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President’s Message December 2020

President’s Message:

On behalf of the Board of Directors and our 2021 Route Coordinators I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and a joyful holiday season. Moreover, we wish you all a very Happy and better New Year- which should not be hard as 2020 disappears in our rear-view mirrors.  Already the virus vaccine looks like something we can be grateful for, especially concerning the nation’s health. I am also grateful we will get the chance to complete our thirty-second annual Run For The Wall next spring.

The December Board of Directors opened this month with a virtual briefing from our new Washington DC Coordinator, Gail Dipple. Gail has contacted the hotels we are familiar with and is working on another hotel based on the current registration numbers. Additionally, we are all working to make RFTW routes more efficient and safer arrivals into Arlington. We will once again ask folks to avoid driving into the Holiday Inn’s parking lot if you do not have a reservation with them.

On the West Coast, California state coordinator Carol Olmstead has completed her hotel contracts which will be published along with all route hotel lists on Jan. 1, 2021. The combined hotels will have plenty of rooms available to meet our needs all across the country. In California, conference rooms will be available along with a vendor area. Please keep reading your route coordinator’s monthly briefings for any further details of hotels and other RC updates.

With the start of December, I was waiting for stories and documentaries on the attack on Pearl Harbor that occurred Dec. 7, 1941. I was disappointed there was so little on television or the Internet. What was framed as “the day that will live in infamy” by President Roosevelt as he declared war on Japan seemed minimized in contrast to last year.

The History Channel did have a good historical review that outlined the “lead up” to Pearl Harbor, then the attack itself.

There is much in our history that should not be forgotten or minimized, and I believe that keeping dates – such as the day Pearl Harbor was attacked – in focus is the duty of veterans and veteran organizations who know more than most the pain and life-changing events of warfare.

Please join me in marking historical days on your 2021 calendar in remembrance of service members and their families, that they are not forgotten.  “We ride for those who can’t.”

Thank You

As I conclude the last message of 2020, I would like to thank all the riders and supporters of Run For The Wall for your loyalty, energy and the time you donate to Run For The Wall.  Your participation is critical to each year’s success. Each year we reach out to riders and supporters seeking skills that are needed to fill positions on the routes, board committees and Board of Directors. At this time, we are seeking someone willing to serve on the BOD as Risk Management Director. If you are interested, please click on the following link to read the required skills:  https://rftw.us/forums/topic/seeking-applicants-for-director-of-risk-management-registration-2021/   If you are qualified  please send a resume to Diann McKee at diann.mckee@rftw.us.

Once again have a great holiday season, a blessed Christmas, and hold your family close.

Is it May yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
President Run For The Wall, Inc

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President’s Message, November 2020

 

President’s Message:

November is a very busy month for most Americans.  Veteran’s Day is special because nearly every town provides events and ceremonies for veterans across America. I hope you all participated in celebrating what veterans have done for their country evidenced by their military service and their respect for our Constitution as citizens. For those of us who served, there is no question that military service strengthened our collective respect for the Constitution, especially each time we took the oath of office, “I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies both foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me; according to the regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”

We all took this oath – without exception – and when we see a patch on veteran vests reading, “My oath of office does not have an expiration date…” it largely amplifies the deep respect and love we share for our Constitution and military.

I have a friend who is a great example of all I mentioned above. His name is Hershel “Woody” Williams. Many of you may have met him a few years ago at an Angel Fire Reunion. Woody’s story is the example of what I think everyone who has served can follow once they hold the vaulted title of “citizen.” Woody is the only surviving Marine out of twenty-three Marines who were awarded the Medal of Honor for actions on Iwo Jima during World War two. He was a Flame Thrower Operator MOS 781.

 

After the war Woody started a 33-year
career with the VA while working with a
variety of veteran organizations. His latest
venture is the Hershel “Woody” Williams
Medal of Honor Foundation, a non-profit
that provides scholarships to Gold Star
children that facilitates the establishment of
Gold Star Family memorial monuments.
Please click here to watch one of America’s
greatest treasures.

I have heard from many riders who are keeping up with the individual route coordinator’s monthly messages. Your comments have all been positive and I urge any new participants to check these monthly briefings to discover new information about your selected route. The Board of Directors met this past week to discuss the planning process which appears to be going smoothly. The business closures we have discussed in the past months have mostly been replaced. At this meeting we discovered another Harley Davidson business in Ontario which has closed, however, we are hoping it can be replaced by another HD business that is nearby.

