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By now you’ve all read the message from the RFTW BOD President, Les Williams, officially postponing RFTW 2021. I know you are all very disappointed by the decision. I can assure you that the entire BOD was saddened by the necessity of their decision, as were all of the rest of us who support and participate in RFTW. Having participated in the meeting on February 20th, Paul and I can tell you the decision of the BOD was extremely difficult. I can also tell you that our state coordinators’ work in providing a timely update of their planning efforts was a crucial piece of the meeting, and of the BOD decision.
One by one, each of the Route Coordinators presented the current status of their route planning. It was difficult to sit through the meeting, hearing all the challenges that still remained for the run. The information received from the routes led to a consensus among meeting attendees that RFTW 2021 could not proceed safely, or without disruption from a variety of COVID restrictions. In addition, a key portion of planning information, which contributed to the BOD decision, came out of Washington, DC and Arlington, VA. Simply put, it was just not going to be possible for RFTW to complete its mission in DC.
To Central Route State Coordinators, I want to say thank you – thank you for your hard work in planning for RFTW 2021, for your perseverance in spite of the COVID threat, and for your continued dedication and commitment to RFTW and its mission. Without your efforts RFTW simply could not happen. I encourage you all to remain optimistic about the prospects for next year, and to stay in close and frequent contact with your planning partners. Paul and I look forward to working with you again in the very near future as we plan for RFTW 2022. Please feel free to call me or Paul if we can be of assistance.
Ride safely and stay well. God Bless the United States of America.
Tom (Boomps) Miller Run for the Wall Central Route Coordinator
Greetings from Mt. San Jacinto State Park in Idyllwild!
I hope this finds you all well and healthy. Last week at the Board of Directors Meeting, the decision was made to go full speed ahead with the 2021 Run. All state coordinators have been notified, and are working to put together hotel lists, and arrange venues for meals and gas stops.
I noticed that the Volunteer Sign-Up is offline. If you still hope to secure a position with one of the teams, reach out to me or my ARC, Bruce Bartolomeo, through the Central Route Contact list available online.
Just as a reminder, if you were registered for 2020, you are automatically registered for 2021. If you were registered last year and are not going to make the run in 2021, you need to cancel on our RFTW website. Changes or cancellations are made on RFTW 2021-Registration Revisions. The reason this is important is that we need to let the folks downstream know how many of us to expect in 2021.
I’d like to give a shout out to our Colorado and Alaska RFTW family. They are doing amazing fundraising in their respective states. Good work, guys!
Ride safely and stay well. God Bless the United States of America.
Tom (Boomps) Miller
Run for the Wall
Central Route Coordinator
Greetings from Nuevo,
I hope you all had a good July in your respective quarantines. I spent July in Nuevo trying to catch up on projects on the home front, but I did manage to squeeze in a few rides to Idyllwild. The highlight of my June was the Carson City Combat Hero Bike Build, and seeing so many RFTW friends there.
Things are loosening and tightening faster than we can track. By now you all are likely aware that our Angel Fire Reunion was cancelled. At present the Texas All-Riders reunion is still planned to take place in Kerrville Texas September 25-27. Our RFTW website has more information.
On August 1, registration for RFTW 2021 opened. The first person to register was a
Central Route All the Way rider! If you were registered for 2020, you are automatically registered for 2021. If you were registered last year and are not going to make the run in 2021, you need to cancel on our RFTW website. Changes or cancellations are made on RFTW 2021-Registration Revisions. The reason this is important is that we need to let the folks downstream know how many of us to expect in 2021.
Jan and I are headed back to Carpinteria State Beach on August 5 for five more weeks of camp hosting. I’ll check back in with you in mid-September. Until then, ride safely and stay well. God Bless the United States of America.
Tom (Boomps) Miller
Run for the Wall
Central Route Coordinator
Day 3, May 26, 2020 – Lafayette, IN, to Marseilles, IL, 191 miles
We departed Gilman and headed to Starved Rock Harley-Davidson in Ottawa, IL, for lunch. As always, the stops are more than hospitable to all of us. After the lunch break, we staged by platoons to ride the 11 miles to Marseilles and the Middle East Conflicts Wall.
