The Patriot Guards are military veterans, but 12-year-old Kiera Stephenson of Davenport joined them for her first Quad-City Times Bix 7 race appearance.

Granddaughter of Christine and Doug Stephenson, Kiera rode with her grandfather, an Air Force veteran, near the front of the pack of about 60 cyclists. The group roared off in formation before the actual start of Saturday's race.

Sporting American flags on their motorcycles, the Patriot Guards were joined by veterans from the American Legion, the Combat Vets group and the Vietnam Vets club, organizer Eric Swanson said.

"I send out a mass email, and everyone comes," said Swanson, a 63-year-old U.S. Marine veteran and Davenport Police Department retiree. The idea is to support the patriotism of the Bix 7 and "do something nice."

A 2006 Harley-Davidson Springer Softail was the ride for Michael Pompeo, a U.S. Navy veteran from Coal Valley. Pompeo, 61, is the group's videographer, and he carried a GoPro camera in a travel pack. The plan, he said, was to video the U.S. and military flags on the bikes ahead of him in the parade.

"This is one of the fun events for the Patriot Guards," he said. 

It was 5 a.m. Saturday when Del Moore, of New Windsor, Illinois, left home to meet his niece, Brenda Sedam, in Davenport. Sedam was making her first appearance with the Patriot Guards at the race. "It's exciting," she said. 

As for Moore, he is 80 years old and a veteran of the U.S. Navy, with service in Korea and Vietnam. "I really enjoy the Patriot Guards," he said. "This is my passion."

The motorcyclists started their engines when singer Jack Carey performed "God Bless the USA." They peeled away from the race pack when they reached Jersey Ridge Road.

Sixth-grader Kiera Stephenson was impressed with the Patriot Guards at the Bix 7. "It was awesome," she said.