Posted on Leave a comment

CR: Mission Complete

This SitRep Writer is not a morning person. In truth, I can sleep till 10:00 or 11:00 on a Saturday and not even once regret the morning hours I missed. With that in mind, I must tell you that I was up at 5:00 am this morning eager for the day to start. Today marks the end of our mission and something very special was to take place at 6:15 am that I was determined not to miss. At 6:15 am, a Park Ranger met a number of Run For The Wall volunteers to provide materials and instructions on how to wash The Wall.

Until I heard that some of our number were going to wash The Wall I had no idea how it is maintained. What an incredible honor to be able to care for the names and to preserve The Wall for generations to come. The Park Ranger explained to me that The Wall is washed every other week. He manages thousands of requests from both nonprofit and for-profit organizations seeking to clean The Wall. His policy is to select enough organizations to allow each group two opportunities to serve. This means not everyone who requests to wash The Wall is accepted to do so. The goal of each washing is to remove bird droppings, oils left from visitors who touch The Wall, and to remove any pencil residue from the name-rubbing process. The Wall was not scheduled to be washed until tomorrow morning, but seeing everyone ready to complete that task today, the Ranger left and returned with supplies so our team could get started.

After a short briefing on how to properly wash The Wall, our volunteers headed out to get it done. First, any items left at The Wall overnight or in the early hours before our arrival were carefully moved from The Wall to the grass opposite where the items were left. Then, the wall was sprayed down, and a soft soapy solution was applied with brushes. Following an additional rinse, squeegees and soft cloths were applied to remove water giving The Wall a very nice reflective clean surface.  The entire process took about a half-hour inclusive of returning the items moved from the base of The Wall. I asked one gentleman, who I know from the Central Route, if he washed the names of those he served with. He responded ‘yes’. I cannot think of a more respectful and caring act of love for those whose names are forever engraved there, than to wash the panel of names on which reside those you served with and lost during the conflict. I asked a Central Route FNG how he felt cleaning The Wall. I know him to be a recent retiree from the Marine Corps. He did not serve in Vietnam, nor are any of those he served with inscribed there. He said, “With every swipe, I’m thinking about who they were and about their families. It is very humbling.” I took several photos of The Wall washing. I hope they convey how powerful this was to everyone.

Starting around 9:00, riders from all four routes gathered at the Lincoln Memorial for a group photo. Gunny Gregory, Founder of the Run For The Wall, lead the riders in chants of “USA”, “USA”, “USA!” and the singing of each branch’s service songs. A short but poignant ceremony transferred a flag and bios of the 13 who perished during the abrupt withdrawal from Afghanistan from the routes that traveled East to the Sandbox who will carry them to the Middle East Conflicts Wall. At the appointed time, photos were taken and the entirety of the riders moved to the Vietnam Wall.

The Wall is solemn ground. It is a place where respect is given for the lost who died fighting for their brothers. The four Route Coordinators approached the apex arm-in-arm as one group in complete unity. They were respectful of those who were there before them giving the other visitors a moment to complete their visit prior to reading and laying a plaque from the Run For The Wall at the apex. I have a video of the reading of the plaque attached at the bottom of this post. Once the plaque was placed, riders went about their individual missions to take rubbings and to leave items carried to The Wall on behalf of families, friends, and others who have entrusted a mission to each rider.

FNG’s conducted their business at The Wall and then sought out someone to flip their FNG buttons upside-down to permanently reflect that they too have completed the mission. I took all this in, including flipping the FNG button of my former “right arm”, John Jimenez, and felt gratitude for those who started and have since fostered the fire that is Run For The Wall. This time at The Wall is priceless. It is life-changing. It is healing, and it completes the bonding together of riders from the Run For The Wall who started this mission together. We now have carried each other’s burdens across the country and collectively left them at The Wall. We’ll be back, but we won’t come back the same. This involvement in something bigger than ourselves has been life-changing and we are all different for having experienced it together.

There are a few images below taken from the back of The Wall. The granite is exposed in a much thinner line than it actually is wide. There are also names of the planners, designer, and installation folks on the back at the apex. This is something I didn’t know until today.  It has been an honor fulfilling the role of Central Route SitRep this year. I hope you have enjoyed reading my posts as much or more than I have experienced in their creation.

