Photo by DAVID ALBERS, Naples Daily News // Buy this photo
For the past six years, local first responders have taken to their bicycles, pedaling thousands of miles to honor their fallen brothers.
This year marks the first time the Brotherhood Ride will honor men who once helped with the annual event.
Thirty people are expected to make the 750-mile journey from Brooksville, Fla. — north of Tampa — to Decaturville, Tenn. over nine days beginning May 3.
“It’s very moving for all the riders to know it’s only been six years and we’re already honoring people who have helped us in the past,” said Jeff Morse, the North Naples fire lieutenant who founded the event.
Police officer Chris Yung of the Prince William County Police Department in Virginia died in a motorcycle accident last year. He helped usher the Brotherhood Ride with a motorcycle escort during their ride to New York City in 2011.
Broward County deputy Christopher Schaub was part of another motorcycle escort in Pompano Beach. He, too, died in a motorcycle accident last year.
Yung and Schaub are among the eight men and women this year’s ride is dedicated to.
Morse said the intent of the ride is to show families of those who have died that their sacrifices will be remembered.
“We’re keeping that promise that we haven’t forgotten,” Morse said. “The community moves on, the department moves on but families are still left with a feeling that they lost something.”
On May 5, the riders are expected to stop in Tallahassee for a candlelight vigil honoring fallen police officers during National Police Week.
They expect to reach their destination May 11, traveling with vehicle escorts and spending nights in Elks Lodges. A fundraiser to cover the cost of the trip and donations to families of the victims will be held Saturday at the Elks Lodge in Bonita Springs.
Jonathan Emison, 39, is a 911 dispatcher in Decaturville, Tenn. where he also works as a rescue diver for the city and county’s volunteer fire departments. He met Dectaurville Fire Chief Kenny Fox just a few weeks before he died in a building fire when he pushed two firefighters out of the way of a falling roof. Emison agreed to join the Brotherhood Ride for the final 82-mile leg of the journey from Florence, Ala. to Decaturville to honor Fox.
“Being able to ride for him and his children and then for the community and to get our community involved and for the other fallen brotherhood members ... it’s definitely an honor,” Emison said.
Scott LaBree, 37, a lieutenant paramedic in Estero who has participated in the last three Brotherhood Rides, said participating in the fourth is something he feels compelled to do.
“It’s mentally and physically tough but once you do it, you’d never not want to do it,” he said, adding that the ride is a reminder of how dangerous the job is for police officers, firefighters and paramedics alike.
“It could be any one of us on any given day.”