May 17, 2016
Hello Run For The Wall riders. This is Dan “Boilermaker” Koster your humble 2016 SitRep writer. I have been give the honor once again of writing about our incredible journey across the United States of America. This is the 28th year that veterans and non-veterans alike start in Ontario, California and ride motorcycles to Washington D.C. We will arrive the Friday before Memorial Day where we will conduct several ceremonies at “The Wall”, a laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and a group picture on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial which marks the end of our Mission.
Our Mission Statement is:
-To promote healing of ALL veterans and their families and friends
-To call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA)
-To honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars
-To support our military personnel all over the world
Our philosophy is: To strive to maintain a safe, supportive, and private atmosphere in which all participants can reflect and heal on their journey to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington D.C. in hope that they can return home to a new beginning.
Our Goals include:
-Guiding the participants across America
-Educate future generations as to the importance of accountability in wartime actions emphasizing that no one should be left behind.
Every year you hear of another soldier from Viet Nam (or even World War II) whose remains have now been identified through the advances in forensic technologies. Imagine the closure that a family would have when their loved one finally comes home. We truly believe that the “noise” we make toward Washington has helped in this endeavor.
So many things happen during The Run that are hard to imagine and harder yet to explain . Just last night at dinner, two Viet Nam veterans were sitting down to dinner when one looked at the other and said “no way”. Sure enough, the two had fought in Viet Nam 48 years ago and had never seen each other sense only to be going on the Run For The Wall, now together!
Also at dinner last night the Eagle Warriors Assoc. presented a Trike to a soldier who had lost both legs in Afghanistan. The trike was built specifically for the double amputee so that could ride it. He was speechless and quite emotional. These are the kind of things that Run For The Wall is connected to.
Tomorrow is the big day! We will stage at 6:30 a.m. and ksu (kick stands up) at 8:05. It is the day we have all been looking forward to with great anticipation and planning.
DAY 1 May 18, 2016
Ontario, CA (Population 167,300) to Williams, AZ (Population 3001) 402 miles
The morning started like every year. EXCITEMENT to the max! The staging parking lot was already buzzing at 5:30 a.m. After a full year of planning everyone was anxious to get on the bikes and ride!
Greg “Pied Piper” Smith got the morning meeting start with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. He then introduced the Board of Directors and this year’s Route Coordinators. He went over the hand signals that are so i2mportant to our safety and then it was time!!!
Our Route Coordinator, David “Papa Smurf” Klemme gave the “roll” sign at 8:05 on the nose and away we went. We left Ontario with 251 bikes and 310 people. The morning was a bit cool but it felt great considering the usual Southern California temps. It got even cooler as we climbed Cajon Pass but it still felt good because we knew in just a few hours the temps in Needles would make us wish for the cool again.
Today’s FNG (Fine New Guy or Gal) story is kind of funny. Chuck, an FNG who is on the Hydration Team told me of how their morning started. While leaving the parking lot at the staging area two Road Guards coerced him into following them. Chuck said “in the FNG meeting it was very clearly stated that the Road Guards are the boss! Whatever they say, you do”. So Chuck obediently followed orders. Now Chuck is from Southern California and knows the highway system there. He knew that they were not taking him in the right direction. When a chance became available he slowed down and asked one of the Road Guards where they were taking him. They told him to the Southern Route of the Run For The Wall. All well and good except Chuck was in the Central Route. After he explained to them he went on his way and caught up with just in time. Communication is fickle huh?
From Ontario to Ludlow, CA Bob “Recall” Senter rode in the Missing Man Formation. This is a formation where there are two bikes in front, two bikes in back and just one bike in the middle on the left. The right hand side is blank. Bob rode in honor of his Father, Baker 2C Mervin Jack Senter a World War II Navy man. He served on the USS Half Moon AVP-26 an experimental ship. He receiv varius naval campaign ribbons, service stars and WWII Victory Ribbons. Bob also ran a leg of our trip for his Grandfather, PFC Estle James Senter. PFC Estle served in the US Army in May 1917 in WWI. He served in France where each American unit was attached to a corresponding French unit. He was awarded 6 Service Stripes, 5 Ribbons for holding five active front line trenches, 4 various medals for holding front line trenches, the French Crox De Guerre with Oak Leaf Cluster for acts of heroism, the French Legion of Honor Cord, The Purple Heart and the Silver Star. Quite a soldier indeed! Bob said he was best man ever to sit and have a beer with. In fact Bob said his Grandpa started him on beer when he was about 5 years old.
After two fuels stops we arrived at Needles, CA where we were greeted by the residents waving flags and taking pictures. It seemed the whole town was there. Joe Jones, who owns the local Circle K gas station once again provided our entire lunch. Subway sandwiches, Dairy Queen ice cream sandwiches the beautiful park trees for shade and we were a happy bunch. Like last year the Needles Elementary school children had colored flags for us and each had written something on the bottom of the flag. Two that caught my eye were “We can play and be safe thank you” and “I like to be an American because we are free”. From the mouth of babes!!!! They were very cute. Sara Jackson sang a wonderful rendition of our National Anthem followed by the oldest Native American band in the United States called The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe Band who played several patriotic songs that had us tapping our toes! Although the 97 degrees was way too warm for us it was far from a record. I have been told that 105 is not out of the ordinary for mid to late May. Ironically we checked the weather in Williams, AZ, our overnight stop where we would arrive in approximately 4 hours and learned that it was 50 degrees and a chance of rain. Wow, what a change in just a few miles.
On the way to Williams Ron Maki rode in the Missing Man Formation. This is a formation to honor a fallen soldier. He was riding for his cousin SSG Armand E. Ristenen, KIA 4-25-1970. SSG Ristinen left behind a widow and a 17 month old daughter who are following us to Washington on our RFTW.org website. We offer our condolences and hope our tribute offers some solace.
Each leg of our trip has a Missing Man Formation and one can ride there to honor one of their own who has paid the ultimate sacrifice. Freedom is not free!
Our last fuel stop of the day was in just East of Kingman, AZ and the forecast for the 100 miles to Williams said a chance of rain and substantially cooler. Based on that most of us donned our rain suits if not for the rain for the warmth. Sure enough we hit a little bit of rain but plenty of cool as the temps dropped below 50. Big change from 97 and sweat running down your neck!
We were greeted by towns people of Williams as we rode through town with a police escort twice then parked on the street in front of the American Legion Post #13. This Post has hosted us for many years with enthusiasm and some delicious home cooked food. Pork and Turkey and potatoes, green beans and corn and too many dessert items to list. They do such a wonderful job for and all with smiles on their faces. We are truly blessed to have the support of towns and people like this because without their support we could not do the Mission that we do. Many, many thanks to the people of Williams.
That’s it Day 1 in the books. Another great day of riding with friends who are now family.
Your humble SitRep Writer signing off………………..BOOOM
Day 2 May 19 2016
Williams, AZ (population 3001 to Gallup, NM (Population 22,261) 224 Miles
Waking up in Williams to a little frost on the bikes was not a great thing but nothing we couldn’t handle and certainly nothing compared to the 4″ of snow the riders woke up to one year. Although the day started a chilly 36 degrees before we saddled up the temp was up to nearly 50.
We started the morning with the usual 50/50 raffle sales. 1 ticket for a $1.00, 6 tickets for $5.00 and for $20.00 a “wingspan”. And as always we allowed the buyer to find the largest wingspan in the crowd. For prizes we had several Harley tees and Harley items donated by OZ’s Harley dealer in Indiana, some cds of the Viet Nam war, a very nice 14″ Missouri Bowie knife with RFTW engraving, several $25 gift cards, 1 $50 gift card, 1 $100 gift card and the 50/50 money itself. The 50/50 money means that the winner get 1/2 of the total money collected for the morning. Wild Bill has a knife from each year we have offered one and wouldn’t you know it he was the winner of today’s knife drawing. Good job Bill, well deserved.