Daniel “Redleg” Slocum
CPT, FA, USAR Ret. (1985 -2006)

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 10: Almost Complete

Our last day on the road feels bittersweet. We are tired and ready to see the mission to its completion, but we also want to keep “riding for those who can’t” instead of soon dispersing back to where we individually carry the mission within our communities. The Central Route started this day in Lewisburg West Virginia and had a short 252 miles to cover today to arrive at our Host Hotel in Arlington.

The morning started as usual with a mandatory meeting. One difference however, was that our Raffle Rouser, Lance, had nothing to do! All the fundraising had been done and the donations made. Read yesterday’s SitRep if you missed the total given to Rainelle. All tallied the Central Route gave around $40,000 in donations last year and this year was very similar. Those funds come mostly from the riders but also from donations sent to the Run For The Wall from patriot citizen supporters. Thank you everyone!

There was one difference to the morning meeting. One of our riders wrote a poem, which he rousingly read to the riders. Here is that poem. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

For Your Tomorrow, The Saga of Run For The Wall

Listen up Patriots, I’ve a story to share
about support, accounting, healing, and prayer.
We salute our heroes, those who did fall
In tribute to them, we RUN FOR THE WALL

From Ontario to DC, together we ride
To remember and honor those who have died.
One mission, four routes, ALL THE WAY is our chant.
We ride to The Wall for those who can’t.

Our bikes roar to life and our mission begins.
Ten days on the road, in DC it ends.
A parade of bikers 500 strong.
Platoon after platoon stretches two miles long.

One proud tradition, since this ride began,
is the vacant spot open for one Missing Man.
Surrounded by many and remembered by all
he escorts the names that we take to The Wall.

Every bridge we ride under, every town we pass through
are hundreds of supporters waving red, white, and blue.
They donate the fuel that allows us to roll.
They provide our meals and nourish our soul.

Day ten we arrive and approach that grave wall
searching for names like Tom, John, or Paul.
Thousands and thousands of names there engraved
they gave their lives so that ours might be saved.

Freedom isn’t free as that Wall will attest.
Our freedom was paid for by some of our best.
Put your hand on the wall and you might hear them say
“For your tomorrow we gave our today.”

Emotions run deep and tears they will flow
as healing takes place for a debt that we owe.
Veterans, patriots, countrymen all
join this great tribute as we RUN FOR THE WALL!
Boss, FNG, 2023


We rolled into the New Market Civil War Battlefield for lunch, and this day we had plenty of time to eat. Last year the threat of tornados and thunderstorms saw us departing lunch very shortly after arriving. This year, the weather was magnificent and no rushing for safety was needed. HonorBound Motorcycle Ministry provided a great sack lunch of Ham or Turkey sandwiches which riders enjoyed on the lush grass, under trees, or on benches surrounding the statue of Stonewall Jackson. After a time, the presentation of a plaque was made to the New Market Battlefield for hosting the riders, and Sarah, a staff member gave us a short description of why the small site is preserved. The battle of New Market saw the South score a late win in the Civil War preventing the North from cutting southern supply lines. The main reason for preserving the site is that 250 Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute marched 85 miles over five days to fight at New Market. Sarah explained that the battle is also known as the “battle of shoes” because the mud was so thick from heavy rains that soldiers lost their shoes in the mud as they fought. This reminder of our internal struggles that resulted in a Civil War made me think of where our nation is today. The division is significant. I wonder what the men who fought at New Market would say to us were they able to do so?

At the conclusion of lunch, we rolled out to Tom’s Brook for our last fuel stop. Here the Fuel Crew once again flawlessly executed their support mission to the greater pack of riders. Thank you, Fuel Crew. You all were amazing. Your smiles and friendly service were always welcome.

The main pack picked up a Law Enforcement escort at Toms Brook, meaning the next 80 miles would be clear sailing into Arlington. They shut down the freeway so we could enter without any traffic hindering our way. Then, on the route into Arlington, they blocked on ramps and ultimately, they blocked the main line of traffic a mile or so from our exit so we could easily transition from the Express Lanes onto the main line and then off the freeway.  It was amazingly smooth and safe. Thank you to the LEO’s who ushered us safely to the host hotel.

