Central Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 11 Arlington/Washington D.C.
May 23, 2020 – In Washington DC
Our mission is still not complete. The Saturday after we arrive in DC is just as busy as any day on the Run.
Since only FNGs can ride into Arlington Cemetery, they will stage at the hotel to ride to the Tomb of the Unknow Soldier for the laying of the RFTW wreath. If you have never seen this, please make sure you get there if you are in DC. RFTW will have 4 people represent the Run. What an honor.
The 2019 RFTW team is given instruction for laying of the wreath.
This is the Changing of the Guards.
Soldiers placed nearly a quarter-million U.S. flags at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday as part of a Memorial Day tradition. The event is known as “Flags In.” More than 230,000 marble headstones line the landscape of the cemetery across 624 acres.
There are thousands of bikes all over the grass fields. This is only one parking lot.
There are thousands of bikes all over the grass fields. This is only one parking lot.
OH MY!!!!! Always a picture of the RFTW participants at the Lincoln Memorial.
Once the pic is complete, the RFTW riders head for the Vietnam Wall. You see many members tracing names of family and friends.
If you remember, there were lots of bios read in the morning meetings and people carried them across the country. Names were found on the wall and the bios are left.
Here you see many of them placed under their name.
The RFTW plaque id placed at the Apex of the Wall.
MISSION COMPLETE !!!!
Thanks for reading these reports. Let’s keep our thought and prayers for all those affected by the Covid 19 virus and their families.
We will get thru this and come out strong next year. I hope all works out and I can report live next year. I leave you with the below.
POW / MIA Poem
We need to remember them every day. They went to fight in a place so far away, They gave their all when their country sent out a call Not ever knowing that their name would end up on the wall, No matter how we honor them no matter what we do We should always remember that they paid the highest price For the red, white and blue. So when you look up at the flag flying in the wind on a clear blue day Remember it’s there because of the POW and MIA
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived. General George Patton
On the Run, we said the Pledge every day. I see this flag and took lots of pictures last year. Every time I see it waving in the air, it is telling me I am free. And that right is protected by our men and women. Let’s continue to try and bring them all home.
May 22, 2020 – Day 10 – Lewisburg, WV to Washington DC
Even though this year was just a virtual report, I relived every day. I hope you have gotten some understanding of our mission and enjoyed several of the pics. This is our last leg of the trip to Washington DC.
Last morning to stage and head on out. It is a sea of helmets.
Beautiful country pics.
Here are several pics that day last year. We have such a beautiful country with all kinds of landscapes. Hope you have liked them. Because of our FREEDOM, I am able to do this.
Lunch provide by Shenandoah Harley dealer. Great venue. This was another sunny day. Sure hope next year is the same. Again, donated by the dealership. Great people!!!!
Look at the amount of trucks and people on this bridge. It takes time and effort to pull this off. We had someone stand on the bridge today and they timed the pack. It was Less than 5 minutes to roll thru. This is truly a sign of the supports we have for our troops.
As we see the miles to Arlington get lower and lower, I realize our mission is almost complete. I also think of all the troops still deployed all over this world. I pray that someday they will be able to count down the number of days they will be home.
The crowd cheers as we pull into the parking lot. Remember how our Vietnam troops were treated when they got home. Remember it only takes a few seconds to THANK a veteran, active service person, police or fireman for their service. And if you remember to thank a Vietnam vet, also tell them “WELCOM HOME”. You will be amazed at their gratification.
Gunny is there every year to greet us as we come in. Lots of high fives and hugs.
He wants to see that all POW and MIA are returned home. There are a lot of people, all volunteers,
to keep this goal alive. Keep all our troops in your thoughts and prayer to return home to their families.
May 23, 2019 – Day 9 – Hurricane, WV to Lewisburg, WV
Day 9 is the day we go to Rainelle to see the kids. This is the school we have raised all the money for. On our way, we stop in Charleston WV.
Random people will stop and salute the Run. I am always amazed at the American support that we get.
As we pull into the Capitol, this young man has been standing every year on this same block for RFTW since he was one. He is now 16. He stands there the whole time the bikes are rolling in. I hope he will be there next year. He is an amazing person.
His sister, mom and grandmother. His grandmother worked in one of the buildings at the capital. The grandmother’s husband is a Vietnam vet. He served from 1966-1969. One year actually in Vietnam as a radio operator.
They have been married for 50 years. I admire the women who have stated with their husband from the Vietnam War. They too have suffered. Many of our soldiers have changed and have problems with coping yet they have stayed with them. Thanks ladies. This goes also for any women that served. Thanks guys for sticking with your wives.
Here is her husband.