The Middle East Conflicts Wall – our destination. The MECW commemorates the service men and women who have lost their lives in worldwide conflicts since 1967. Dedicated in 2004, the project was conceived by Tony Cutrano and Jerry Kuczera and built with donated material and labor. It’s the first of its kind to give honor to the fallen by name while a conflict is ongoing. Names on the wall include fallen heroes from such diverse locations as Panama, Lebanon, the Balkans, Grenada, Somalia, terrorist attacks in Italy, Greece, an Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the current conflicts in the Middle East.
This is where we would pay our respect and honor the sacrifices of those who have fallen. Names continue to be added each year usually in June in conjunction with a motorcycle freedom run. Text at the memorial affirms all those commemorated are heroes who died for freedom and will never be forgotten.
The Middle East Conflicts Wall is a memorial you have to want to see, to go visit. It’s not in the middle of a big city; it’s actually kind of isolated. But it’s a memorial well worth visiting, and I believe all of us can agree on that.
Memorials bring many emotions to the surface. It can also be a not-so-kind reminder to those who have served. There are those who need our help in healing, and visiting these memorials and sharing friendship, a hand, or a hug may be able to help them along that road.
Because of the wars including the conflicts mentioned on the MECW, wounds are not always visible, and 22 men and women commit suicide every single day. Mission 22 is committed to lowering that number, hoping to reach the point of elimination. One of the best ways of helping is to reach out … to someone that you think might be at risk. Or if you’re at risk, please reach out to others. Every person on this Run is dedicated to helping others and wants to help. Please let them.
Be proud that you’ve been a part of the RFTW, Sandbox Route, Wall 2 Wall mission. You can stand up and say, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.” You’ve done it, and all of us hope to see you again next year.
“Nothing is strong as the heart of a volunteer.” Col. Jimmy Doolittle
Signing off for this year,
Photos for the Sandbox Virtual SITREPS courtesy of PhotosbyJerry.smugmug.com
Day 2, May 25, 2020 – Clairsville, OH, to Lafayette, IN, 359 miles
Bright and early we were at it again, and in for a long day. Briefings started at 6:30 AM. but there is breakfast at the North Star Indian, Polaris, Slingshot dealer, where we meet up and where we depart for the day. No one should ever go hungry on this mission … breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks.
If you were on the initial Run from California, you’re probably fatigued and running on adrenaline and caffeine. Be sure to stay hydrated. It’s important to your well-being and you’ll hear it time and again from the medical staff. Be sure to stop by the hydration station at every stop to get a drink and a snack. Don’t be a casualty. It won’t be pretty.
The VFW post in Union, OH, provided lunch for the day. There are usually some other treats in store, including music, memories or just time to get to know the people that are providing for us. Always try to get to know some of these folks as it’s one of the most rewarding relationships you can form along the route. Sometimes someone you’ll be seated near and chat with will relate their story of wars past. It’s an honor to have them share with us. A memory of theirs may hold a lot of anger or bitterness, but once that is shared with you, you have helped them to heal a bit. If it happens, share their tears, thank them and maybe give them a hug before you go on your way. Remember, one of the RFTW missions is to promote healing … and you will have just done that.
It was a long day and finally we arrived about 5:42 PM at our destination for the day, Hunter’s Moon Harley-Davidson. Dinner and the recognitions program for the Sandbox Route would go until about 8 PM. It was a long day as we rode for those who couldn’t. This is what we do. This is our mission.
“It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naïve, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.” Chris Kyle
Day 1, May 24, 2020 – Arlington, VA, to Clairsville, OH, 300 miles
Hi, and welcome to RFTW Sandbox Route – Wall 2 Wall. I’m Peppermint Patti, your sitrep writer, virtually this year. I hail from Alaska, born and raised. I’m 73 years old and still hopping on a motorcycle, hopefully for many more years. I’d be honored if you’d find me and say hi and share a few words with me. With that, let’s get started.