Upon our arrival, a significant number of riders from our advanced teams and from the Midway and Southern Routes welcomed our arrival by cheering, clapping, and saluting the Central Route as we passed the front of the hotel and turned into the parking lot. I loved the expression of “brotherhood” and respect. Once safely parked, riders gave each other hugs, took pictures, shared beverages, and welcomed each other home. It was a jubilant scene where the completion of riding across the country was celebrated. Even in the midst of this celebration, we all know the mission is not complete. That will come tomorrow when en masse we go to the Wall.

A couple of quick notes about a few of the images below. First, note the photo of Boss. He wrote the poem cited above. Second, I shot photos of a few t-shirts. Out of context it is a little strange. So, here is the context. The gas station on Coleman Drive adjacent to where the morning meeting occurs has those shirts on display. They have been signed in different years the run has used that location for the morning meeting. Of note, is the one that is from 1989, the first year of Run For The Wall. Lastly, Squatch really made the rounds during our lunch stop. He is pictured with a number of riders, but the one he is most proud of is the photo with our RC, Paul Marshall, and Sarah from the New Market Battlefield. Hope you enjoy getting a glimpse of some of our riders, and one of the HonorBound volunteers who supplied us with lunch. Having them pose with Squatch was fun for me, but it was also a great ice-breaker to get photos of some of the individuals that comprise the Run.

Central Route Arriving into Arlington

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 9, The Future

Day 9 saw a few changes to the normal Central Route routine. Traditionally, the pack rides from either Hurricane or Nitro (Hurricane this year, the two cities alternate years hosting us) to the West Virginia state capitol where a photo is taken on the capitol building’s steps before riders explore the state complex’s many memorials. Construction at the capitol precluded the Run For The Wall from stopping this year so the main group of riders had a reprieve from early morning wake-ups. Instead, the mandatory meeting was at 9:00 AM.

The early morning reprieve was not so for the Ambassador team who still had two schools to visit before reaching Rainelle prior to the main pack. So it was that I too was up early as I’d been planning for months to ride with the Ambassador team this day. There are several teams that function as the Run For The Wall as riders move across the country. The Ambassador Team, with whom I rode today ranges out ahead of the main body to thank people who come out to cheer on our riders. The Ambassadors stop at schools to educate students on the mission of the RFTW, they arrive at lunch and gas stops early to thank donors and supporters there and they stop at overpasses where supporters have set up to encourage riders as they make their way across the country. The Missing Man Coordinator works with the riders to identify a KIA, POW, or MIA hero that the entire Central Route rides for at each leg. The Route Coordinator and the Assistant Route Coordinator are the ultimate authority for the entire Central Route. They make leadership decisions that ensure the mission is accomplished. The Outreach Team connects with Gold Star Families who live near the Central Route to acknowledge their loss and to be a comfort when possible. This year, the Outreach Team expanded its efforts to reach families who have lost a loved one to Agent Orange. Road Guards stop traffic from interfering with the main body of riders. They also guide the way by ranging out in front of the main body to major intersections and on/off ramps to identify the correct route the riders should take to reach their various stops and final daily destinations. The Fuel Crew rides ahead of the pack to gas stations where they work with station staff to clear the way for the fast fueling of 400’ish bikes in as little as twelve minutes. The Staging team manages all group parking. They identify where every bike should park so that all are lined up in the correct order of march, to easily fit 400’ish bikes into parking lots with limited space, and to properly align the pack for safe movement. The Registration team validates that each rider and bike has the proper credentials such as valid motorcycle endorsements and motorcycle insurance captured in the RFTW database. They welcome our “Friendly New Guys/Gals” to the run with hugs and give initial instructions to riders so they can easily join the run. Chaplains and Medics care for riders at each stop and in moments of crisis, while platoon leaders and tail gunners are the constant touchpoints for each rider in the main pack. The hydration team roams with the pack and ahead to locations where other teams are operating to be sure every rider has the fluids and snacks necessary to keep them going between meals. Chase trucks help riders who encounter mechanical issues. Leadership Support manages the money each day and pays for gas at fueling stops while the Raffle Rouser raises money for donations to organizations along the way and ultimately Rainelle Middle School. The photographer digitally documents the run through pictures (look for pictures after the run in the Central Route Hub). State coordinators work throughout the year and during the run to arrange the support from the local communities we pass through that makes the run possible. The LEO Liaison works with policing organizations to coordinate escorts and the safe movement of the pack. The merchandise team tows a trailer across the country offering RFTW swag at every stop. Lastly, you have me, the daily SitRep writer. I report on the day’s activities and the heartbeat of the RFTW Central Route.