We are saddened to hear about these closures because not only do these dealerships help our riders while we are in Ontario and along our routes, but most of them have been very generous donors to Run For the Wall.

The hotel lists are nearly complete on all routes and we’ll be able to post them right after the first of January. Hotels in Ontario are almost complete and the use of the Gateway is still unknown. Hotels in Arlington are complete and our new DC coordinator, Gail Dippel, has been doing a great job not only with hotels but with coordination of our events with state and local police escorts. All routes are continuing to gain riders in addition to last year’s registrations.

We wish you all a happy Thanksgiving – a time we can be with our families enjoying the blessing of American citizenship.

Is it May yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
President, Run For The Wall, Inc

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President’s Message, October 2020

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

President’s Message:

Here it is October and the leaves are turning to fall colors here in Colorado while the mountains are showing evidence of high-altitude snow.

Our October Board of Directors meeting was held in mid-month with plenty of work for everyone. I want to thank the RCs/SCs for their work in finding new hotels, service providers and other folks instrumental in making RFTW successful. While there are a few holes left to plug in some routes you can be sure they will be filled soon. Our California coordinator, Carol Olmstead, is busy getting Ontario hotels contracted. There is some question at this time if the Gateway Hotel will have their construction complete in time for our arrival. Seems they have used the California lockdown to work on their remodeling project, but the last I heard from Carol the Gateway was not sure they will be completed in time for our arrival. We have a new Washington Coordinator, Gail Dipple, working to complete the contracts for our arrival in D.C.

As I mentioned in my last message there are still folks wondering if Covid-19 will prevent us from completing the 2021 RFTW. After talking to several folks who asked this question, I can only say that the Board of Directors and the RCs are working hard planning for next spring’s mission. Folks, we are tackling the damage done after postponing the 2020 Run For The Wall last spring while progressing into the final stages of planning for 2021. I am asking you all to join us in our vision and support for the XXXII Run For The Wall May 2021. Our registrations continue to grow and those who have signed up are eager to start the mission. If you have signed up for a specific route, please be sure to read your Route Coordinator’s monthly messages on the website rftw.us for any updates or changes.

As October slowly fades keep in mind that Veteran’s Day will soon be upon us – Wednesday, Nov. 11.

If you are lucky enough that your area has veteran’s events scheduled, take some time to attend – especially those in the schools. The kids are very excited and respectful to see you in their classrooms and auditoriums. Even if you have to “socially distance and wear a mask.” We Ride For Those Who Can’t.

Is it May yet?

Les “Easy” Williams
President Run For The Wall, Inc

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President’s Message, September 2020

President’s Message:

Well here it is September and a week from the Kerrville, Texas reunion. The events scheduled can be found on the website at https://rftw.us/forums/topic/tx-reunion-for-all-past-present-and-future-rftw-riders/ Please note the deadline for registration for postmarked registration is Sept.21.

The Board of Directors met last week for our regular meeting. This meeting focused on planning issues underway for Run For The Wall four routes. Each Route Coordinator briefed the Board on their individual routes. All four RCs reported the planning process is going smoothly and each is working on hotel blocks for the 2021 RFTW.

As mentioned in my last message we have anticipated business closures as a result of some Covid-19 pandemic draconian regulations. Some of those businesses along our routes have closed and scheduled lunch stops have been cancelled.

Our State Coordinators are working hard to fill in those closures as they are discovered. State Coordinators are amazing and a blessing to RFTW. They have a tough job and are usually found juggling many balls at the same time. With this issue they have been on top of their game. Next year if you get to meet these leaders don’t hesitate to thank them for their faithful attention to our journey.

Getting over this wall with…
a little help from our friends.

During August I heard from several RFTW riders with concerns about whether there would be a RFTW 2021. I know the pandemic and all the other disruptions that have occurred this summer have weighed heavily on many riders. I reminded each caller that the Board of Directors and the Route Coordinators are planning and working hard for RFTW 2021.

With that said I think most of our riders weathered the storms of Vietnam, Panama, Somalia, Desert Storm, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria and I think we need to think about how we successfully weathered those tumultuous times to put this year’s issues in perspective.

Nothing was easy on this beach…

RFTW Director of Risk Management Diann McKee sent me the current registration numbers which reveal additional interest in our mission with approximately 40 new registrations in August.