The West Virginia Veterans Memorial is a two-story oval shaped monument honoring more than 10,000 West Virginians who made the ultimate sacrifice in defending the nation in twentieth century conflicts. Composed of four limestone monoliths surrounded by a reflecting pool, the interior walls are faced in polished black granite etched with the names of these men and women.
The 4 wars are WWI, WWII, Korea and Vietnam
We move back to the Step to get a group shot of the Central Route. Hopefully next year we get the same number of people.
As we head to Rainelle, there are people all along the 35+ miles.
The road is great. Beautiful West Virginia windy roads. Last year is was a very sunny day.
Check out the reception from last year!!!!
The kids treat us as movie stars. They want OUR autograph. Pretty funny. Most of us have brought trinkets, pens, pins…. to give the kids. It is like Halloween.
May 20, 2020 – Day 8 to DC – Corydon, IN to Hurricane WV
Day 8 is a great day because of the stops we make. But before we leave there is always the pledge and a prayer. Platoons break out for their morning meetings. Because there are always new people joining, we go over all the rules to keep everyone safe on the road.
We cross the Ohio River into Kentucky. We are Almost to DC.
Our first stop is Robley Rex VA Hospital. We are greeted with open arms. They love when the Run comes thru. The patients love it and cannot wait until we get there.
The Robley Rex VA Medical Center is an active, affiliated acute care and outpatient facility located on a 47-acre hilltop near downtown Louisville and overlooking the Ohio River. The medical center also operates three community based outpatient clinics in the greater Louisville area. These clinics make VA services more accessible for veterans residing in the Kentucky area.
Rex Robley was born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and enlisted in the military in May, 1919, six months after the Armistice date. He severed for 3 years. He was the last Kentucky World War I era veteran, and the last known World War I era veteran of the United States.
In 1986, Rex turned to volunteerism, lending support to fellow veterans at the Louisville Veteran’s Administration Medical Center. Rex logged more than 14,000 hours of volunteer time while at the Center. He dedicated his life helping his fellow veterans, both through the veterans service organizations and activities at the Medical Center. He continued to volunteer there three days a week, even at age 105.
Hugs all around from the staff. Next year I hope we get all the hugs again.
The Pledge of Allegiance is said. Oh my gosh the number of veteran that go on the Run is amazing. We see this every day.
We are able to visit several of the patients. They are always so excited to see us come in and love to hear the sound of the motorcycles as we pull in.
Here is one example from last year:
This gentleman served in Navy from 1964 to 1967. He was on the USS Yorktown. He put the aircraft on the elevators to get to them up on deck. They put inappropriate notes on the bombs. He just smiled from ear to ear. I can only imagine what they wrote. 😁😁😁
We all love to hear the stories of the lives of these veterans that they gave for our country.
Before you leave, you have to see Popcorn Billy. He is famous in the hospital, and he love the girls, just ask him.
The gentleman to his left served with “Popcorn” Billy. He gave me the story on Billy. The 2 here and Billy’s twin brother served in the same unit from 1968-69. They were in the 57th Assault Helicopter Company. It was the first attach on a helicopter unit. Billy’s brother died in this attach and Billy was wounded. Ever since he has been helping all the people can. The name “popcorn” came because he makes popcorn and sells it then donates the proceed. He buys all the supplies. Always smiling and likes hugs!!
Next stop Frankfort KY at the Vietnam Memorial.
Vietnam War Sundial
The Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial was designed with a unique approach to honor the military dead from one of America’s most troubled conflicts. A 14-foot high steel sundial stands at the center of a granite plaza. Its gnomon casts a shadow on the chiseled name of each fallen Vietnam war veteran — 1,103 of them — on the anniversary of when they were killed. Thus each individual is honored with a personal tribute.
Kentucky’s 23 MIAs are listed behind the sundial so its shadow never falls on their names. Some have been found since this was build. Those are the ones with a date. We never forget and we will not stop until we bring them all home.
The Memorial is one of the largest granite memorials in the nation and contains 327 cut stone panels weighing more than 215 tons. The stone came from the Pyramid Blue quarry in Elberton, GA. The lettering of the names and dates are the same style used for official government grave markers throughout the nation, including Arlington National Cemetery.
If you ever get a chance to go see it, go. It is amazing and an engineering marvel.
Lunch is at Mt. Sterling. We come into Mt. Sterling and what a reception. The schools always have the kids out. I am sure they would all like to be in school to see us instead of dealing with the Pandemic. Hang in there kids, we will be back next year. Here all the kids are out waving flags and screaming. So neat.
Many years this leg is very hot. Coming into the center, the air conditioning feels soooo good.