Arrival at the start point was 6:30 followed by a morning meeting, the Pledge of Allegiance, and prayer. Kickstands up with the Ambassador team was at 7:22. We rode with care through Charleston, then hit US 60 bound for schools in Smithers and Ansted, and finally the destination of the entire Central Route this day, Rainelle Middle School.

Upon arrival in Smithers, the group of Ambassadors plus myself turned off the main highway onto a frontage street where we arrived at Valley PK-8, a school serving grades Pre-K through 8th Grade. Unfortunately, we missed the school year by one day. The last day of school was yesterday, May 24th. However, we were not wanting for students to interact with.  Several students and families came out as well as 74 students and staff from the Mountaineer Challenge Academy. A small group of students sang the National Anthem for us as well as a song entitled “No Greater Love” composed by Mike Wilson, copyrighted 2020 by Plank Road Publishing, Inc, which has the following lyrics.

In a frame on the wall, medals hanging in the hall. Near a flag, for their son, who would never make it home. Some were moms. Some were dads. They had families, dreams, and plans. But they answered the call. In the end they gave it all. 

No greater love than this than to lay down your life for a friend. We remember those who gave their lives to show no greater love.

At an hour of great need, with great skill and dignity. Over land, air, and sea, they defended liberty. They were young. They were brave. And for sacrifices made we can cry, we can pray, placing flowers on their graves.

No greater love than this than to lay down your life for a friend. We remember those who gave their lives to show no greater love.

Prior to the formal assembly being started, the Ambassadors mingled with students, staff, and families handing out flags and other patriotic or RFTW memorabilia. Each one expertly, from a heart of gratitude, expressed true gladness that the students, staff, and families present were there to support the Run For The Wall. These men and women are unique individuals with big hearts and the ability to make every person feel their value. While not specifically stated, I think that is one of the main goals of the Ambassador team. It is to communicate with each person who supports us or to each student at an assembly that we value them. Their inherent value is important and their value to the Run and to Veterans is significant.

After the students at Valley PK-8 finished singing for us the microphone was given to Sonia Ammann, who co-leads the Ambassadors with her husband Eric. Sonia and a member of the Ambassadors gave donations to the school then Sonia eloquently spoke to the mission of the Run For The Wall and why we ride. She then scaled down that mission which nicely fits at a national level to apply it to the local level. Sonia spoke the names of the fallen from West Virginia and even more specifically, those from the smaller communities of Smithers and those in close proximity. These are those men:

SGT Jefferey S Angel II from Gauley Bridge, WV.
SGT Angel had been deployed to Iraq three times and was preparing for a fourth deployment when he perished in a helicopter accident in Alabama on 9/11/2007. He was a graduate of Valley High School at Smithers where he was a quarterback for Valley’s football team and captain of its baseball team. Jefferey enjoyed hunting deer and fishing. SGT Angel was a Blackhawk helicopter repairer. He is survived by a wife, daughter, and his parents.

Commander Keith Royal Wilson Curry, Fayette County, West Virginia (Salem)
Commander Curry served in Vietnam as a pilot. He was attached to Attack Squadron 145, Carrier Air Wing 2, USS Ranger (CVA-61). Commander Curry was lost at sea after a non-hostile air crash during a catapult launch for a mission over Vietnam. His aircraft immediately lost altitude and crashed in front of the ship. The navigator ejected but Commander Curry was not seen to have ejected and his body was not recovered. Commander Curry’s name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Panel 05W, Line 33.

2LT Ted Howard Christian, Fayette County West Virginia (Gauley Bridge).
2LT Christian served during the Vietnam War in the US Marines as a Basic Infantry Officer attached to 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, A Company. 2LT Christian was killed in action in South Vietnam, Quan Tri province under enemy mortar fire. 2LT Christian’s name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 27E, Line 94.