There was rousing speech by Mayor John Moore telling us how much the town appreciates us coming through every year. In return Papa Smurf presented him a plaque from the RFTW showing our appreciation for what the town does every year. Once again, the Run For The Wall simply could NOT do what we do without the support of thousands of people along the way.
After all of the mandatory meeting (constant reminders that safety is #1) kickstands were up at 8:00a.m. sharp and away we went. Clear blue skies, 55 degrees, no wind, no rain it was perfect weather the entire day.
We got to our fuel stop at Winslow, AZ (enter the Eagles here), where the extremely efficient fueling crew fueled 251 bikes in 17 minutes. Not a record but very fast. This was a fuel stop where we have to pay for our fuel. We actually have approximately 60% of our fuel paid for across the country by donations, VFW clubs, cities and even individuals.
We pulled into Holbrook, AZ right on time. This is a really fun stop because we come into the town and make a full sweep of the town passing by several grade schools where the children (from 5 to 15) are all out on the sidewalk waving flags and saluting us. It is a very emotional site to be honest. To see the children with their faces all lit up is really a treat. One of the other sites in Holbrook is a 9/11 memorial with 2 of the beams that actually came from the world trade towers. Quite sight indeed.
We were served a delicious meal by the American Legion Post #37. During lunch about a dozen children first recited the Pledge of Allegiance which was very precious as some of the kids seemed to be barley 4 years old and then sang This Land is Your Land complete with hand gestures and bright shiny faces! A roaring show approval from the RFTW riders could be heard I’m sure several blocks away. We really enjoyed their little show.
Our next stop (and our overnight stay) was in Gallup, NM. This stop is a favorite for many of the riders because of the Navajo Nation’s presentation for us. The program was put on by the Black Creek Gourd Society. The Navajos believe the warrior is the top of the ladder in their world. In English warriors translates to soldiers and the Navajos show and incredible respect for the Veterans on the Run For The Wall. At one part of the program they ask the riders to join them. It is quite a site to see 200 bikers in leathers doing their dance. Comical maybe but oh so very sincere. They show us a level of respect that few people understand. I dare say if you were not there we could not explain it. They are very serious about the concept of our soldiers and their warriors are one.
We literally have people from all over the world who come to America to participate in the Run For The Wall. This year we have a “mate” from New Zealand. Mr. Edwin Musto is an FNG. Edwin was born in South Africa but lives in New Zealand. Edwin served in the South Afican Defense Force for two years followed by 10 years of camps. Edwin has been riding motorcycles for 40 years and on Goldwings for the last 33. We have a friendly little battle going about him being a Honda guy and me being a Harley guy. When we kid each other I am really kidding, I’m not too sure about Edwin! He told me he studied the RFTW for 6 years before he could finally realize his dream. He learned about how we Run For The Wall riders typically ride for someone. Edwin is riding for Richard Frank Musto who is from his family and his cousin, Edward Mayo who was shot and killed by friendly fire in Angola in 1977. He also wishes to honor all fallen heroes KIA, MIA and POW. Edwin is a fine mate and fits in perfectly with us. He is now one of our brothers.
That’s all for day two. It was a perfect day with weather, ceremonies, and all the wonderful people who touched our hearts.
Your humble SitRep writer signing off…………………BOOM
DAY 3 FRIDAY MAY 20, 2016
Gallup, NM (Population22,261) to Eagle Nest, NM (Population 276) 286 Miles
We started the morning at the sound trailer where the action for the 50/50 raffle tickets was brisk. Many riders had bought tickets and many won something. The lady that won the $223.00 in 50/50 money said that she would give it back in the form of the Platoon Challenge so now the other Platoons have their work cut out for them. I cannot thank Janelle Olson (Moma O) and Delores McDole (Girlfriend) enough for helping with the sale of the tickets. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Also a few dollars were made because if you did not where red it cost you $5.00. Remember Every Deployment.
The weather for the first 2 days of the Run have been as close to perfect as it can get! BUT…………………………Day 3 WAS perfect. The temp when we pulled out of Gallup was 55 degrees and the first few miles I thought, gee maybe I should have put on one more layer. But as you know when you are on the run what you have on is what you get. Less than 50 miles down the road toward Albuquerque it had warmed up to a perfect 70! Once again we were led by the New Mexico State Patrol. They do an incredible job. I should have mentioned in yesterday’s post how they met us at the border. I think we must have been a few minutes early because they usually are sitting on their motors cycles at a turnaround between East and West bound interstate. This time they were rolling West when we came blazing by going East. Rather than continue West until a turnaround they simply kicked it down a gear and took the median. Three of them looked like dirt bikes and then onto the pavement and 80 mph (at least) to get in front of the pack. Once in front they did what they do every year. Keep us safe! I have been told that I-25 and I-40 are only shut down for two occasions…….when the president comes to town and when the Run For The Wall comes to town. It is an amazing site to go whizzing down the interstate with the entrance ramps blocked all the way through town. Without this our ride would be exponentially more hazardous. A huge thank you to the New Mexico State Patrol!!!!
As we pulled into the 66 Casino where we first filled up (complements of Thunderbird Harley) we saw a welcome site. Alfredo Gomez (Gomez to us) was standing there in his full cast on his left leg at full solute. Gomez was on his was to Ontario, Ca when a car pulled out in front of him causing him to take the ditch. His bike was totaled and Gomez broke his left leg badly. But Gomez is much too tough to let a little thing like that stop him from welcoming his brothers on the Run. Gomez has been dealt a considerable amount of serious health issues this year. Most men would have taken that as a cue to stay home, not Gomez. He was on his way to join us for his 3rd year on the run. Thank you Gomez. It was another stroke of allergies when we saw you standing there at attention. Heal quickly brother and we will see you next year. You will be with us in our hearts!
Our next stop was the Camel Rock casino just North of Santa Fe, Nm. where once again a long line of food and people waiting to serve us waited. They not only had a wonderful meal for us but free tee shirts, A ceremony was held and Papa Smurf presented plaques of appreciation to Pueblo of Tesuque Tribal Council, New Mexico State Police, the Santa Fe Police Department and KSWV Que Suave Radio.
Back on the road again, this time 80 miles to our next overnight stay, Eagle Nest, Nm., population 276. When the 280 bikes roll in with 325 people, we literally double the town’s population. Friendly down to earth folks is an understatement. As usually the food was awesome and the cake they made was incredible. Not just the taste but the cake was an eagle in full wingspan. The cake was at least 4’ long. Two ladies worked 3 days to make this cake it was a very big it. The only problem was it was so big we were standing on chairs (and almost on each other’s shoulders) to get picture. Once again Pap Smurf conducted a ceremony thanking the city for their hospitality. Plaques were given to the Village of Eagle Nest, Angel Fire Resort and David Westphal Veterans Memorial.
Today’s FNG story is also a Missing Man story. Daniel Slocum and his Father, Dwayne Slocum, are FNGs. How cool is that? To ride ALL THE WAY with your Father. Both are from Olympia, WA. Dewayne is 73 and is a retired US Navy PO2 and is a Viet Nam era Veteran. He was a Radioman and served as both an enlisted soldier and as an officer in the Army. Daniel retired from the Reserves at the grade of Captain in 2006 after 21 years of military affiliation, many of which were Active Duty, both during the Cold War and our most recent Middle East conflicts. It is very inspiring to see a 73 year old soldier and his son make this Run For The Wall together.
