Gold Star 500 riders making stops in P-town, Rock Falls, Polo

Annual bicycle trek raises scholarship money, awareness of military members killed since 9/11

Jeremy Tackett, a major in the Illinois Army National Guard, finishes five-day, 500-mile the Gold Star 500 on Sept. 28, 2019, in Wheaton. This year, the ride will be held from Sept. 20 to 24, and will make a stop in Rock Falls.

ROCK FALLS – The annual Gold Star 500, a five-day, 500-mile bicycle ride established in the wake of 9/11 to raise money for scholarships, once again will be making a stops in Whiteside and Ogle counties.

The nonprofit Gold Star Mission was created in 2017 to bring awareness to the more than 300 Illinois military members killed since 9/11. Many of its volunteers are active or retired members of the Illinois National Guard.

The ride, which runs from Sept. 20 to 24, will start in Springfield and also include stops in Quincy, Galesburg, and Woodstock before finishing at the Great Lakes Naval Station.

That Thursday, riders are scheduled to stop at the Prophetstown Park District at 3:23 p.m., and at the Rock Falls National Guard Armory at 4:47 p.m. On Friday, they will stop at the Polo Fire Protection District at 8:10 a.m., and at the Forreston Fire Department at 9:20 a.m. before heading to Freeport. The times are approximate, and can vary about 15 minutes in either direction, organizers said.

Last year, the organization awarded $50,000 in scholarships; it has awarded $214,000 in scholarships since it started.

This year, the ride will include 12 riders and 12 volunteers from Poland, including members of the Polish military and members of Polish families who have lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Some of its volunteers deployed with the Polish, and the Polish participants learned about Gold Star Mission through those connections. They are considering starting a similar organization in Poland.T

This year, it also launched the Gold Star Mission Fallen Heroes History Project, which documents the lives and service of Illinois’ fallen service members through the eyes of their families and those with whom they served.

To date, two videos have been created, documenting the lives and service of Illinois Army National Guard Sgt. 1st Class Kyle Wehrly, killed in action in Iraq on Nov. 3, 2005, and Army Sgt. Anthony Maddox, killed in action in Afghanistan on July 22, 2013.

More videos will be made as funds become available.

At least six Sauk Valley-area residents lots their lives in Iraq or Afghanistan after 9/11:

• Army Pfc. Scott M. Tyrrell, 21, of Sterling, died Nov. 20, 2003, from wounds received when an ammunition point caught fire in Tikrit, Iraq.

• Sgt. Jessica Housby, of Rock Island, a member of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 1644th Transportation Co., based in Rock Falls, was killed by a roadside bomb in Iraq in on Feb. 9, 2005.

• Marine Lance Cpl. Andrew G. Patten, 19, of Byron was killed Dec. 1, 2005, by an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Fallujah, Iraq.

• Army National Guard Spc. Norman L. Cain III, of Mt. Morris was 22 when he died on March 15, 2009, when his vehicle encountered an improvised explosive device in Kot, Afghanistan.

• Marine Staff Sgt. Justus S. Bartelt, of Polo died July 16, 2010, while supporting combat operations in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He had turned 27 just 12 days earlier.

• Marine Lance Cpl. Alec E. Catherwood, 19, of Byron was on his first combat deployment when he was killed Oct. 14, 2010, in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Go to, find it on Facebook or email to donate, apply for a scholarship or for more information about Gold Star Mission.

Kathleen Schultz

Kathleen A. Schultz

Kathleen Schultz is a Sterling native with 40 years of reporting and editing experience in Arizona, California, Montana and Illinois.