After lunch, the roads thru KY into WV are always so beautiful. Here are a few pics from last year.
The last leg is to Hurricane WV. What I remember about Hurricane is that for several years we got an escort from a Huey. Pics do not do it justice.
Always a nice reception here. Ladies and Gentlemen thanks for service.
Here is the Huey the flew over us.
Day 9, we visit the kids at Rainelle. Since the begin of the Run we have been collecting money for the schools in that town. It was one of the first school “Gunny” Gregory stopped at on his first run from CA of DC in 1989. I am told that these bikers gave the kids a ride on their bikes. Really, bikers, black leather … and kids. This friendship has been there for many years and thru many generations. This would be year 32.
May 19, 2020 – Day 7 – Wentzville, MO to Corydon, IN
Every day there is a morning meeting. General information for the day is given. Also, there are 2 bios read for our Veterans that are MIA or KIA. We want to bring everyone home. We do not stop looking. After the bios are read, the route coordinator asks for someone to carry them to the wall. The bios are then placed at the wall in DC
We always head to the Wentzville Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the morning.
Wentzville takes extreme pride in being home to the first Vietnam Veterans Memorial in the United States. Wentzville was the first city in the nation to realize that the troops who served in Vietnam deserved to be honored.
As it stands today, the Wentzville Vietnam Veterans Memorial consists of a single-column of red Missouri granite, topped by the carved figure of an eagle. Inscribed in the column’s base is:
Vietnam Veterans Memorial December 1967
“Whither thou goest, I will go.”
The high school bad is always outstanding, as they play for the ceremony.
There is always a group photo here. WOW!!!
Next stop: Jefferson Barracks
This is the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery and Health Care Facility
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
VA St. Louis Health Care System is a full-service health care facility providing inpatient and ambulatory care in medicine, surgery, psychiatry, neurology, and rehabilitation, as well as over 65 sub specialty areas. It is a two-division facility that serves Veterans and their families in east central Missouri and southwestern Illinois.
The Jefferson Barracks Military Post is located on the Mississippi River at Lemay, Missouri, south of St. Louis. It was an important and active U.S. Army installation from 1826 through 1946. It is the oldest operating U.S. military installation west of the Mississippi River, and it is now used as a base for the Army and Air National Guard. A Veterans Affairs healthcare system campus is located on the southern portion of the base.
They always have tables with all kinds of goodies. Great for snacking on the ride.
Mt. Vernon IL is our stop for lunch. Star Spangled Banner was sung, 21 gun salute and taps.
Heading to Corydon, IN. We cross all 3 times zones while on the Run. We are now in the eastern time zone. Still seeing lots of support!!!
Corydon is another town with lots of kids.
The best part of the day we ride into Corydon is the fish dinner. You can smell it as you ride thru the park.
They needed a lot of fish to feed this crew.
Quote for the day: Please tell him he is more than just a name on a wall
May 17, 2020 – Day 5 – Goodland, KS to Junction City, KS
Sunday start is a little later than normal. There is a non-denominational Church service. The place is packed.
Curtis, our head chaplain, and a few other chaplains give a great Sunday service. A great way to start the day.
Chaplains ride all the way with us. Remember this is a healing mission. And many of our chaplains are there to help out veterans.
This is part of the advanced road guard team. These guys are the ones at exit ramp, turns in roads, help out in the gas stops….and so much more to get things set up before the pack gets there.
I got a good look at the staging team in action for a small parking space. About 350 bikes per parking lot.
Steve has a booklet with every parking lot with its dimension. There are over 50 lots. That is a lot of planning
We have 12-13 platoons. One platoon is bikes and trailers, so they need more space. 2 platoons are 3-wheel bikes. So now try and figure out how to combine all of them. The ideal situation is for a big enough parking lot to have them next to each other. But when you have a street that is narrow, you have to line them up back to back.
Star Spangle Banner is played and accompanied
There were new covered picnic table. They moved them to the side of the building to block the wind. Remember we are in KS
Here is one amazing bridge that we were able to visit. WOW
They even had the motorcycles on the entrance and exit ramps with flags.
They had lots of kids. One told me he had a motorcycle and it was blue. I ask him if he wore a helmet and he said yes. He grandpa is a state trooper. Thanks grandpa for your service. Have I said yet that it only takes a few seconds to shake a hand and say thanks to a veteran or our current service men and women.
The picture of the bridge with all the flags is amazing. Think about the time it takes to organize all these people.
Heading into Junction City…. WOW always a welcome. This is how the pack comes into a city: American flag, POW/MIA and then state flag: Kansas Flags.