Daniel rode in the Missing Man Formation for a friend. US Army SSG Jason Reeves KIA, Afghanistan. After riding into Gallup yesterday to the incredible reception we got with flags flying and people saluting, Daniel wrote on his blog that he had now received the Welcome Home Parade you should have gotten. Thank you for your sacrifice. You are not forgotten.
Well that’s all for today. It was an absolutely perfect day and the good news is……..we get to do it again tomorrow.
Your humble SitRep writer signing off…………………BOOM
DAY 4 SATURDAY MAY 21, 2016
Eagle Nest,NM (Population 276) to Goodland, KS (Population 4557) 398 Miles
We started the morning at 5:30 a.m. with breakfast at the Senior Center in Eagle Nest that was provided by the citizens of Eagle Nest. (The same hospitable people who provided last nights dinner).
The morning in Eagle Nest was absolutely glorious! Although it was 36 degrees when we started staging and yes we had to scrap frost off of our seats, by the time we finished the normal morning meeting things and ” saddled up” it was well over 40. The ride through the canyon out of Eagle Nest and towards Cimarron, NM was beautiful. Crystal clear skies with the sun shining brightly made the rock formations seem to come to life. This 40 mile drive is one of the very prettiest of all our ride across this amazing country. It was a real treat. By the time we go to Cimarron the temperature was at least 55 and all those who were afraid they had not put on that “extra layer” were just and fine and glad they had not.
Raton was the next fuel stop and as usual the fuel was donated by Tom Trujillo and The Independent Riders of Raton. A nice presentation by the Young Marines of Colfax County was big hit. It is really great to see the next generation becoming so patriotic at such a young age. Papa Smurf presented plaques to Tom Trujillo, The Independent Riders of Raton and the Young Marines of Colfax County. After the short ceremony we were on our way.
Publeo was our next fuel stop where the fuel was donated by the American Legion Riders Post #38 and Post #2. These ALR posts have been donating fuel to the Run For The Wall riders for many years. We thank you American Legion Riders. It is much appreciated. The lunch stop was a little different this as the church were we usually gathered was not available so we lunched at the Steel City Biker Church and was donated once again by American Legion Riders Post #38.
On this year’s Run we have had amazing weather! I would go so far to say it has been PERFECT!!!! Notice how that is “past tense” because I can no longer say that. The ride into Limon was very windy but as it turned out that was “child’s play” compared to the ride from Limon to Goodland. WOW. It was sooooooooooooo windy (how windy was it??). It was so windy it broke Winky’s new CB antenna. He had just purchased the new antenna and it had helped tremendously to make Winky be heard. He has a very soft voice and the new antenna make him come in crystal clear. Once again “past tense”. The wind literally blew so hard it broke right at the connection where it screws into the tour-pac. How windy was it???? It was so windy it blew my tennis show out of the wrapped up bag which was inside my leather coat. Would anyone be interested in purchasing one tennis shoe? Hey I know …………because I am also the 50/50 Raffle Rowser I could raffle it off tomorrow. Yea that’s it. 🙂 We did all make to Goodland safely and were treated to the dinner we always look forward to. It is provided by the citizens of Goodland, KS. They always do such a wonderful job of preparing and serving food. Papa Smurf had us give them all a rousing round of applause.
The Mayor of Goodland proclaimed it Run For The Wall day and Papa Smurf presented plaques to The City of Goodland and the Sherman County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The following tribute to MIA and KIA soldiers was read:
Tonight we have some honored guests who cannot be with us. Please direct your attention to the place setting in front of the podium as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIAs still unaccounted for from all foreign conflicts. A reminder for us all to spare no effort to secure the release of any American prisoners from captivity, the repatriation of the remains of those who died bravely in defense of liberty, and a full accounting of those missing in action.
-The table is small, symbolizing the helplessness of one person alone against his oppressors.
-The table cloth is white for the purity of their intentions in responding to their Countrys’ call to arms.
-The bread plate where a slice of lemon rests to remind us of their bitter fate.
-Salt, symbolic of the tears shed by those who wait.
-The single red rose in a vase reminds us of the families and loved ones who have kept faith, awaiting the return of our POW/MIAs.
-The yellow ribbon, tied so prominently around the vase, represents the yellow ribbon worn upon the lapels and breasts of thousands who bear witness to our Nations’ unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting of our POW/MIAs.
-The candle is the light of hope which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, out of the hands of the oppressors and into the arms of a grateful Nation.
-The glass is inverted for they cannot toast with us tonight.
-The chair is empty, for they are not here.
Remember, we all called them comrades, brothers, sisters and friends. Do not let them be forgotten for surely they have not forgotten us.
After the above reading a moment of silence was taken. Quite a somber moment and one that touched all of our hearts…………………..WE RIDE FOR THOSE WHO CAN’T.
Tomorrow we are off to Jct. City, Kansas. Another of our favorites.
Your humble SitRep writer signing off…………………BOOM
DAY SUNDAY MAY 22, 2016
Goodland, KS (Population 4557) To Junction City, Ks (Population 23,388) 285 miles
After a wonderful breakfast once again donated and served by the people of Goodland we listened to a very good Sunday sermon by Duane Gryder. Duane told a funny story about how as a welder in his younger years he was asked to do a “hot cut”. That is a cut that is done with product in the pipe. His supervisor told him it was safe but then ran off just before Duane was to make the cut. After then making sure it was safe Duane make the cut but only with his boss standing next to him. He used this analogy to tell us that God will never ask us to do anything but what he is standing right next to us. It was very good sermon and liked by all.
Then it was “ksu” (kick stands up) at 8:15 a.m. We were hoping and praying that the wind from yesterday had finally blown itself out but no luck. The wind was not as bad as yesterday but still very brisk. Toto……………yes we are still in Kansas. It seems to me if we built enough windmills in Kansas we could power the entire world, the moon and half of Mars. My point is there is plenty of wind here in Kansas. I guess it is making up for last year when it very calm. Here’s hoping tomorrow morning will bring sun and no (or very little) wind. The was something very photogenic about the wind’s presence. That line probably makes no sense at first glance……what do you mean “the wind was photogenic”? Here is what I mean. The overpasses were filled with people holding flags, waving wildly and saluting. But because of the stiff breeze ever single flag stood straight out perfectly horizontal! When there were 10-20 flags on one overpass the flags covered the entire overpass left to right. It was very beautiful and inspiring. And as is usual for Kansas, Bones said he only counted 3 overpasses that had no one on them. Ever other one had sometimes many and sometimes just one waving us on.
We had wonderful lunch in Oakley where the towns people had set up our eating arraignments in their beautiful park. Many shade trees, picnic tables and a beautiful War Memorial to the fallen soldiers from the area. It was a wonderful lunch and it seems the wind let us just for us so that we could enjoy our lunch without chasing after our plates and napkins! Plaques were given to The City of Oakley, CPS, and VFW Post 2981 and Auxiliaries.
Back on the road again heading for Bunker Hill our next fuel stop where a plaque was presented to the Moe Muck Foundation. We spent the typical 45 minutes to fuel (this time it was 266 bikes in approximately 16 minutes. Quite a sight to see. Very military precision like), hydrate, use the facilities and of course rest our butts!
