Veteran Roy "Critter" Hutson and fellow Desert Knights Motorcycle Club member Keith “Straight Edge” Emmons of Millsboro recently completed a week-long cross-country trip to raise money and awareness for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that helps financially support veterans of post-Sept. 11 conflicts.
Roy “Critter” Hutson rode 5,600 miles in seven days, through storms and 102-degree weather.
But after making it back to Delaware on Sunday, he said he was ready to do it all again.
“If I had the funds and didn’t have to work … I would do [the trip] again next week,” the Delaware National Guard mechanic from Felton said.
Hutson and fellow Desert Knights Motorcycle Club member Keith “Straight Edge” Emmons of Millsboro made the cross-country trip to raise money and awareness for Operation Homefront, a nonprofit that helps financially support veterans of post-Sept. 11 conflicts.
The trip, dubbed “Epic Coast to Coast to Coast,” began on Emmons’ birthday on July 20, and finished after the duo finished the last 1,300-mile leg of their journey to reach American Legion Post 7 in Harrington in time for a victory party.
Instead of falling off their bikes with exhaustion, the two weathered riders greeted their family, friends and fellow soldiers with enthusiasm as they shared stories about how one of the bikes broke down two days into the trip, about a gas station in Texas filled with hats and stories from fellow traveling veterans, and how Hutson found a stuffed frog in the Midwest that tagged along for the long ride.
“I just think it’s amazing what they’ve done,” said Hutson’s former platoon sergeant, Joe “Chief” Morgan. “I think this world would be a whole lot better if it had more people like [them].”
Morgan, who has known Hutson for more than a decade and Emmons for almost two years, said he is amazed anyone could complete that trip in seven days. Anyone, that is, except Hutson and Emmons.
“At first, I thought it was pretty crazy, but knowing Roy, once he puts his mind to something, he’s going to do it,” the Dover resident said. “It shows the values of what this club is about and the military itself.”
Emmons, who is a self-employed mechanic and one of the few civilian members of the motorcycle club, joined the “Epic Coast to Coast to Coast” mission about a month before they were supposed to hit the road, and only after Hutson’s original riding partner broke his hand.
Emmons said it was just the right thing to do.
“It wasn’t a big decision I had to make. To me, at least, it was pretty easy,” he said. “We’re in a veterans club together and the club is a brotherhood. I was just trying to put the support behind the veterans that they need.”
By seeking donations before they set out on their journey, and gathering support along the way, Hutson and Emmons helped raise funds, which were donated through Operation Homefront’s website. Due to technical issues with the organization’s server, the exact amount raised is currently unknown.
What funds were collected will help veterans pay rent, costs associated with medical treatment, utility bills and fund morale programs like the upcoming Back to School event at Dover Air Force base next weekend.
While one part of the mission was to gather money to help other veterans in need, the two motorcyclist also were setting out to raise awareness for the nonprofit, which does not spend money on advertising, explained Matt McCue, Operation Homefront’s program manager.
“It just shows how much they believe in our organization,” he said. “It’s hard to do anything like [their trip], even in a car.”
But the journey itself illustrated the strongest message, Hutson said: if you receive help, you should be ready and willing to give back in return.
After serving three tours in Iraq, Iraq/Kuwait and Afghanistan, the Bronze Star-recipient was recovering from a knee injury sustained in his last tour of duty when Hurricane Sandy slammed his Felton home. Operation Homefront stepped in to help repair the home in 2012 and 2013, and Hutson said he had been looking for a way to repay the favor ever since.
“If you don’t try to do anything to repay it, it won’t be there for the next person that needs it,” he said. “It’s a favor that should be returned. That thought has been lost.”
Morgan, McCue, fellow veterans, club members and their family members all agreed that Hutson is a man of traditional values, which were demonstrated by his organization of the cross-country fundraiser.
“I’m so proud of him. This is something he’s wanted to do for a while,” said Tammy Hutson, who has been married to Roy for 20 years. “If he helped just one veteran, it was worth his time.”