CHARLESTOWN, Ind. (WAVE) – A group of cyclists on Thursday was out braving the heat, pedaling their way around the state of Indiana as part of the annual remembrance event, Cops Cycling For Survivors.
The nearly 1,000-mile trip is an emotional ride for the officers on the road as they honor fallen officers along the way, especially around WAVE Country, remembering one of southern Indiana’s own during the trip.
“We want their families, their coworkers, their communities to know that they’re remembered and we’re there to support them,” said Craig Jackson, a patrolman with the Jeffersonville Police Department. Jackson is taking part in the Cops Cycling for Survivors tour through Indiana, remembering the fallen law enforcement.
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He and the other officers were up early Thursday morning, getting a solemn start to the day as they read the names and stories of Indiana’s fallen. Each day throughout the trip, they will take the time to honor the fallen, both past and present, while biking hundreds of miles around the Hoosier state. A support truck with photos of officers taken too soon led the way.
“The pain that we feel on the bikes is nothing compared to the pain the surviving families feel for their fallen officers,” Jackson said. “So you keep that in mind and you keep pedaling.”
Thursday’s ride won’t be a long one, but it will be a challenging one for many of the officers as they made their way through Charlestown to honor the sacrifice of Sgt. Ben Bertram, who was killed in December.
“I actually met them last year, of course not knowing we were going to have one of our own on the support vehicle,” said Keith McDonald, from the Charlestown Police Department.
As the cyclists rode into town, Charlestown police and Sgt. Bertram’s family were waiting. Ben’s face greeted them as the support vehicle pulled up and officers dismounted from their bikes in a powerful tribute.
“It’s emotional,” McDonald said. “It was difficult just relieving those feelings again.”
Bertram was killed in December following a high-speed chase through Clark and Scott counties, pursuing a suspect in a stolen car. The K9 officer was beloved by those whose lives he touched.
“I’m from Charlestown, so it hit close to home for me,” Jackson said. “He’s another Charlestown High graduate, a police officer in our neighboring agency, so it was very real for me.”
“You know, it’s been difficult,” McDonald said.
These past months without Bertram have been hard for the tight-knit department and his family. But seeing the support from officers pedaling mile after mile, honoring the ultimate sacrifice Bertram and others have made, helped to ease that grief just a little.
“To grind out those miles out here in the heat, that takes a lot of heart and determination,” McDonald said. “And for them to do that for these families, for all the loved ones, friends and co-workers, it’s something special.”
Cops Cycling for Survivors will wrap their ride Thursday in Madison, Ind. Friday, the group will bike all the way up to Bloomington, more than 80 miles. And with the heat index continuing to climb, it’s sure to be a tough day for the already-tired cyclists.
Jackson said the group takes care to make sure they stay safe on the roads.
“So the route is broken up a little bit with breaks every 25-30 miles or so, typically,” McDonald said. “We’ve got a great support team that comes in the support truck with us, keep ice, water, Gatorades, whatever we need. Indiana State Police is with us all the way, local agencies will jump and help escort us, make sure we’re safe and taken very good care of.”
The ride wraps up Saturday as the group is scheduled to pedal back to Indianapolis.