Our next stop is our overnight stop at Junction City, KS. Whenever any of the Run For The Wall riders is asked about favorite stops or what really struck you on your Run experience, inevitably Junction City comes up. Today’s reception explained to all the FNGs why that statement is so true. The townspeople lined many blocks with flag bearers on both sides. And that same stiff breeze made the flags stand straight out. It was truly a sight to see! Then, and I believe this is the first time, at the end of the blocks lined with flags, right where we turn left to stage our bikes was a fire truck with its ladder extended with a huge American flag flying. That was the last straw. I was keeping it together pretty well until then……..enter allergy problem here. We got off of our bikes and headed for the Kansas State Viet Nam Memorial. Now we have had some good ceremonies here as it is a beautiful memorial commemorating the lost soldiers from Kansas and was dedicated on July 4, 1987, but today’s was over the top! The first speaker was the Senator from Kansas, Jerry Moran. He had a nice speech where he talked about how the military is a family. The Veterans understand this but the rest of the world does not. He challenged us to make the rest of the country understand the we are all in this together and that we are “one family”. The keynote speaker was a Medal of Honor recipient Col. (Ret) Don “Doc” Ballard. Doc had an amazing speech that hit very hard. He admitted he was NOT a “politically correct” sort of guy and went on to prove it with his hard hitting statements about how our politicians say all the right things but when it comes to doing the right thing it rarely happens. He said he will keep an eye on Senator Moran and make sure he votes in accordance with his speech. He says he considers the military as a “hand down family business”. One usually joins the military because their Father or Grandfather served, the children usually served it was a good point and made a lot of sense. I wish I could type his entire speech. It was so insightful and truthful. Doc is definitely NOT a politician but I sure wish he and other like him were.
The next speaker was Joshua Kegley. Joshua is a Veterans advocate and the director of an organization called 22kill. This all about the fact that 22 veterans commit suicide every day. We all know this is not acceptable but few do anything about. Joshua does something about it. He challenged all of us to take this problem head on and get involved instead of just “wow isn’t this terrible”. Then he told us about his quest to get 22 million pushups. And he asked that we give him some pushup now! He said if you can get down and do them do it, if you have to do “air pushups”, do them. NOW. Most of us were a bit dumbstruck to think we were supposed to do actual pushups…………NOW. Robert Penn was NOT dumbstruck. Robert was in the United States Marine Corp. 3rd Marine division. Joshua (the speaker) had no sooner gotten the challenge out of his mouth when Robert hit the grass and instantly gave 22 pushups. Now Robert is no spring chicken (sorry Robert) but he counted off 22 pushups in very little time. Me, I did the 22 “air pushups and got a bit winded to that! Seriously though this man was an incredible speaker. He wears a ring on his right hand index finger (the trigger finger) that reminds him that he will NEVER put that finger in a trigger well. He also explained his phone number is ALWAYS available and he will respond 24/7. Joshua’s phone number is 785-341-5965. His e-mail address is [email protected] His website is 22KILL.com. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE…………if you are a Veteran and you need to talk with someone please talk with Joshua or anyone for that matter. Please know that we care, that your loved ones care. There are other ways to solve the problem.
We heard a testimonial from a man whose Father was World War II Veteran who had constant flashbacks and during one killed his wife (the speaker’s Mother) and was coming after the speaker (his son) to shoot him. The speaker said he had to shoot his Father with a 12 gauge shotgun to keep from being killed. After many years of alcohol and drugs God finally set him on the right path. The point of his incredible story was that we all need to work together to help not only the Veterans who have PTSD and other issue but also the family.
All in all it was very wonderful day and tomorrow we get to do it all over again. (without wind this time).
Your humble SitRep Writer signing off……………Boom!
DAY 6 MONDAY MAY 26, 2016
Junction City, KS (Population 23,388) to Wentzville, MO. (Population 32,509) 341 miles
The Fraternal Order of Eagles provided and served our breakfast this morning. Very tasty and a great way to start our busy day. The people of Jct. City are so hospitable and eager to help us. We so appreciate it and as I have said in my SitRep reports many times, we could not do what we do without people like those in Jct. City.
We conducted our morning meeting and did all the typical morning items. Out of the ordinary was a presentation of a 14″ Missouri Bowie knife with RFTW 2016 engraved in the blade to Tiiger (Kris Allen). Tiiger is the leader of the registration team who do an amazing job. It is a difficult job in that there is never enough time to get everyone registered in a calm orderly fashion. Tiiger and her crew are always fighting the clock. The team is always “behind the scenes” and they rarely get the attention and thanks they deserve. As is normal Tiiger’s reaction to the presentation was nearly teary eyed and of course very thankful. If you run across Tiiger during the run be sure to tell her what a wonderful job she and her entire team do. She deserves it.
Today’s FNG story is rather unique in the John Quincy Fleming is from Tasmania! He calls himself the “Tassie Devil” from the “top of the world”. Normally that wouldn’t make sense but John’s map is an upside down world map, so he is from the “top of the world”. John’s bio says that there are certain moments in your life when you feel that someone is trying to tell you something. What I saw in Keppel Bay near Rockhampton, Queensland was one such moment. I was on the tiller of our twenty four foot, clinker built, “A” model Ford powered ex-lifeboat when I saw something that was to change my life. The Royal Australian Navy fast anti-submarine frigate, H.M.A.S. Quickmatch was tearing across the bay at 32 knots, her funnel exhausting an economical, light brown haze, bows cutting gracefully through the aqua blue sea and a huge “rooster-tail”, much higher than her quarterdeck, following her sten. This seventeen year old sea scout had been sent an unambiguous message. “stop thinking about it and JUST DO IT….Join the Navy! And that is what John did. John served in the Royal Australian Navy from 1962 to 1973. He retired as a Chief Petty Mechanichin. John’s Father was in the American Army and met his Mother in Rockhampton. John’s Father was the very first American serviemen to marry an Australian. John is dedicating his ride to his Cousin, Flying Officer Basil Trevor Roberts of Townsville Queensland Australia, KIA in Norway October 15, 1944. Welcome John, to The Run For The Wall. We are honored to have you!
When we reached the Missouri state line it was the same usual AWESOME display of about 20 motorcycle policemen in the shape of a V (maybe a U but that’s not the point) and 2 squad cars right in the middle of them. All of them completely LIT UP. (this means all of their lights were on and flashing wildly). This is a scene that is repeated every year and we are so thankful that they provide us with the excellent escort that they do. Please google/U-Tube Missouri troopers lead RFTW. I bet there will be something there. It is a sight to see and it allows us to move through their state safely without the fear of a cage (car/truck) getting in the middle of our now 300 motorcycles. Thank you troopers and policemen. We couldn’t do it without you!
Today I went on my very first breakout. A breakout is when a small pack of riders go on a certain mission apart from the main pack. Today Bounce, Pokey, Piccolo, John Fleming, Daniel Slocum, his Father Duane Slocum, DC and his wife and myself went to OOIDA (Owner Operator Independent Drivers Assoc). This is a large entity that fights for truckers issues. They broadcast over Sirus on Road Dog Truckers station (I believe it is station 232). A radio interviewer went around the table and asked each of us a couple of questions about the Run For The Wall and why we ride and how we got involved etc. They will take our interviews and put together a couple of snippets as the interviewer called it and then it will air on Sirus. The spot will essentially explain to truck drivers all across the USA what the Run For The Wall is all about and that we are not a bunch of biker dudes just cruising around and getting in truckers way as they are trying to make a living. I look forward to hearing it. It was a very worthy breakout and look it forward to hearing/seeing the results.