SFC Michael Robert Norton, Kanawha County, West Virginia (Eskdale)
SFC Norton served in the US Army as a Field Artilleryman. He was assigned to C Batter, 5th Battalion, 27th FA Regiment. SFC Norton’s unit was in danger of being overrun. They withdrew from their base of operations, dispersed into the jungle and regrouped with a Mobile Strike Force unit which was to guide them to Bu Prang. Norton was present when the unit regrouped but was missing when they attived at Bu Prang. Search efforts failed to locate SFC Norton. He remains unaccounted for and is considered MIA. SFT Norton’s name is inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Panel 16W, Line 23.

I am unsure of the impact the reading of these names had on the students present but it registered deeply with the adults. SGT Jefferey Angel’s family were present. His wife and daughter, Megan and Sophie have become adopted family of the Ambassadors who have watched Sophie grow up. Sonia gave them Ambassador hats, shirts, and ride pins. It was a touching moment which these words do not properly communicate. In the images I have posted at the bottom of this SitRep, you can see SGT Angel’s family taking a fun photo with the Squatch I have carried with me from Washington. They were a great family to talk with. They are vibrant and full of life even amid their loss. It was an honor to meet them. Additionally, the Mayor of Smithers, Anne Cavalier approached us after the brief ceremony. She was awash in tears having learned from us the fate of 2LT Ted Christian. She spoke of how he was one of her best students when she was a teacher. She had wondered all this time how he had faired. She said that “Teddy” was an extremely kind and successful student and that her job as teacher was to “launch” him. She sadly learned today that he indeed was a success, gaining his Commission to 2LT in the Marine Corps but regrettably loosing his life in Vietnam. In that moment of realization, I hope we all held her heart gently. I cannot imagine what this lifelong educator and servant of the community was feeling. I gave her a long hug as did Sonia. It was a powerful moment that I won’t easily forget. When we left for Ansted it was with a part of our hearts missing having given those parts to Megan, Sophie, and Mayor Cavalier.

At the school in Ansted the Ambassadors mingled with the students, staff and parents present. Like the school in Smithers, Andsted had let out for the summer yesterday. Therefore, the turnout wasn’t what it would have been were the school in session. However, the group was great. Sonia and a member of the team once again gave donations to the school. Like Smithers there were three donations in total. One from the Run For The Wall, one from a private source in Colorado who heard of these schools and was moved to donate, and lastly one that was collected directly from the Ambassador team themselves. Not only does this team give with their hearts, they also give sacrificially from their finances. Mary Simkin, daughter of Harold Simkin WWII POW survivor told of how she worked to have the RFTW make the short detour from the main highway to pass by the school. She said the first time she took students down to the main highway but realized that was dangerous, so she needed a better solution. At her bidding the RFTW now diverts off the main highway to drive by the school to be cheered on by students and staff. We took a group picture and departed heading for Rainelle.

Rainelle Middle School is insane. The students treat the riders like rockstars seeking autographs in booklets created just for this day. Some students offered riders patches left made but unused from the two Covid years during which the run did not operate. Others signed the shirt of one of our platoon leadership, while yet others sought out gifts from the riders who, knowing of this day came prepared with all manner of goodies for the kids. Lunch was cooked by the local Highschool Culinary class (you crushed it!) and then a brief ceremony was held. The school’s fourth and fifth-grade classes sang the National Anthem, then two students led the riders and their schoolmates in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Kirk Olsen, Road Guard Captain read a letter from Don Pierce “Bullet” longtime RFTW road guard and one of the original 1989 founding members. Bullet will no longer be riding with the RFTW and offered his RFTW Vest (cut) and Jacket to Rainelle Middle School as a gift. The school gladly received it and will be archiving it for future students to view. What an incredible gift. Thank you, Bullet.

Founding rider, Gunny, spoke from his heart about how much Rainelle means to him.

Paul Marshall, Central Route Coordinator then gave the school a plaque and revealed the total funds raised by the Central Route for the school during our journey across the United States. It was an astounding $25,665.28. The donation was given in cash and a check. You’ll find an image of Principal, Kim Tincher holding a bag full of cash in the images below. As the ceremony ended Principal Tincher graciously thanked the Run For The Wall for our tremendous support telling the riders that no other school in the area understands what it means to be a Rainelle Ranger. They love this day, they love this month, and they love the Run For The Wall.