As always there’s excitement in the air when a group of motorcyclists get together. It’s even more exciting when you know that the ride you’ll be participating in is in its inaugural year. Welcome all to the Run For The Wall XXXII, Sandbox Route.
If you’ve done a RFTW you know what it’s about … The POW/MIAs, and keeping the awareness high, and supporting past and present service members, family and friends from all wars. However, this route focuses more on the service, sacrifice and contributions for the Sandbox era warriors. The Sandbox Route is special as it’s to raise awareness for the Middle East Conflicts Wall. This wall honors those Sandbox era warriors who have served and fallen.
Usually the rides start early, and this one is no exception. Pre-registration check in starts at 6 AM as well as registration if there are any spots available as the RFTW Sandbox route has only a limited number of spots. That’s a difference from the 10-day RFTW that runs from California to DC and gains and loses riders each day. There are always mandatory briefings, and for those who are new to the Run (FNGs/Friendly New Guys/Gals??), this one is no exception. That briefing starts at 6:30 AM.
From briefings we go to the all riders meeting and we have a prayer for the safety of everyone, the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements. Sometimes we may have a speaker with an experience to share. Sometimes we have 50/50 and raffle rousers selling tickets as we raise funds for the Run or a charitable organization. Whatever is going on here, the enthusiasm, the eagerness to get started continues to build until we break off into our platoons, get our platoon briefing that includes safety tips – including stay off the brakes and the zipper – and then we saddle up. Get those engines started.
Watching the platoons ride out, led by the leadership and us following, Platoon 1, 2, 3 for however many we have, is thrilling. This Run, this mission, is the best of the best … the Inaugural Run for the Sandbox Route and those of us on it have received a huge honor to be a part of it.
As the Sandbox riders file out, there will be people cheering, people on overpasses flying flags, shouting encouragement, giving the thumb’s up. It’s chilling and emotional, but it doesn’t get any better than this. The miles today total 300, with two fuel stops … words to the wise? Get your road pegs up, follow instructions from the fuelers, get in and get out and back into your platoon lineup. Sometimes our fuel is donated to us as people want to show their support for what we do.
Lunch today will be at the Pleasantville Post 9219 in Schellsburg, PA. Everyone treats us so well … food, and sometimes handing out little souvenir patches or pins, maybe sunscreen or hand sanitizer. You never know until you do the mission.
At precisely 12:56 PM the Run is scheduled to roll out and head to Stoystown, PA, the location of the Flight 93 National Memorial where there will be a wreath-laying ceremony by the RFTW Honor Guard. If you have an opportunity to be a part of the honor guard, take it. It’s truly an honor to march in step with others, to salute or put your hand over your heart, and lay a wreath honoring those who have passed by giving their lives to save others.
We have time to wander around the memorial. Inside there are phones where you can listen to some of the last calls made by those on the flight to their loved ones. As I write this I have chills going up and down my spine. When I visited, I could only listen to a couple of them. It was too heart-wrenching, too emotional, and tears fall even now as I think about it.
There is so much memorabilia to see from the aircraft and those heroes who gave up their lives, and a beautiful path to walk around the crash site with a wall containing their names. It inspires awe for those who sacrifice themselves.
Too soon it’s time to take our lives in our hands and venture onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike and head to our next fuel stop and then today’s destination in St. Clairsville, OH., where we’ll enjoy dinner courtesy of North Start Indian, Polaris, Slingshot. We thank all of those who support us, knowing their hearts and minds are with us as we ride for those who can’t. We also need to thank those in our leadership who have put this mission together, along with our fuelers, stagers, road guards, and so many others.
As you reflect upon the day’s journey, you’ll most likely find it quite intense and very different from any other run you’ve done. It’s emotional, but so rewarding. Enjoy your evening, and tomorrow – same time, so get some rest.
I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way. Capt. John Paul Jones
Southern Route, VIRTUAL Sitrep, Day 11, Saturday, May 23
Today we went to the host hotel downtown to meet up w our RFTW road guards. Their mission today is to take 400 of us to Arlington National Cemetery. Most of us are FNGs as we get the first dibs to go into the cemetery itself which is out of the ordinary. You have to feel special as RFTW is the only motorcycle group allowed to go in.