OK……….we are riding 2,863 miles from California to Washington D.C. Quite a feat right? Well how bout this fellow. Butch Azar is WALKING across America from California to Washington D.C. WHAT?????????? WALING???????? Yup, walking. Butch was originally involved with a movement called Liberty Stick. The Liberty Stick movement is a effort to restore our God given freedom, restore our Constitution to its original greatness and restore our schools back to our children, our greatest asset. Butch said a still small voice of God came to me while floating through some white water on the Current River in Missouri. I was in a quandary as to which way to go with the US Liberty Stick project that I had been working on since August 28, 2010. I had gone to God in prayer and this was his response……………WALK TO THE WALL! Butch is working with Ben Franklin, the 7th Generation Grandson of Benjamin Franklin. He will walk 2,678 miles. He says the reason for the walk is for us to remember all the men and women soldiers and patriots who have given the ultimate sacrifice…..their lives. The website is www.libertystick.org. Butch invites all of us to join him, 9-11-2016 at sunrise at the Reflection Pool in Washington D. C. We wish you luck Butch Azar and support you in your mission.
The stop in Concordia was once again just beautiful. It seems like the whole town comes out and welcomes us and then treats us to a great lunch in their park that is gorgeous! Huge trees cover the park allowing us to watch their presentation in the shade with a bit of breeze. Pappa Smurf presented the following appreciation plaques: Jackson County Sheriff’s Department, Veteran of Foreign War, K-Bar, Ooida National, and Tyson foods. As we left town once again the people lined the streets and wished us well. Many, many flags lined both sides of the streets as we left and once again, it seemed most of the riders came down with a sudden case of allergies. Dang pollen!
We have two stops in a row (not counting just fuel stops) that are really hard to top. The lunch at Concordia and the last stop of the day in Wentzville, MO. Wentzville holds the ceremony at the local VFW Post #5327. There is a helicopter staged there and a very high arch rising about the main podium and speaking area. The dinner that they put on is always good home cookin type food and we literally “pig out”. (or in Harley terms we “hog out”). Once again a ceremony was held and appreciation plaques were given to the Wentzville Christian Church and the VFW Post #5327 and the Wentzville community club. Thank you Post #5327 for a great meal, great program and greater people.
That is the wrap on another incredible day “in the saddle”. It almost seems impossible that we are more than half way to Washington. The days are going by so fast.
Your humble SitRep Writer singing out……………………….Boom!
DAY 7 MAY 24, 2016
Wentzville, MO. (population 32,509) to Corydon, IN (population 3,119) 293 miles.
Beautiful morning in Wentzville, MO. Breakfast was provided and served by the VFW Post #5327, delicious as usual! We staged at the Wentzville Christian Church just across the street from the VFW. GM had provided a van for a lady named Kim to drive the bikers to breakfast and back.
We conducted our typical morning meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance and a prayer. 50/50 money was raised again. This money is for the kids at Rainelle, WV and it is amazing how people dig into their pockets for the kids.
Our first stop is in Wentzville at the very first Viet Nam Veterans Memorial in America. It is a tall column about 25’ high and honors all of those fallen in the Viet Nam War. We do something rather unique there. We take a group picture and all of the riders who want a picture taken with their phone/camera they lay their phone/camera down in the middle of the street and go get into the picture. People from the audience and riders who don’t care to be in the picture take the photos and put the phones/cameras back down in the street.
I had a different day today as I rode with about 10 Ambassadors to learn just what their duties include. We first stopped at J.L. Buford Intermediate School in Mt. Vernon, IL. We went to the gym where a class was in progress shooting hoops! The first thing we learned was whatever skills Eric Ammann and I once had were long gone! When the “hoops class” was over about 300 kids funneled into the gym area and took a seat on bleachers until they were full and then on the floor. Sonia Ammann started the program by telling the kids a little about the Viet Nam Memorial Wall and why it is there and that we were in a large group of motorcycles that ride from California to Washington D.C. Then she taught them how to speak “Marine”. She said, “say OOOO then Raw”. Then put them together…..OOOORAW. The children loving the interaction. During the question and answer period they asked several very intelligent questions. Sonia then presented Principal Kevin Alvis a check for $1000,00. He was quite surprised and i started having an allergic reaction (sure that was it). Principal Alvins told Sonia that he will use the money to support their PBIS program. It stands for Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports. The basis for the positive behavior program is rewarding students for making positive/goodchoices. When the program was over the kids and teachers came outside to see us off. At the count of 3 we all fired up at the same time. It gave quite a sound and the kids loved it.
One of the other functions of the Ambassador team, of which there are approximately 18, is to go up onto the overpasses and talk with the people who are on them and waving flags and saluting. I talked with one Army Veteran name Rick who told me this was his 9th year to be on the overpass and see us come through. Dedication that shows through when we are the bike and looking up at the flag waving patriots! The Ambassador team will hand out over 3,000 pens, pencils, temporary tattoos , and stickers. They do a very nice job of educating the people who are so avid in their support for us.
We had a fuel stop in Mt. Vernon, IL (not to be confused with Mt. Vernon IN) where Eric and Sanya Ammann were talking with an older couple and their 5 year old grandson. As it turns out they knew a very good friend of Sanya’s , Berlina Mindeoro from Hawaii. They told Eric and Sanya about a friend of theirs who had gone on the run but could not go all the way but came home raving about “the kids in Rainelle. When Sanya told them that Berlina as passed away last year. They were very saddened and for whatever reason the gentleman pulled out his wallet and handed Sanya a $20 bill and said it was for the kids at Rainelle………………………………….we ride for those who can’t!
Sadly one of the stops I missed by going with the Ambassadors was our annual stop at the Jefferson Barracks VA Hospital in St. Louis, MO. It is always a treat to go into the rooms and visit with those who cannot get out. Last year I talked with a 93 year old World War II Veteran who served under General George S. Patton at the Battle of the Bulge. He was sharp as a tack but physically pretty rough. It was quite a treat for me and I hope he enjoyed the visit from the Riders.
The countryside in Kansas, (not today but yesterday), Missouri, Illinois and now Indiana has been a deep, deep green. There are many signs that the rainfall has been at or above normal through all these states. The rivers are flowing strongly and all of the lakes and dugouts (dugout is a South Dakota farmboy term for man made little lake for the cattle to drink out of) are all full to the brim. All of the parks that we go into where we have lunch and ceremonies are very soft. Ladies with heels would sink right in. All the lush greenery makes the ride very special.
We had lunch at Waterkotte Harley Davidson dealer where there is short presentation where Papa Smurf presented plaques to Waterkotte Harley, Pastor Jeff Keenan of the Good Shepherd Assembly of God, The Indiana State Police and Dewig Meats. This is always a tough stop because of the limited area for staging 300 bikes but as is always the case the staging team did a great job. One of the things that tug at our heart strings are Gold Star Parents. These are parents who have lost a son or daughter in combat. There was a Gold Star couple in attendance at the lunch stop. Cheryl Price-Hunsell and her husband John Hunsell lost their son. In 2006, their son LCpl. J. Kyle Price, was Killed In Action in Ramadi, Iraq at the age of 19. What a tragedy. There is a foundation for LCpl. J. Kyle Price and the website is www.jkpmemorial foundation.org. If you wish to call the number is 618-978-4738. Please go to the website. Leave a note and if possible make a donation. I know the family would be very appreciative. They have memorial ride every year and if riding motorcycles is not your thing, join them in the annual Bass Fishing Tournament.
