By Robert Stoneback
The Daily Item
MIFFLINBURG — The Zach Long memorial vehicle runs ended with a vision.
Begun 10 years ago as a way to memorialize Zachariah Long, an Army specialist from Milton killed in Iraq in 2003 at the age of 20, planning and holding the yearly charity event was beginning to take a toll on the young man’s parents, Karen and Rick.
Then Rick’s sister, Carol Kline, went to them recently and said she had the strangest dream, where Zach came to her and said to tell his parents they had done enough.
This year’s ride, titled “The Final Roll Call, ” will be the last one, his parents said.
“We want a big celebration,” his mother said. “We want to celebrate Zach’s freedom.”
This year’s ride will be hosted by the Mifflinburg American Legion Riders. The route is being planned by President Jesse Thomas.
“Karen asked us to try and make this run as big as possible,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Thomas actually organized the first memorial ride 10 years ago, back when he was a member of Milton’s Susquehanna Motorcycle Club.
This will be the first, and last, of the Long memorial rides that the Legion Riders host.
“It’s an honor that they asked the Mifflinburg Legion Riders,” Thomas said.
When Rick and Karen Long were planning the 10th ride at the Mifflinburg American Legion, they both agreed they wanted to do it. At that moment, Thomas showed up and approached them.
“He said, ‘I’d really like to do Zach’s 10th year,’” Rick Long recalled.
The run will be on Saturday with registration from 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Mifflinburg Legion. The cost is $15 per rider and $25 per couple. Any vehicle is welcome.
Thomas is planning the final route, but expects it to be 75 to 100 miles.
The event traditionally has raised $1,500 to $2,000 for different charities. Organizations that aid children were a common beneficiary. “Zach loved kids,” his dad said. “And children loved him,” continued his mom. “They would cling to him.”
If Zach were alive today, he’d be pleased with the motorcycle rides, his parents said. The Army was Zach’s first job, they said, and he joined right out of high school. His first big purchase after saving up his money was a motorized dirt bike, and he often would film himself riding it around the house, Karen said.
Zach died after the Army vehicle he was in swerved and flipped over in order to avoid hitting a civilian.
In honor of him, Route 642, from Milton to Danville, was named the Spc. Zachariah Long Memorial Highway.
“When he died, it was my goal that people never forget him,” his mom said. “I think I accomplished that.”