There is always a service at the KS Vietnam Veterans Memorial
Kansas Vietnam Veterans Memorial
It is constructed of 7 black granite panels and stands 13 feet tall and 46 feet long. Four of the panels bear the names of 753 Kansans killed in action in Vietnam. Another panel displays the names of 38 Kansans who were still missing in action in 1987 from the southeast Asian war. Two military decorations, the Purple Heart and the Vietnam Campaign ribbon are also engraved on the panel with the MIAs. The remaining two panels depict two soldiers in larger-than-life size.
Taps are played with a second bugle echo. AMAZING…. darn I did forget my tissues again.
May 15, 2020 – Day 3 To DC – Gallup, NM to Eagle Nest, NM
This is the part of the trip we end up in Eagle Nest, NM. And visit Angel Fire memorial.
This is a typical sight every morning. It is a sea of bikes.
Early in the morning and people still come out to wish us well. These are the people we will miss.
As I mentioned earlier, the meals are all supplied. So too are the gas stop paid. This one by Thunderbird Harley Davidson.
New Mexico is a state we have a complete escort across the state. Here are the LEOs lined up and ready to go. There are state, city, county….. officers engaged to get us through. So many people support the Run. Thanks all, we will be back next year.
The Run donates to several schools along the way. They have a big influence to the younger generation.
The 2 buses are from the kids of Cochiti. Several years ago, the school was trying to get the kids more energized about learning. So, there was an incentive idea. If you have perfect attendance, get good grades and have good behavior, you could ride the bus to stand on the bridge to see RFTW go thru. The first year there was 20 kids. Now check out the bridge. Soon they will have to make a bigger bridge. They also have to rent the bus to get there. To do that, the kids would have bake sales and other events to raise the money. Great lessons. This year they have 2 buses and check out how many kids are there. Again a very poor part of the country. If you have earned the honor to go on the bus in May, around Labor Day, Jenny, Ken and a few other RFTW member go back to the school and the kids get RFTW pins. They love it. Last few years, the school struggled to get enough money for school supplies. RFTW was able to take money to help the school out. The people there were so grateful.
In 2018, another school, Santo Domingo joined in. They too have had great response from the kids. Looks like the same pic as the one above but it is not. Last year, they only had 1 bus. Way to go kids!
Great facility for lunch. Again, all volunteers and very supportive of our veterans.
Road heading up to Angel Fire is breath taking. It is a gorgeous ride.
As we get to Angel Fire Vietnam Memorial, the wind is normally pretty strong. It sits on top of a hill.
Angel FireVietnam Memorial
The purpose of the David Westphall Veterans Foundation is to honor America’s veterans and members of its military forces by memorializing the sacrifices they have made and by recognizing the sense of duty and the courage they have displayed as they answered their country’s call to arms.
The memorial was begun by Victor and Jeanne Westphall, the grief-stricken parents of MarineFirst Lieutenant David Westphall, who was among sixteen young men in his unit killed in an ambush on May 22, 1968 in Vietnam.
In September 2018, we were able to attend the ceremony for the brick laying. Friends or family can purchase the brick for a friend or family member to remember them for their service.
Here is an example of the bricks. There were about 400 bricks last year.
The memorial maintains a UH-1D model Huey helicopter, known originally as “Viking Surprise,” one of the first smoke ships used in Vietnam. On March 26, 1967, the helicopter, while rescuing service personnel, was so badly damaged – 135 bullet holes – that it was returned to the United State for repairs. The copter returned to Vietnam and was later sent to the New Mexico National Guard, which donated it to the Angel Fire memorial. (Sidenote; Our Very own Scooter (Kenny Keelin/ Road Guard/Scout) Flew this Helicopter before it was retired.)
Food here is all homemade. I wayyyy over eat here. I want to try a little bit of everything!
They always have the most interesting cakes. Yes, this is a cake and it tasted awesome!!!!
Food here is all homemade. I wayyyy over eat here. I want to try a little bit of everything!
The town has a population of about 300. When we roll in, we double that. We will be here next year.
May 14, 2020 – Day 2 To DC – Williams, AZ to Gallup, NM
Williams mornings are always cool and most of the time sunny. Stagers are on duty at every stop we have. Bikes lined up and ready to go.
This is Jim Sloan, aka Sweeper, and Jenny Ward, aka Lady Jen. Jim drives the truck after the last platoon. As the pack gets on the highway, we travel only 35 MPH. This allows everyone to get on the road and get together before going at highway speed. Jim lets the route coordinator know when all the bikes are on the expressway. Then we pick up speed.