Here is another amazing example of how we cannot even imagine the ways the wall has healed people. I found this on the RFTW forum but do not know who posted it and cannot find it again so I will apologize in advance to the author. If you are the author or know who the author is please let me know so I can give proper credit. I had printed it out so that is why I have the whole story. I believe it is a great story so here goes. I will print it word for word:
OK Ziptie you asked so now others are thinking “what is he talking about?” so here it is. 2008, my FNG year, after Rolling Thunder, I’m parking the bike and this lady about my age asked me “sir, are you a Vietnam Vet and are you going to the wall?” I replied yes I am and yes I’m going to the wall. She hands me this rose (she had about a dozen in her hand) and asked me to place it at the wall for her. Now I’m still sitting on the bike so I ask her, “why don’t you place it at the Wall yourself? She replied “oh I can’t go to the Wall, I was a protester during the war! I am filled with rage and my mind’s eye has this vision of grabbing her by the neck and breaking it. (her neck). the thought hit me, “you have been dragging this crap for 40 years let it go. So we talked and we helped each other heal and I said to her that we were going to the wall together. She again replied “no” and I said “lady you are going to the wall. That wall was made so America could heal and if I have to pick you up and carry you I will. she says “oh honey I don’t think you can do that”. At that time I was at 158 lbs and she about 225. Some more we cried and she told me that she still protested war but now she knows that it is not the soldier but the politician that sends men to war. I told her to please continue the good fight. That all soldiers hate war! We fight because we are ordered to, we fight for our brothers, and that we love what’ behind us, not because we hate what is in front of us. I kept that rose on my bike for over 2 years until it fell apart. Just one more vet that the mission has helped leave some of his baggage at the Wall. So who would have thought that the Wall would help the protesters who treated the Viet Nam vets coming home so terribly, to begin to heal?
Then our last stop of the day Corydon, IN. I saw this my first time riding into town and John Fleming (FNG from Tasmania whom I had written about yesterday). told me at dinner the same thing. Corydon is a beautiful little town of just over 3,000 people and is a bright emerald green everywhere you look. It is just beautiful. There is a little river that runs through town with something of a spillway on the East side of the bridge that crosses the river. Through the town we go heading for the fairgrounds where an always delicious fish fry happens. It is a great dinner of fish and several side dishes served by the ladies of the town. This is always a big hit as this is the only fish dinner we get on the entire run. Not complaining mind you as our dinners are all very good!
That’s all for day 7. Wonderful day, wonderful weather, wonderful people. WOW! Living a dream! And we get to do it again tomorrow.
Your humble SitRep Writer signing off………………….BOOM!
DAY 8 WEDNESDAY MAY 25, 2016
Corydon, IN (population 3119) to Hurricane, WV (Population 6393 249 Miles
After our morning meeting where we did our usual 50/50, The Pledge of Allegiance, a prayer and the reading of several bios of servicemen either KIA or MIA we welcomed several active duty Army soldiers from Ft. Knox. They would ride with us from Corydon, IN to Frankfort, KY. It is always a pleasure to ride with active duty service men and women because they truly feel the camaraderie and brotherhood of our group. The one thing that was NOT typical of our morning meeting was this. Last year Don “E-Z” Burns, fell ill with some health issues that landed him in Walter Reed hospital and could not lead us into Rainelle, WV and into Arlington National Cemetery. Papa asked for E-Z to come to the stage where he announced that because these are two of the most prominent parts of the run, and serve as a kind of reward for all the hard work the Route Coordinator has put in all year, and because Papa Smurf led us into those 2 places last year, he was letting E-Z to the honor this year. What selfless act of compassion and understanding. I don’t know about E-Z but I was in tears!! Way to go Papa Smurf!
We have been on the road for 8 days now and of those 8 days we have had 1/2 day of terrible, terrible side winds (from Limon, CO to Goodland, KS) and 1 day of just wind (all the way across Kansas) other than that it has been absolutely perfect. Not enough rain drops to even mention and mostly beautiful clear skies. We have been blessed.
Today we visited one of the special stops on our route, the Robley Rex VA Center. The center is named after a man who was a true American hero. Mr. Rex enlisted in the United States Army as a young man in 1919 and served in the European Theater for three years. After his military service Mr. Rex dedicated his entire life to helping his fellow veterans, both through his work with veterans service organizations and through his activities as a Louisville VA Medical Center volunteer. Mr. Rex had accumulated over 14,600 hours in his 23 years of service as a Veteran. Mr. Rex passed away April 28, 2009, mere days before his 108th birthday.
While at Robley Rex had a nice program with the singing of the Nation Anthem, the pledge of allegiance, and several guest speakers. Plaques were presented to Robley Rex VA Hospital, UAW 862 Veterans Committee and the Louisville Metro Police Dept. After the program we were encouraged to go into the hospital and visit with some of the heroes who had ailments that prevented them from coming out to meet with us. It is always so inspiring to talk with these servicemen and women who never once complain about their problems. One fellow, Keith, told me he remembered the RFTW coming last year and he had told us that he would be riding with us this year! Well this year is here and poor Keith cannot yet ride with us but he told me “next year” with big ole smile on his face. (lump in throat, allergies strike again). Another patient (Don) told us that Robley Rex was the best V.A. Hospital in the United States. He told us that there are more caring employees at Robley Rex than any hospital he had ever been in. Considering all the bad press that the V.A. has gotten lately it is heartwarming to hear a patient talk like that about his caregivers. In talking with many people who work there, it was easy to see why the patients can tell us that this V.A. hospital is the best.
Also at Robley Rex VA hospital is Popcorn Billy. What a guy. He greets us every year with a smile that is contagious and a spirit that is incredible. He will talk with you as long as you can stay and will tell you that he has made his special popcorn just for you. He hugs everyone and when he hugs the ladies he smiles even bigger and I overheard him say “I must have died and gone to Heaven” and then another ear to ear smile. Billy has been at the VA hospital for 25 years and buys all of the popcorn himself, sells it for donations and then donates all of the money to his favorite charity that month. Popcorn Billy may be the single most talked about person/friend on the Run For The Wall. Billy and his twin brother had asked to serve together in the same unit. Both were assault helicopter crew chiefs with the rank of Specialist 4th class. Billy’s twin brother Bobby was killed on January 10, 1968 when enemy fire riddled the tents of the servicemen who had been charged with defending an airstrip killing 7 Americans and wounding 25. Billy was wounded badly in the right shoulder, right thigh and left leg. I talked with a Chaplain at Robley Rex who told me Billy was not always the sweet man with the biggest heart that we know today. He came back from Viet Nam a very bitter man. He was angry at the whole world including God. After a period of time a Chaplain went to Billy and gave him a serious “tongue lashing”. He told Billie that he needed to get over feeling sorry for himself and get on with his life best he could. The Chaplain then asked Billie if you do not carry on your brother’s legacy who will. If you don’t tell the world about your brother who will? That is when Billy became the man we know today. Billie is always the first stop that most riders go to when they get to Robley Rex. He always has bags of popcorn for us and some of the lucky ones get a bio of Billy’s brother Bobby. To those lucky enough to be handed a bio of Billy and Bobby Pfeister, Billy will ask you to take it to “The Wall”. What an honor.
We left Robley Rex and fueled at Waddy and it was on to the one of most amazing Viet Nam Memorials we have the honor to visit. The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial overlooks the state Capitol and honors the 125,000 Kentuckians who served this nation so courageously and unselfishly during the Vietnam era (1962-1975). More than 58,000 Americans gave their lives during the conflict. Among that number, 1103 were Kentuckians. Thousands of those who served were wounded in action and hundreds are still listed as missing in action (MIA).