All 400 bikes were staged in the underground parking garage. It was pretty full. They had us packed four wide between the pillars. It was so close I couldn’t pick up my bike until the bagger next to me got picked up.
There was a briefing by the local police department. We’d be going the wrong-way on the ramp, hang a couple of sharp turns and do a U-turn. Oh yay. Then we’d be going down the interstate. We had police support all the way and they were alongside of us as well. Was nice. It’s been awesome having interstates closed, ramps closed, red lights that don’t matter, stop signs that don’t matter. We’ll have to be careful after this, though. Can’t be blowing through any of that stuff.
Row-by-row we started our engines and rolled out. It was pretty awesome as we went down the road two-by-two. We got to Arlington and they got us parked.
I checked a landmark statue to be sure I could find the bike again. Yep. Another reason for not buying a black bike. It’s hard enough even with Barracuda Barbie being a sparkly silver.
We got down to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, just in time for the Changing of the Guard ceremony and two wreath-laying ceremonies. One of the wreaths was from our RFTW group.
I’ve been to this cemetery one other time. It was much quieter and more peaceful then. With 400 motorcycles and maybe 550 people, tourists and the holiday folks, it was anything but quiet. It doesn’t matter how many people, the surroundings are still peaceful and beautiful; the wreath-laying ceremonies and the changing of the guard are moving and fascinating.
The Tomb of the Unknowns is a monument dedicated to American service personnel who have died without their remains being identified. The impeccably-uniformed guards wear Army dress blue uniforms and always bear their M-14 weapons away from the tomb as a gesture against intrusion on their post. There is a cadence of steps, and exact steps and times … 21 steps, 21 seconds. The number 21 was chosen because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed – the 21-gun-salute.
During the summer months from April through Sept. 30, the changing happens every half hour. It’s interesting what all they go through, what their duties are and what they must continue to do even after their tour here.
From there we were to leave with road guard support. It turned into quite a mess. My group, I believe, lost its road guard, and ended up not at the Lincoln Memorial where we were supposed to be. It was a few minutes in another direction. So I followed folks again. Then ended up behind some guys who were going to a hotel. Ugh. Went through the roundabout again and followed some other folks. Got there and parked after riding onto the sidewalk and parking on the grass. (Just remember, grass is not my friend). I took a photo of the street sign and looked around. I was on the backside of the memorial. I hurried as I was afraid I was going to miss the big group photo. I was okay. And sat on the steps and chatted with other folks. I couldn’t see my friend Joe even though I stood up a few times and looked around.
Now I was nervous as I didn’t know where Joe was. My phone was dying, meaning no way to get in touch with Joe. And no GPS to get me to the hotel. Backup plan. Ask someone to get me to the host hotel and find someone who could charge my phone. Made my last couple of charge percents count. Called Joe’s wife, Verlie. Told her I couldn’t find Joe. She got him and he got me. Met up and did not let him out of my sight again.
Joe and I wandered about a bit and saw other new friends Peter and Elisa. We found Tapout and got our FNG pins turned from upright to upside down. I was going to have G-Rex do it but never saw him after yesterday. ☹️. Super nice guys. Wonder what their real names are.
Finally left the area and got back to our hotel and got fed.
It was an exhilarating but emotional day … all the memorials, all the people I’d traveled with, saying goodbyes. RFTW can change your life … maybe mostly for those who have served, but also people like me who have not served are affected. Your awareness goes up several notches and you begin to understand a bit of what those who have served suffered through, and still suffer from. I believe the years I’ve been riding have led me to this run … RFTW. Is it May yet?
Day 10, May 22, 2020 — Lynchburg, VA, to Arlington, VA, 256 miles
A short day, today. Yay. We’re supposed to get in about 2 pm and get information about going into Arlington National Cemetery tomorrow. RFTW is the only group that is allowed to ride motorcycles into the cemetery.
