no spring chicken,” he said. “I will be out there saluting in my Dress Blues, and I don’t care if it’s 100 degrees or if its raining. I may do it even when I’m in my wheelchair. If they will wheel me out there, I will give them a salute.”