The stats breakdown for 2021 (as of Sept. 13):

  • Central Route – 417
  • Midway Route – 288
  • Southern Route – 413
  • Sandbox Route – 331

(Fewer than 10 riders have cancelled for 2021)

I am very pleased with the ongoing planning process and the hurdles that your BOD, Route Coordinators, leadership crews, and State Coordinators have accomplished this this year to keep RFTW afloat in these troubled times – like all veterans, surrender is not in their vocabulary. I am equally proud of riders from all routes who have responded to our calls to purchase dated merchandise from the RFTW store. You have our utmost respect and gratitude for shopping in the RFTW store. We know you have many other choices where to shop but you chose to shop at RFTW.us and that act of loyalty and kindness did not go unnoticed. Our finances are in very good shape and have improved this past summer as donations have been received from private donors and through our account with smil.amazon.com. If you are not signed up with smile.amazon.com please consider signing up, choose Run For The Wall as your organization and watch Amazon donations increase. Signing up costs you nothing as Amazon donates a percentage from the total purchases made by RFTW Amazon Smile customers each quarter.

Before I sign off, I would like to inform you that a former RFTW rider participant who rode for many years with the Central Route has passed away. Monte “Bull Rider” Apodoca was a passionate rider who worked hard for veteran issues and rode with RFTW to further assist veterans from all wars. Monte made many friends along the Central Route and many of you may have known him. Monte’s brother and sister-in-law, Tim and Linda Hulette of Lakewood, Colo., notified us of his death a few days ago. They have set up a Go-fund-me account for his wife Linda Apodoca, titled “A New Life for the Bull Rider’s Wife” Monte Apodaca Memorial Fund. If you are interested in donating the link is: https://gf.me/u/yyb4gi . Rest in peace, Monte.

Is It May Yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President

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President’s Message, July 2020

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

The Board of Directors and Route Coordinators met after Midway’s All Routes Reunion making this a busy month for those who attended both events. The Midway Reunion was a great time attended by many riders. The pictures this month reflect the good attendance during the Tennessee Reunion. All three pictures were taken the first day during a lunch stop near Franklin, Tennessee.

This lunch stop was at a park where Subway sandwiches were waiting for the riders. Due to Covid-19 restrictions on limited crowds in restaurants, this picnic lunch was necessary and fun. Above Ken “Six String” Dugas is enjoying the ride. He and a team that featured Ron King, Ed Butler and Gina Cutrer, hosted a great event culminating in a presentation of donations to tornado victims of the Cookeville, Tenn. area, and a tremendous fireworks show. Check out Ken’s route coordinator message here.

While on the Tennessee Reunion ride, we learned the Angel Fire, N.M. Reunion planned for Labor Day was cancelled, due to an order from the New Mexico governor. Sad news. As of July 2, Cowboy said the Kerrville, Tex., Reunion will be a go as long as the YO (hotel/convention center) is open. Click here to read Cowboy’s updates.

Later in July the Board met and discussed how each route was doing in their planning process for RFTW 2021. Each route reported that planning was going well, and they are all contacting the businesses that support them.

As most of you know most businesses have suffered enormous losses due to the lockout this spring and the flare up seen this summer. Reports from the Small Business Administration this week indicated that 1.8 million small businesses have close or filed for bankruptcies.

We are moving forward assuring those who have served us over the years that we will be supporting them in 2021.

Merchandise Director Ray Brammer reminded the BOD that 2020 merchandise is still on sale at 50 percent off and free delivery (for orders over $50) for the rest of the year. Ray told us that the riders have participated in huge numbers since RFTW 2020 was cancelled. Ray wants you all to know how much he and the rest of the BOD appreciates your support. Check out the merchandise tab soon because some have already sold out.

Risk Management Director, Diane McKee discussed with the board dates for opening RFTW 2021 Registration. After a short discussion it was decided to open on August 1, 2020. For those folks who registered for the 2020 RFTW and chose to turn over your registration for 2021 you do not have to do anything further unless, for some reason, you cannot make the 2021 RFTW. We will need to know about any cancellations so our Route Coordinators have an accurate number of riders. If you have not registered for the Sandbox Route, there are special instructions on the Sandbox Tab of how to contact RC Billy “Bugs’ Dunlap to be placed on “waiting list”.