At our meeting this am they called everyone up that dropped a bike. Just to clarify, I didn’t drop it just by myself. A guy ran into the back of me so it ended up on the ground. It turns out that about half the room went up to get a Purple Heart decal due to dropped bikes. I was in great company. 😊
For the FNGs that started in Ontario, they got the zip ties that will go on their bikes tomorrow before heading to the cemetery. The color is kept secret so people can’t go get some when they’re not supposed to.
PB&J is a favorite. Our last lunch as a group today was just that. It tasted great. And I’m still liking the long lines for the men’s room.
We had a harrowing journey getting into Arlington. Traffic. Traffic. Traffic. And the host hotel was downtown. I think. It wasn’t good. It only got worse after we left the host hotel to get to ours. Fourteen miles of a lot of stop-and-go traffic. People here don’t seem to be very courteous. And they don’t have cars here with turn signals.
It’s been quite the 10-day run. We’ve had a good time but it’s a grueling, exhausting, tense and mentally-draining run. But I believe we’ve helped raise the awareness of the mission through what we’ve done thereby accomplishing what we set out to do.
The folks I’ve met on RFTW all have a common bond, much like other groups I’m involved with, but this one is different. It can’t be explained, but these people are family helping each other to heal from the past. I’m proud to have come and proud to have been a part of it.
It’s been great for so many reasons and I’m ready to do it all over again. Is it May yet?
“Only our individual faith in freedom can keep us free.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower
Day 9, May 21, 2020 — Wytheville, VA, to Lynchburg, VA, 130 miles
We had our morning briefings, prayers, pledges and memorials. They’re something I cannot describe. We had MIA stories including a recovery success story. So many of these stories bring tears to a lot of the folks here. I can only hope that these tears are also providing some healing as they are surrounded by their own kind … veterans, many of whom were not held in high regard. They’re also surrounded by family and others who care.
And that’s why we’re riding. To bring awareness for those who are MIA/POW. And for getting back the more than 1,500 that are still unaccounted for. They need to come home. This run has certainly raised my awareness and made me want to do more.
After the morning business we got all set up at Withers Park and prepared for the
Spiller Elementary Program school children that were being bussed in. Many of our people had trinkets for the youngsters. Someone gave me a sheet of Marine logos. I passed them out to first and second graders as they came walking down the hill to meet the bikers.
We had songs and poems from some of the older children. It was so touching. They’re learning about their country. They’re learning about patriotism. It was just an incredible morning and emotionally uplifting.
When we were waiting for the youngsters to come into the park, I’d been asked if I’d like to be part of the Missing Man Formation. Absolutely. So after we were finished with the kids and ceremonies, we went to the bikes and I joined the Missing Man group.
I was asked who I was riding for. I told them I was riding for my Vietnam vet because I believe all who come home are missing something, a piece of themselves, of their hearts and souls — that was left behind in the war. I was also riding for all those who are MIA.
The Missing Man formation is at the very front of all the platoons. I rode in formation for 90 miles. What an exhilarating experience to feel that you are a part of something that has value and yet cannot be truly expressed. I reflected on those lost. On those pieces of hearts that were lost. Of those who are missing and may never come home. It’s a sobering thought to think that we cannot return someone to their loved ones so they have closure.
From the gas stop I rode with the Support Platoon that also rides up front. Yahoo. It was awesome.
Our second stop was at Montvale Elementary in Virginia where we were greeted by children holding up flags and posters. Then we all went inside to have lunch, followed by a program in the gym. These children were amazing. The children and their teachers had a presentation that didn’t leave a dry eye. It was a grand display of patriotism from pre-school to fifth grade. There was a showing of flags for the various branches of the service, poems and wonderful songs by all of the kids.
One of the kids got up and spoke and said this was the most exciting day of the year. The kids love watching, waiting and seeing the bike lights coming down the street and into the parking lots. They love to hear the rumble and thunder from the bikes. And he said thank you for our veterans because our free nation is because of your bravery. From the mouth of a child.
How could you not absolutely love these two stops today to see these kids that are learning patriotism. Are learning that we are a great nation. Are learning that veterans matter.
