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Run For The Wall Sandbox Route Newsletter – January 2024

Run for the Wall Mission Statement

To promote healing among 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, and to support our military personnel all over the world.

 Introduction – Happy 2024 to all Riders

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

Welcome to the new year, RFTW Riders! As we embark on the journey that 2024 brings, let’s reflect on the power of gratitude. The ability to express thankfulness has a remarkable impact, not just on ourselves but on those around us. Our mission serves as a daily reminder to give thanks and give back, with positivity and gratitude. WE get to do this because of the sacrifice of others!

FNGs (Friendly New Guys & Gals) – A Warm Welcome

A special welcome to all our Friendly New Guys & Gals (FNGs). Your presence enriches our community, and we’re thrilled to have you on board. As of now, we have 213 registered Participants, 62 of which are FNGs, and the Sandbox family keeps growing.

Introducing Heidi “Blue” Hansing, Sandbox Route Coordinator
At this point, I should introduce myself, because as of December 2023, I am your Sandbox Route Coordinator (RC). I’d like to give you a little background on my military experience and also my Run For The Wall experience.

Military Experience

I enlisted in the US Army as a 17-year old freshman in college and served simultaneously in the US Reserves and ROTC until my college graduation and commissioning as a Second Lieutenant. I graduated with a BA degree in International Affairs, a Specialty in Soviet Politics, and a Minor in Military Science. After the Officer Basic Course (OBC) as an Adjutant General officer, I earned my  jump wings at Airborne School, Fort Benning, GA. I then served the remainder of my active duty service as the Assistant S-1 with the 7th Signal Brigade in Karlsruhe, Germany.

RFTW Experience

I began my RFTW story in 2018, as an FNG riding ATW in 4th PLT on Southern Route.  In 2019, I rode in 1st PLT, and also rode the first Recon of Sandbox, as a Plankholder of the fledging Route.  I then served as APL for the “unofficial” core group of ATW riders in the first year of Covid, 2020.  In 2021, I rode the entire length of James “Gunny” Gregory’s very first RFTW route (the “Legacy” route), stopping where he stopped along what is today known as Central Route. In 2022, I was the APL for 1st PLT on Southern Route, and Road Guard on Sandbox’s Inaugural Run, where I found my true calling as Road Guard. In 2023, I was RG on Midway and again on Sandbox. I believe deeply in the mission of RFTW, the ‘Magic of the Run”, and feel fiercely protective of my RFTW family.  I am deeply humbled to serve as the RC of Sandbox in 2024, and I hope I can convey the commitment and passion and I feel for the RFTW mission and the future of RFTW.  My heart is to lead by serving with gratitude in my heart, as we ride for those who can’t. I am so grateful I get to do this with YOU.

 

Introducing William “COB” Brehler, Sandbox Route ARC

I am also very honored to Introduce you to Bill “COB” Brehler, my Assistant Route Coordinator (ARC) as of January 2024. He brings 28 years of military service and leadership to the table that will greatly benefit Sandbox.

Military Experience

Bill Brehler joined the Navy in July of 1973 and served a total of 28 years. His sea tours include five Submarines, one surface ship and a helicopter squadron. He was selected as Chief of the Boat (COB) on USS Swordfish as a Senior Chief from 1987 – 1988. The sub was decommissioned early and he was sent to be the COB on the USS Helena from 1988- 1991. He achieved the rank of Master Chief during his tour on Helena.

From Helena Brehler was ordered to Submarine Development Group One as the squadron Command Master Chief from 1992 – 1995. His next sea tour was Command Master Chief on an Amphibious ship, the  USS Deluth from 1995 – 1998 where he worked with both Sailors and Marines on deployments. He completed my career as the Command Master Chief of Helicopter Combat Support Squadron 3 in 2001.

“My leadership style changed over the years as I grew and learned. On my first COB tour, I was an authoritarian, barking orders, chewing A@@, and taking names because this was the way my previous COBs got things done. It seemed effective, but didn’t really feel right. As my career progressed, I  was fortunate to have some outstanding Commanding Officers who taught me a great deal about leadership.  I learned that people will follow you anywhere if you treat them right and show them respect. This is one of the things I love about RFTW. Everyone respects one another and treats one another with kindness and understanding.”