Our meeting ended sadly when Central Route, RC Tom Miller announced that long time riders and former Board of Director, John King passed away on July 6th.  John King and his wife, Elle have supported RFTW for a very long time and was a great friend to hundreds of riders. John was a kind and soft-spoken man who lived to help his fellow man.

His experience with RFTW was legendary and if asked for advice he would kindly give to anyone. Several years ago, this writer, while eating lunch with John, asked him several questions that I knew would help our current BOD with some history. John smiled and very softly told me we were on the right path with the issue and that he had experienced a similar problem while on the board. The conversation was enlightening in many ways and I will always count John King as a very good friend and mentor. Details of a memorial service are pending and when I get the details, I will pass it along.

The family has said that if you wish to make a donation, please send a check to Michael G. Yazzie-King Scholarship, c/o Eve’s Fund, PO Box 3592, Newport, RI 02840-0301, in memory of John and Ela’s son Michael. Their daughter Jessica has posted additional information on Facebook. Rest in peace, John.

Is It May Yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President

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President’s Message, June 2020

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

Usually in the month of June I am writing about how the four routes did on RFTW 2020! I miss the preliminary information we normally get and the great stories I enjoy sharing with you all. So, since our journey was a virtual one this year I can say by the calls and emails I have received from riders you all found a few smiles and laughs and some tears in the nostalgia of the Virtual RFTW 2020.

During the end of May I did receive calls from riders who saw the damage done to the World War II and Lincoln Memorials and feared the Vietnam Memorial Wall was damaged, too. I was at a loss to answer but must confess I had the same fear. I called John Staub, our Washington DC State Coordinator, who in turn asked his Park Service Police contacts if the “Wall” had been damaged during the riots. The Park Service Police said the “Wall” was not damaged or defaced and starting on Tuesday, June 2 National Guard troops would begin providing security for the Vietnam Wall and many others until the riots end. Moreover, we heard from the folks at Arlington National Cemetery that our wreath-laying request was granted for 2021.

In last month’s message I discussed some RFTW financial issues with you while laying out the problem we have with 2020 pins. Once again you all came through and responded in a big way. BOD Merchandise Director Ray Brammer’s big sales on pins was a big hit with you all. Now, as we approach the 4th of July, I think Ray may have in mind a surprise that you shoppers might find encouraging. Just keep an eye on the RFTW store in the coming days.

One more item before I close that I want to mention that most folks seldom hear about. RFTW every year receives water and food item donations from PepsiCo and Nestle’s that sustains RFTW riders all across the country—keeping everyone hydrated and snack happy every day of the run on most of our routes. The person who is responsible for securing all these donations and the one who makes sure they are distributed to the routes is our California State Coordinator Carol Olmstead. Carol also receives a big hand up from our M-25 chaplains. I’ve worked with Carol for many years and watched her help RFTW riders and supporters with the heart of a servant.

Carol Olmstead, photo by Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

I affectionally refer to Carol as the original “Energizer Bunny.” She makes important things happen for a whole bunch of people including all the events in Ontario prior to our departure.

Now, if that were not enough, she also runs the Southern Route’s merchandise trailer sales all the way. In 2021 Carol will handle the merchandise sales for the Sandbox Route, too. So, you ask, “But what happened to all the food and hydration that was donated for the 2020 RFTW?” Much of it would expire or be impractical to store until May 2021.

Given the postponement this year Carol found many folks throughout the country who are and were in need of these items. She has made sure that all the donations have been sent to folks in need. Many of these food stocks and hydration pallets were sent to our friends on the Navajo Reservations in New Mexico. COVID-19 has hit this area of the nation exceptionally hard and their needs were never in question. In fact, the city of Gallup, N.M. was entirely closed off due to an exceptionally hot outbreak. Great work, Carol, we appreciate everything you do!

Connie and I are heading to Tennessee for the All-Routes Reunion July 2-4. Ken “Six String” Dugas and his team have raised a lot of money and will make some special presentations at Cookeville for tornado relief. If you are so inclined to donate you may send a check to RFTW BOD Treasurer Ken Ward noting the donation is for “Cookeville Tornado Relief”– about 5 or 6 veteran homes have been identified as in big need.  Looking forward to seeing some RFTW family on this reunion. Hope you have plans to make it to Tennessee, Angel Fire, N.M. and/or Kerrville, Tex., and hope to see you at one or more of the reunions! Check out the route hubs on the website for more information.