From there we went a few miles to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. There are depictions of soldiers trying to get to shore and being shot at. I think each day I keep writing that this is the best thing I’ve seen. Then the next day there is something just as good. This memorial is truly spectacular yet it tugs so hard at your heart. The shots fired into the water, the men trying to reach the shore and climb over the wall. Wow!!
On this trip there have been so many memories shared. And from what I’ve seen there’s been a lot of healing by some who felt that they were unworthy. That they were in a war that didn’t matter. They didn’t go because they wanted to. They went because they were sent. They should be honored for being veterans. And we should be grateful for what they do.
This RFTW has shown me something more. There is hope for America.
The evening ended with dinner at Harley-Davidson of Lynchburg. Once again, RFTW has been shown nothing but friendliness and generosity by everyone along the route – the people, the businesses, the organizations.
All I can say is if you don’t love your country with your heart and soul, this ride’s not for you. It jumpstarts your patriotism again. It fills a hole you may have. It’s healing. I could see that all around me.
“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Desmond Tutu
Day 8, May 20, 2020 — Chattanooga, TN, to Wytheville, VA, 279 miles
Every morning we have mandatory meetings. While not all are about signals, we are reminded about them now and again. There are rules, also many of which some need constant reminding. Stay off the zipper. Keep your spacing uniform and close the gap. Pass the signals back. Put your pegs up for fuel stops. There are also a few signs when we stop for gas … D means our gas was donated. $5 means you only pay $5. P means you pay for your gas. If it’s an amount over an even dollar, it’s rounded up and the extra goes into a fund to pay for some of the run gas expenses. Works for me.
A few stops ago I bumped into the back of a guy when a fueler pulled me up too close to someone and I couldn’t see that he had what I thought might be a covered trailer hitch. He turned back toward me, looking annoyed. I understood as someone had bumped me at a station several days ago. I noticed he was a platoon leader, so I looked for him and found him a few stops later. I went to him and apologized. He told me that in that container was his $250 hat. I apologized profusely and finally got him to say it was okay. No damage. I saw him later wearing that hat. It was very nice, and he was pleased when I asked to take his photo.
This morning we went to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Silverdale Confederate Cemetery. Jerry, the gentleman who has made it into something beautiful has been working on it for 56 years. He said he’s worn out a lot of lawn mowers. I laid a RFTW rock on the Southern Cross Memorial. It’s a beautiful and quiet place … when there aren’t about 600 RFTW bikers there. There were a lot of flag displays that were quite interesting.
Every day your place in the platoon changes so you have different riding companions around you after each stop. You quickly learn who you want to ride with, and you hope you get near them at the next stop. It’s a great way to have you mingle. I’ve met some awesome folks. E-Lisa and Peter. Carlo. And I’ve met others whose names I don’t know. There are great people here for a calling to do this mission. I believe the number for the Southern Route is now more than 600.
Every day we have a prayer during our all-hands mandatory meeting and then again at our platoon meeting. The Chaplain with our platoon is Chaps. He’s a nice guy, kind and has been supportive of me riding with the platoon. Actually, pretty much all of our leadership has been, and I appreciate them. They’ve done a great job. Our Platoon Leader, COB, and Asst. Platoon Leader, Hollywood, have been great also. They’re experienced and I’m pleased to be in their platoon.
The memory of the day. The year was 1968. F2s flying. Weather clear. Dipper flight reported 5 miles visibility. Dung Hoi. They couldn’t identify new targets in the POL area, so they investigated another site. They located nothing and returned to the POL area. The plane went down from ground fire and the two-man crew was MIA. This is why we ride.
In Virginia they closed down Interstate 81. There have been so many times on and off ramps have been closed, lanes closed as we’ve crossed the country. It’s incredible the organization that goes into this and what can be accomplished with some help.
A few of us didn’t get too stop for lunch at Black Wolf HD but needed to go directly to Black Bear HD. With time on my hands I traded the Police bike for a Barracuda Silver Road King. Think that will be her name. Barracuda.
Tonight is steak night at the Moose Lodge. Yahoo.
I’ve done a lot of runs … fun, charity. All are good and have a purpose. But this run is more than that – it’s fulfilling. My heart is full.
“The battle is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, and the brave.” Patrick Henry