RFTW Experience

“I signed up for the run in 2020 and again in 2021. I got really good at making and then canceling hotel reservations. My FNG year was 2022 on Midway where I was the Tail Gunner for 1st Platoon. My good friend, Doc Vaughan, called me several weeks before the run and asked me to be his Tail Gunner on 1st Platoon. The person that was supposed to be his TG had a bike wreck and couldn’t make the run. I told him I didn’t think FNGs could be in leadership, but he said they would make an exception due to the time crunch to find someone else. I rode Sandbox as a participant in 1st Platoon in 2022. I rode Midway as Platoon Leader for 6th Platoon and filled in as the Platoon Coordinator at the last minute in 2023. I road on the Fuel Team for Sandbox in 2023.I am the Platoon Coordinator and 1st Platoon Leader on Midway for 2024.” And now ARC for Sandbox Route 2024.

 

Please Register Soon

Early bird registration prices are available until January 31st at $15 per person. After that, prices will go up to $20. Be sure to lock in your registration before the prices change on February 1st. Early registration helps us in the planning process, as we make platoon assignments, and arrangements for fuel, food, lodging, special use permit applications, and outreaches.

Route Planning Update

Many thanks to our State Coordinators, Gail Dippel , Brandon “Five-O” McCray, and Ed “F-N-Nuts” Samuels for rapidly securing hotel accommodations  for our Riders – the entire hotel list was published on January 1.

We’ve entered the home stretch of route planning. We’ve had some location and timing changes that we are still working through.  Once we lock in those details, we will publish the official 2024 itinerary on the website in the Sandbox Route Hub. You can still reference the 2023 itinerary for the general idea of the Route, and stay tuned for the finalized itinerary on our website.

Important Links

For any questions you may have, check out our FAQs first.  Then your next level of inquiry can be directed to your platoon leadership. We’ve got a strong cadre of leadership in the Pack Platoons and they are a great source of information, as is our FNG Liaison, Bernadette “Flat Tire” Staples, for our first-timers. All contact information is available in the Sandbox Route Hub on the RFTW website.  Additionally, familiarize yourself with our Rider Code of Conduct.

Discover the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial (MECMW)

Did you know that the MECMW is a living wall and was built by patriotic bikers to honor the fallen heroes of conflicts in the ME and support veteran organizations and Gold Star families?  Please take the time to visit the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial page and become more familiar with the history of this memorial and the names included on this Wall.  You can search names ahead of our visit to ascertain their location on the Wall.

Celebration of Life for Capt. Ronald Forrester, formerly MIA

As an integral Participant in Run For The Wall, Karoni Forrester has faithfully advocated for MIA families on the Run, while still pursuing answers about her father who has been missing in action since Dec 27, 1972.  Just last month, on December 4, 2023, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) finally identified the remains of Captain Ronald W. Forrester.   You can watch a wonderful news interview with Karoni HERE. Karoni and her family invite you to a decades-awaited Celebration of Life for her father, Capt. Ronald Forrester, on Saturday, February 3, 2024, at 2 pm at the Lake Travis United Methodist Church in Austin, TX.

Run For The Wall® Valentine’s Day Fundraiser

Gear up for Valentine’s Day 2024 with our fundraiser in collaboration with See’s Candies. Purchase sweet treats and support the RFTW Mission simultaneously – it’s a win-win! A window will pop up as soon as you visit the RFTW website.

Looking Ahead…

I just want to give you a heads up that we’ve got some new services to offer to our Sandbox Riders and all the details will be forthcoming in the next newsletter:  Pre-Paid Fuel option and Luggage Transport Fundraiser.  So stay tuned for those details as they are meant to streamline our Route Operations and make your Run smoother in the process.

Let’s ride into 2024 with gratitude, unity, and a shared commitment to our Mission. See you on the road, Family!

Ride Safe,

Blue