The veterans whose names are listed on this Memorial fought and died for the same values that inspired their ancestors since the Revolutionary War – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The blue-gray granite plaza of the Memorial contains the names of Kentucky’s 1103 citizens who died. Each name is precisely located so the shadow of the sundial pointer, or gnomon (pronounced ‘noman’), touches each veteran’s name on the anniversary of his death. Thus, each individual is honored with a personal tribute. Accordingly, every day is memorial day for a Kentucky Vietnam veteran. The Memorial’s unique design was created by Helm Roberts (1931-2011), a Lexington, KY architect and veteran. The ground breaking ceremony was held November 7, 1987 and construction was completed in late summer 1988. The Memorial was opened on November 11, 1988 and officially dedicated on November 12, 1988.
We then made our way to Mt. Sterling, WV. We go to the Clay Community Center where they give us a delicious pork sandwich lunch provided and served by the townspeople of Mt. Sterling. This has been a stop for many years and as always the town greets us with miles of flags waving and people cheering. Another “lump in the throat” experience. Plaques to show our appreciation were given to Philip and Traci Scott, Clay Community Center and Staff, Kentucky Farm Bureau from Mt. Sterling, KY, Tracy Pearce of the Mt. Sterling Tourist/Convention Commission and Charlie Sparks of the American Legion Montgomery Post 22. Before leaving this pretty little community we were treated to a free fuel stop by an anonymous donor. Thank you very much Mr. Anonymous door! When we have free fuel it truly helps those riders who are on a very tight budget. Many could not afford to make the trip if approximately 60-70% of our fuel stops are paid for. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!!
The next stop was 114 miles to Hurricane, West (By God) Virginia! The folks here always give us an amazing welcome but this year a Huey was our escort for the last 20 miles into town. He was flying about 200’ up and was an amazing site to someone like me who did not serve in the military. I simply cannot image what was going on in the minds of men and women who served in Viet Nam. The sound of the Huey was very distinctive and I would imagine that those who were in Viet Nam heard it long before they saw it! The welcome included streets lined with patriots waving flags and saluting, The Hurricane Fire Dept. had two large ladder trucks with their booms up in the air. One flying a huge American flag and one a POW/MIA flag. Quite a site.
Papa Smurf presented plaques to West Virginia Star Touring and Riding Association, Chapter 197, Hurricane Volunteer Fire Department, Teays Valley Volunteer Fire Dept., Corey Brothers, SERVPRO of Teays Valley, Putnam Co. Parks & Rec, The American Culinary Federation (West Virginia Chapter, US Foodservice of West Virginia, The City of Hurricane, Mike Holbrook, Putnam County Sheriff’s Office, Classic Hits 100.9 and 102.3 The Mix, Appalachian Power, American Legion of West Virginia and Harley Davidson of West Virginia. You can tell by the long list of plaques recipients who well we are supported here in Hurricane. The people really coming out for us. Here are Hurricane there is “miniature” traveling Viet Nam Memorial wall, a bike wash put on by the Boy/Cub Scouts, a “cool space” which is an area of about 200 sq. ft. with 4 large fans in the corners blowing cool air on anyone “over heating” and a very tasty dinner!
We have approximately 300 bikes with us now and will expect more at our next 2 days stops. One in Lewisburg, WV and then when we get into Arlington, VA.
Well that’s it another incredible day in the books with perhaps the most incredible day to come. Our visit to Rainelle, WV. The FNGs are in for a real treat. Words cannot prepare them for what is about to come!
Your humble SitRep Writer signing off………………………..BOOM
DAY 9, THURSDAY, MAY 26, 2016
Hurrircane, WV to Lewisburg, WV (Population 6393 131 miles
We woke up to rain in Hurricane, WV. Pat (Momma Duck) says it was because I had the youth group at Hurricane wash my bike. She says we are supposed to ride into DC with all the grit and grime we have accumulated from Ontario still on the bike. She says it is a “badge of honor”. I guess she was right. But by the time we got set and started the 50/50 raffle tickets sales it had stopped raining and the sun was trying to poke through which it finally did. From that point forward it was a great day to ride!!!!
At breakfast, provided by Yamaha STAR #197. All went well and once again the RFTW riders came through big time. These are such generous people when it comes to our cause and our mission that it never ceases to amaze me. We have had several “challenges” where one branch of the military service will challenge another and we have a platoon challenge where each platoon tries to outdo the others. There are so many different ways to donate one would think some would have to come up short but that is not the case. The results of the Platoon Challenge were as follows:
#1.$1,400 #6. $1,074
#2. $1,850 #7. $2,211
#3. $1,600 #8. $1,105
#4. $1,025 #9. $276
#5. $1,160 #10. $805 THE TOTAL FOR ALL OF THE PLATOONS WAS $12,506
The military challenge results were as follows:
ARMY $1,129 AIR FORCE $269 NAVY: $515 MARINES $1,1774 NON-VETERANS $749 TOTAL $3,863
We headed for Charleston, West (By God) Virginia and once again parked on the Governor’s grass. That is what he calls it when we roll onto the brick paving stones that form a circle around a beautifully landscaped center piece There was a nice speech by the Governor and he proclaimed Thursday May 26, 2016 as Run For The Wall day. We always enjoy the beautiful setting at the State Capital of West Virginia. If one goes inside the capital you can see the amazing granite dome nearly 100 ft. high. Then a short trip out the back door and you are overlooking the Kanawha River lined with huge trees. The view is breath taking.
Then it was on the Rainelle, WV, the highlight of our run. Rainelle has been a part of the Run For The Wall from the very first year when the road we were trying take led us through a toll booth and the guy in the booth couldn’t figure out that the money the lead bike was trying to give him was for ALL the bikes behind him. So rather than pay a toll at all the group simply took another road. That little mix up resulted in the Run For The Wall people going through Rainelle. The road into Rainelle is twisty, hilly and today was also wet. Not a good combination but a beautiful ride none the less. The houses along the road are very humble homes for the most part but most are very well kept and you can tell the owners take pride in their little piece of Heaven (get it? John Denver……..Almost Heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River). Some of the homes were all decorated in little half circle Stars & Stripes banners like you would see at the World Series games. It was beautiful and it made me wonder that of all the things their money could buy they were decorating for us with Red White and Blue banners. RFTW donates dollars every year to the Rainelle Elementary School. Every year we stop there and the children are absolutely precious. They are very respectful of the riders getting off of the bikes, taking off their leathers and whatever else we need to do but once we walk into the grass area they literally come at us from all sides. They all have little autographs books that are titled Run For TheWall 2016. They treat us like rock stars! They want our autograph and of course we are eager to comply. The Moms and Dads (and surely Grandpas and Grandmas) are raising these kids right. ALL of them ask “may I have your autograph please?” They always say thank you and most of them will thank you for your service. This year, through the unwavering generosity of the Run For The Wall riders, we donated $21,000 to the school. The school gets to spend the money anyway they want. One of the things we have heard the money goes for is shoes for the kids who need them. This town is in coal mining country and the coal industry as a whole has been under attack for several years and these donations are surely more important than we may ever know. The amount of $21,000 is simply incredible! I can’t thank all of you enough for amazing generosity. I only hope that when you got to Rainelle and experienced the kids it was all worth it!
One more day of travel and we will be in Washington, DC. We are all very excited and appreciate the fact that the mission is nearly completed.