Is It May Yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President

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President’s Message

President’s Message:

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

I hope as we wrap up the “Virtual Run For The Wall” you all found some comfort in all the videos and pictures. From the feedback I have received and the number of hits on the website it was welcomed in all quarters. I want to thank RFTW BOD communications director Nick Hentges, webmaster Ted Kapner, Sitrep writers Jean Gault CR, Jim McCrain MR and Patti Brogan SR/SB for an outstanding job in making the “Virtual RFTW” happen.

I suspect there are many of you who would like some info on how this all ends for RFTW 2020. As you know we have continued a legacy of placing a plaque each year at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Obviously, this year the “Mission Completed” part did not occur, however today, May 23, at Approximately 1230 a plaque was placed at the apex of the Wall to honor this mission “…on behalf of all RFTW riders and supporters.” John Staub, our DC coordinator, and James “Gunny” Gregory, founder, were invited to conduct the final portion of RFTW 2020.

For those who would have ridden on the Sandbox look for the posts from Billie Dunlop as they head to Marseilles, Ill., via another Virtual RFTW Sandbox Route.   

It’s been awhile since I wrote about RFTW without a camera and the associated props. After the videos and the emails promoting RFTW merchandise our family responded with vigor. Thank you all for supporting RFTW in a big way. We are hoping the sales remain steady throughout the summer so I’ll be mentioning them from time to time. Right now, we are flush with pins resulting in great sales on this item.

In a normal year we would be asking routes to return pins that were left over and, in some cases, folks just showed up with bags of left-over pins. Frankly pins have always been a way for RFTW route staff to have a good will offering to our supporters on our ten-day journey to Washington and Marseilles. If we take a big loss this year it will be on these pins. I understand they are a small item but when we buy 30,000 or more it becomes a big problem. So, if I can ask our family, one more time, to purchase our heavily discounted pins we would be grateful. (https://rftw.us/run-for-the-wall-merchandise-shop/)There will plenty of opportunities this summer and fall to pass out our “good will” offerings to everyone you meet at the reunions and other summer outings. Ray has also started the 50 percent off Memorial Day sales on merchandise which should make your shopping much easier.

In other business the board met last week and elected John Staub, our Washington DC coordinator, to the Board of Directors. John lives in central Pennsylvania and recently retired as assistant fire chief of the Army. John will be taking over responsibilities of operations director and will begin his new position July 1 as operations director Doug Lyvere completes his final term of office. Doug has faithfully served RFTW for six years as a member of the board and a long-time road guard for the Southern Route. Doug will continue his road guard duties and we wish him the very best as he moves forward.

Now, that the COVID-19 virus seems to be waning we all must look ahead to the hidden consequences of this virus. As you all know we are all supported by our state coordinators who arrange stops at both commercial entities as well as schools/service-related organizations. The consequences of a national shutdown can and will cause RFTW to be vigilant of who is still in business and those who did not survive the draconian shut down. Good intelligence from our riders will be important in the coming days to keep your route leadership briefed on these closures so adjustments can be made for 2021. If you find one our wonderful vendors struggling, please make an effort to support them once they open up. This matters both for our friends and Run For Wall 2021.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and route coordinators we want you all to know how grateful we are for your support. Stand fast – this hidden enemy will be gone soon as we all work to get America on her feet again.

Is it May 2021 yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
President Run For The Wall, Inc

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FROM THE PRESIDENT, RUN FOR THE WALL, INC.

March 20, 2020

On behalf of the Board of Directors, it is my sad task to announce that we are cancelling RFTW XXXII scheduled for May 2020, because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  This action reflects the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, with the concurrence of all four Route Coordinators.  We felt it necessary to make this decision now so that riders will have sufficient time to take whatever actions may be needed, such as cancelling reservations, without incurring any penalties.  We also felt it was necessary so that our state coordinators could begin notifying the communities and organizations who support us as soon as possible.

The Board of Directors did not reach this decision lightly.  Each of us agonized over it and came to this conclusion with the utmost reluctance. We ask for your understanding and support.  Rest assured, our next regular Board meeting on April 9th will mark the beginning of our planning to resume THE MISSION in 2021.

From each of us on the Board, and from your Route Coordinators, thank you!

Les Williams
President, RFTW Board of Directors