During the call, we spoke of the “22”. How every day we continue to lose veterans to suicide. I thought about how, long ago, a group of Vietnam Vets recognized issues our government was not willing to address, and like veterans do, took it upon themselves to make it happen. How, in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood, they started our Mission. How some of our current vets are suffering from the same traumatic impacts associated with serving that many of our Vietnam Vets suffer through. How wars and conflicts, generations apart, are still impacting those who carry out our national policies. How maybe we have lost some of our focus on the Run. And it doesn’t have to be PTSD related. Our society is recognizing moral injury as a serious issue as well. Are we still truly dedicated to helping reduce the number suffering?
The call made me reflect on my FNG year and how my platoon leader, every morning, spoke with each member of the platoon to see how they were doing, to see if they needed anything. To ensure that our experience on the Run was living up to our needs and expectations. To make sure the members of their platoon were taken care of. Leadership at its best. He went the extra mile to ensure each and every one of us was taken care of based on our individual needs.
I thought about our Chaplain Corp. How so very well prepared they are to help us heal, about how their Mission is solely dedicated to helping others. How they go out of their way to look for signs of stress and other indicators that might require their special skills. How they are always available. I remember hearing about an individual on the Run that came home from Vietnam in 1969 and had not been east of the Mississippi since. How, for three straight years, our chaplains and others worked with this person to get him across the Mississippi. In the fourth year, this person was finally able to go to the Wall. No One Left Behind!!
I thought about the man wearing a Vietnam Veteran hat that approached me one year at the Village Inn restaurant in Colby, KS. We were on our way to California for the Run and, of course, had our RFTW vests on. He came up to our table and asked if we were part of RFTW. I stood to greet him, and when I answered in the affirmative, he shook my hand and thanked us for doing what we do. He was a Vietnam vet, a motorcycle rider, and explained that while he wanted to go to the Wall, he just could not, it was too painful. He spoke of when RFTW stopped in Colby and how proud he was as he relived his past with others that understood. I gave him a hearty Welcome Home and invited him to sit with us and talk. He had to get to an appointment but wanted to reach out and let us know that what we do makes a difference. Maybe, just maybe, him seeing us again and speaking with us made a difference in his life. We Ride for Those Who Can’t.
I thought about our Outreach teams. How very important their job is – reaching out and touching families that suffered through the ultimate sacrifice or those that may still have MIA family members or friends. Reminding those families and friends that they and theirs are not forgotten. That we will continue to call for an accounting of those missing in action. That we Ride For Those Who Can’t.
I thought about our Ambassadors and how they stop and reach out to people across the country, whether at an overpass on an Interstate or gathered to meet us at one of our stops. How many veterans and veteran supporters have our Ambassadors touched? How many Welcome Home hugs or handshakes have they given? How many thousands of supporters have our Ambassadors encountered and carried the message that we Ride For Those Who Can’t and that we sincerely appreciate them coming out to support our efforts.
I’m sure each of you have had similar thoughts and experiences. As we prepare for Run XXXIII, let’s not lose sight of the healing aspect of our Mission. If we dedicate ourselves to Continue the Mission, if, in the spirit of true Brotherhood, we look out for one another, if we think about the special skills our Chaplains and others bring to our Mission, we can help ensure that no one is left behind. No One Left Behind!!
With those thoughts in mind, I would like to challenge everyone, especially those in leadership positions, especially at the platoon level, to take an extra moment each and every day to ensure your people are okay. Make sure your people know you care and that you have their best interests at heart. I know you have their best interest at heart, else you would not volunteer for a leadership position. Make sure you are familiar with the resources we have immediately available so we can continue to promote healing. Don’t be ashamed to ask for the help of others if you do not have the answer or expertise to help a fellow rider.
It is not about the “ride”. It is not about what color hat you might wear. It is not about paid gas stops or free food. If you are here for those things, perhaps you might want to take some time to reflect on what RFTW is really about. Rededicate yourself to reflecting and living our core values and to Continue the Mission.
I know there are times when we get caught up in the logistics and the planning of the Run. I know that there are so many things that demand our attention that sometimes it seems like we can’t see the forest for the trees. But I assure you, the Board of Directors, our RCs, our Platoon Leaders, our Stagers, our Fuel teams, our Road Guards, everyone in a leadership position, is truly focused on ensuring that we live up to our Mission statement and Philosophy.
Let’s take the time to refocus on the Mission. Maybe, just maybe, we will make a difference in someone’s life.
Let’s continue to promote healing in the hope that our riders will return home to a new beginning.
John “Turkey” Staub
Acting President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member