How far are we going………ALL THE WAY…………..How far….ALL THE WAY
Your humble SitRep writer…………………………….over and out…………..BOOM
DAY 10, FRIDAY MAY 27, 2016
Lewisburg, WV (Population 6393) to Arlington, VA (Population 207,627) 254 miles
It is hard to believe this is our last day of travel for the Run For The Wall 2016. It seems to have gone so fast this year. I guess that means we were busy and moving forward but it just doesn’t seem possible that tomorrow we lay the wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, conduct our ceremony at the Viet Nam Memorial Wall and then take our group picture on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and then 2016 is in the books. It was such a good trip! 1 1/2 days of wind was the only thing that prevents me from writing the weather was perfect for the entire trip. Not enough raindrops to mention. We were in front of a tornado just West of Jct. City Kansas (which by the way we had several people from the area). We had no hail, no snow (not even in Eagle Nest, NM or Williams, AZ). It was just about perfect weather. We simply could not have asked for more. This day always seems to come too fast and already some are asking…………………………………is it May yet?
Some of the things that happened on this year’s Run:
-Gene Peters, CWP3 was on the Run this year and has served 2 tours in the Middle East. He got off of his bike in Corydon, IN., looked at his phone and found he had received orders to be deployed again. This time to Afghanistan. He will leave sometime in the fall. Thank you Gene for being with us on the Run and Thank you for your service!
-We auctioned of the beautiful quilt made by Julie Long and donated by the Northwest Missouri PGR riders including Jerry Ewing and Randy Vogel. The quilt was made from Harley Davidson tee shirts from all over the USA and went for $350.00. Thank you Julie, Jerry and Randy!!! This is the second year in a row that they have donated a quilt. We so appreciate it and do hope we can count on another quilt next year.
-5 years ago this next Friday, Patricia Ellen Marcikese, was on the Run For The Wall, and took her husband John’s ashes to Arlington National Cemetery for internment. This gave Patricia her road name of “Ashes”. John was the recipient of the Silver Star and Purple Heart medals. Patricia passed away February 23, 2016. Just 3 months (approximately) before this year’s run. She was cremated and Martha Zaragoza made all the arrangements for John Grimes (Dirt) and Terry (Dusty) to carried her ashes from Lake Havasu, AZ to Arlington National Cemetery for internment. A beautiful black vest with Run For The Wall on it was made to carry the urn with the ashes. It was beautiful. Thank you Martha, Dirt and Terry. She is now with John, may they both Rest In Peace.
-This year I rode 2 legs of the Run with the Staging Crew. John Staub is the Staging Crew Leader and has approximately 20 people in his crew. Two of the people are Father (Phil Gadon) and his Daughter (Shana Gadon). Shana rides with her Father all the way across the USA. WOW! Talk about getting to know your Dad or getting to know your Daughter. What a treat for both of them. Staging is an art! They leave from our location approximately 30 minutes before the pack. This gives them time to get to the next stop and set up the order and location of where 10 platoons of bikes need to be staged so that when it is time to leave we can do so in an organized manner. Anything less would surely result in bikes going down. They do an incredible job. They have a “cheat sheet” that is prepared by Mike Owen (Dadbo), that tells them how the pack needs to be staged so that the proper platoon is in the proper location for our departure. Platoon #1 does NOT always ride in the first position. Leadership wants all riders to experience being in the front of the pack so platoon #1 rides in position #1 on one leg then #2 platoon rides in position #1 the next leg, then platoon #3 rides in position #1 etc. It is like a revolving door and everyone gets a chance to ride up front. When the pack arrives at our fuel stop, first we fuel (which is another amazing story as we can fill 300 bikes in less than 20 minutes. Great job George Creacy and the fueling crew). When we leave the fueling islands we are flagged in one direction which usually goes around behind the gas station where the staging people are holding large signs with platoons 1 thru 10 on them. One looks for his platoon # and goes into that area where he is staged and then ready for departure. It is a ballet of sorts and is a very integral part of our success in keeping our very tight schedule for 2,831 miles. Because their job is so critical to the efficient arrival and departure they ride a bit faster than the rest of the pack. I asked John how fast we had ridden the leg into Eagle Nest and he very sternly told me that “We NEVER ride more than 5 mph over the speed limit………….according to HIS GPS system. I need to learn the brand of that system! I want one!
The arrival at the hotel was awesome. The Southern and Midway Routes had already arrived and were standing outside waving us in. Many in full solutes. After 2,861 miles, it was a welcome home that we were so looking for and for that matter one that many Viet Nam Veterans did not get. Once again a very emotional time of which we had had many. Our journey was very nearly complete but one more day of duties is in front of us. We shook our friends hands, gave and got big hugs and enjoyed a cold beverage and began to prepare for the final leg of our mission.
It has been such a great run! It is a bit sad it is over but quite honestly I saw a lot of very tired people in the lobby. It seemed that we were all so focused on our jobs and our mission that we didn’t allow ourselves to “let down” for 10 days. Now that we are here I think “the plug has been pulled”. I know with me I was totally exhausted this afternoon. I bet I wasn’t alone.
Day 10 in the books. One more day of our mission and it is all over for another year.
DAY 11 SATURDAY MAY 28, 2016
Washington DC our nations beautiful capital!
This day is always bittersweet. It is the culmination of just 11 days of riding with old friends and making new ones but a whole year of anticipation. I know many feel like I do……………I can’t wait for next year already.
In the morning those who are FNGs (Fine New Guys or Gals) are staged at the host hotel in preparation for the incredible honor of riding their bikes into Arlington National Cemetery. FNGs are the only motorcycle group in the world who are allowed to ride their bikes into Arlington. (I believe I learned that the Patriot Guard Riders also get to ride in) Still it is an incredible feeling riding among all the perfectly placed headstones. So perfect in fact that any direction you look down a row they are in a perfectly straight line.
The purpose of the ride into Arlington is to witness 4 Run For The Wall riders laying a wreath at the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier. This honor is bestowed upon 4 deserving individuals. Representing the Central Route this year is Roger “Pops” Hageman. Representing the Midway Route is Jim “Curly” Grafner and Daryl “Top” Neil. Representing the Southern Route is Jim “Stoney” Stone. This is an honor that these men will never forget. The Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier is a sacred place located in Arlington National Cemetery.
We go into Arlington as a group and MUST leave as a group. There is no lingering or looking around Arlington. That can be done on a individual basis but not while the RFTW group is in the cemetery. The group rides out of Arlington toward the Lincoln Memorial and The Viet Nam Memorial Wall. We are able to park our bikes on a grassy area not too far from both.
The next order of business is the annual group picture on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. There were approximately 1800 riders in the picture and it is always nice to get it in the mail and try to find yourself.
As soon as the picture is taken the group heads for The Viet Nam Memorial Wall where a small presentation is done presenting a plaque that says :
Run For The Wall 28
May 28, 2016
“Run For The Wall” presents this plaque in Honor of all the participants in our 28th year
Riders come to the “Wall” to remember our Fallen Brothers and Sisters from all wars and conflicts
POW/MIA, KIA you are not forgotten
“Mission First and We Leave No Man Behind”
May 18-28, 2016
It is a very special plaque with a very special meaning to all of us. After this presentation we are dismissed and can now go home. Some stay for a day or two in DC and play tourist. Some head straight home. Some head home in groups while others ride home completely by themselves. I was told by one rider who rides home alone, it was his “decompression” time. I didn’t understand at first but I do now. After so much anxious planning, then the riding in the pack, then the amazing stories and healing we see along the way, it does take some alone time to let it all soak in before we re-enter into our “normal” daily lives.
And there it is. Another great year in the books. Not without its challenges, not without its mishaps but a very successful mission none the less.
I can’t wait for next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! See you then.
Your humble SitRep Writer……………………signing out for the last time……………BOOM
Your humble SitRep Writer signing off…………………………………….BOOM