The mayor John Moore is in the cowboy hat. He and his son donate breakfast in the morning and has done this for many years. Did I mention that from the time we leave Ontario until we get to DC, breakfast, lunch and dinners are provided to us by the communities of the cities we visit. Unbelievable!!! Last year was Sausage and gravy.
We always welcome the FNGs (First time riders). There are over half.
As we leave William, I always remember the beautiful pine trees.
This is a sight we see as we leave Williams. Beautiful mountains.
Next, we head to Holbrook, AZ. Normally Holbrook has every kid out of school when we roll thru. This year the kids are all home.
The American Legion Post 37 serves us lunch. The high school kids have a small band that play music for us. I guess they will have another year to practice.
As we head into New Mexico the land changes drastically. Beautiful!!
Next stop is Gallup, NM. There is 13 miles to our destination for the ceremony from the Native Americans. Normally there are people that line the street, all the way. I understand why they are called the “Most Patriotic Small Town In the USA”.
As we arrive, we hear them chatting and playing drums. They have been since noon. This is for our safety in our travels.
I always loving coming into Gallup. The native Americans welcome us. Most of the RFTW riders join in. What an amazing ceremony. What an amazing city!
There is a 21 gun salute. Then “Taps”. As many years as I have been on the Run, I still get tears every time I hear it. Where are the tissues?
This is Gunnery Sergeant P.J. James. He represents the Code Talker during WWII. The name code talker is strongly associated with bilingual Navajo speakers specially recruited during World War II by the Marines to serve in their standard communications units in the Pacific Theater. The enemy could not break the code.
My name is Jean, aka Mama G. I was the Sit Rep Writer for the Central Route in 2019. I was supposed to have the same position in2020.
This year we will try to do a virtual blog based on the Run from the last several years.
Every year there are hundreds of volunteers to get all get everyone cross country safely. I thought I would give you definition of roles people play to get us cross country to DC. I have also listed the number of how many for each. Here is the list and remember these are all volunteers.
TEAMS (ahead of the pack)
Advanced road guard – 10 = first to go out and confirm there are no issues on the roads. Ex: detours, traffic issues, … even have been known to clear some debris off the road to keep us safe. They will also be the ones at all road exchanges, so everyone makes the turns.
Staging – 26 = Get to the next stop ahead of the pack and set up for each platoon to be staged.
Fuel – 26 = They get to the gas station and clear all pump for the platoons to come in. There is no one at the gas pump when we arrive. They, along with the road guards, direct the pack how to get to the pumps and leaving the pumps
Ambassador – 15 = Thanking the people on the bridges or in the towns for coming out and supporting the Run.
Hydration – 8 – They carry water, Gatorade, snack and are at every gas stop. All donated by someone or organization
Registration – 8 = In every city, they are there when we arrive, and every morning before we leave. Since not everyone can ride 10 days, many will ride only a few day. This team gets them signed up.
Merchandise team – 2 = travels with the Run selling t-shirts and other trinkets
State coordinator – Total 20 for the length of the run. Usually 1 -2 per state.
The Pack Formation:
Missing man- Route Coordinator (RC) , state coordinator, person representing the missing man, missing man coordinator, chaplain
Road guard – 30-35 = they have many jobs: stop traffic on all entrance ramps, guides us thru towns at each intersection, help direct at fuel stops, and whatever it takes to keep us safe.
6 pack – 6-8 = Assistant Route coordinator (ARC), mentor (this is the RC from last year), leadership (Jenny, Lee Larry and Jean), any dignitary, …. this changes daily. Could be the mayor, POW… we never know who will be there leg to leg.
Platoons – 15-25 = each platoon has a platoon leader, assistant platoon leader and 2 tail gunners. In the middle are all the participants. There are usually 10-20 platoons
Communication team – 3 – talk to truckers and 1 in back of the pack.
Medical team – 6 – there for any injuries or illnesses
Chaplains – 8 = this is a very key role. Many are on this for healing. Many remember comrades lost in war. This is a very emotional trip for everyone.
Last man – 1 – conveys to RC when the last bike is on the road/ expressway
Sit Rep Reporter – 1 – This person gives a summary of the day
Chase vehicles – 4 to 5 = They have trailer and will pick up anyone running out of gas (yes this does happen) or break downs.
If you add all this up, it is around 160 people that have roles
Participants = 15-25 per platoon – so 200-250
At any given time, we are at 350-450 riding as a unit.
Blue Star Family – a family with a member currently serving in the Armed Forces of the United States
Gold Star – family member that has died during a Military Operation
“Gunny” Gregory (Founder) and his wife “Patty-o” are always around. He never forgets a face. Great Couple!!!!
The few days prior to leaving is like a great big family reunion. It is always great to connect with all those we rode with years prior!!