COLUMBIA (WACH) -- More than five thousand motorcycles flooded city streets Sunday, all in an effort to make sure veterans who are in the hospital have a merry Christmas.
Veterans and average citizens alike rode their bikes across the city to deliver gifts to sick veterans and their families.
"It's just very heart-warming to see so much support for those who give so much to our nation," said Major General Robert Livingston of the South Carolina National Guard as he prepared to embark on his first veterans ride.
They started at Carolina Honda Powerhouse, packing the car lot and surrounding streets, putting up their kick stands, and delivering those gifts across the city to the V.A. Medical Center.
"Everybody comes out and supports the vets," said Mary Ventresco, who has been a part of the veterans ride for years. "That's what it's all about."
The turnout was the largest in the event's twelve year history.
"It's unreal -- the patriotism that's going on today," said Gene Royer, one of the founders of the ride.
While the Honda lot is usually full, never in the history of the event has the overflow gone down surrounding streets.
"I guess a lot of people's got a lot of big hearts this year," said Larry Richardson, who volunteered directing traffic around the ride's starting point.
Livingston addressed the riders from the balcony of the V.A. Medical Center after finishing the ride. He said what separates U.S. military from the military of other countries is the support Americans have for their troops.
"We never forget our troops and we never forget our families, and you're here today proving that," said Livingston.
Royer said many of the veterans who rode in the event had a personal connection to those receiving the gifts at the hospital.
"Some of us been here," said Royer. "Some of us know what it's like to be here. And especially, there's some of them that's living out of here. They don't have no family, so we're going to make sure they got a good Christmas."