The students at schools like those in Smithers, Ansted, Holbrook, which was visited early in the mission across the country, and then Rainelle hold the key to our future. The RFTW stops at these places for a reason. Gunny stated it well in his brief comments. He teared up speaking about how the students who just a half-hour prior had been showing great respect to the veterans are the future of our nation. Gunny is right. We ride for many reasons, and one of them is to sew into the future of our nation.

If you have scrolled this far and are looking for pictures, they are a bit farther down. Here I want to insert a Q&A I had with the Ambassador leads, Eric and Sonia. I spoke with them a few months ago about the Ambassador Team and themselves. I hope you enjoy this peek into their heart for the mission.

Q.  Can you tell me a bit about yourselves? If you are Veterans what was your role in the military? Are you retired now? What do you do when you are not on the Run?
A. We both are employed at Caterpillar, Eric is an engineer and Sonia is a trainer. We are not Veterans but we have family who served. Giving back through the Run is our way of serving.  2003 was Eric’s and 2004 was Sonia’s FNG years

Q. Can you summarize the charter of the Ambassadors and how your role supports the mission of the Run for the Wall?
A. The Ambassadors started in 2012. Ross Currie (road guard) co-lead it with Roger Hageman former SitRep (rides out with Bones). We have been leading since around 2014.  As Ambassadors, we are the front face of the Run. We thank the overpass people for coming out and thank the cooks for all that they’ve done. We seek out behind-the-scenes people to let them know we value their efforts.  We give people love before the chaos of the pack inundates them. We build relationships.  We visit schools to educate students about why we ride.  In Holbrook, we visit every single classroom. We give out pins and stickers.  The team purchases patriotic items from a vendor to supplement ride pins and stickers to make sure we have enough to hand out. Sonia organizes three overpasses with school buses of students north of Albquerque NM and visits to schools in WV.   School visits are comprised of Flag folding ceremonies or are like an open house.  over the years we’ve watched a Gold star daughter grow up at Smithers where the mom and daughter are honorary ambassadors. In Ansted, the school holds lunch on the lawn when school is in session.

Q. Did you come to the Run as a married couple or is there a greater story of connection for you two that folks would love to hear about?
A.  (laughter) Nothing so dramatic. We celebrate our anniversary on the Run but we keep the date a secret. Most of our married life has seen our anniversary celebrated on the run.

Q. What roles have you filled for the Run and what compels you to be and lead a team of Ambassadors?
A. We were on the Fuel crew for 5’ish years. Giving back to veterans, gold star families, and to the supporters of the Run is what compels us to serve.

Q.  In your numerous interactions with run Participants, Volunteers, and Supporters, is there a story or two that you’d like to share that holds great meaning for you?
A.  Corydon is aspecial spot for Eric and I. We stopped to do the parade route in downtown Corydon where we saw a WWII Navy vet. My dad was in the Navy. The veteran had just put his wife into a nursing home.  He took my hand, and I gave him a hug, and we shared tears.  The next year we were there… “there he was with a buddy”.  Paul Higginbotham. Charles Hughes was his name. His daughter-in-law would bring him.  He was a Korean veteran.  We now have to see them both each time we visit. Charles was in hospice and recently passed.  Paul got a girlfriend.  Two buddies and a girlfriend would come with him.  Now he brings his son who is in his 70’s. The others we have met in Corydon have passed.  We exchange cards and phone calls. Paul’s sons know to call Sonia. should anything happen to him.  We gave him an Ambassador hat after which he spent the time while the Pack road by transferring pins from his WWII hat to the Ambassador Hat.  He has since worn out his hat and asked for another.

We don’t always know the impact we have as an Ambassador.

We Stopped on an overpass in NM. There was a gal standing there who had just buried her father. She handed Sonia the shell casings from the 21-gun salute asking her to take them to the wall.
The gold star daughter we watched grow up in Smithers WV. Her mom gave a handwritten card. She is so grateful that the Ambassadors say their loved one’s name. Every time his name is said,”He comes alive again”.

In the town of Gauley Base Bridge, on the way to Rainelle in the Glenfare spas area. Sonia spoke about Teddy Christian.  “here is someone who went to the same school you did, who paid the ultimate sacrifice”  At the end of the assembly one of the teachers came up in tears. She was best friends and shared a birthday with Teddy. She hadn’t heard his name in many many years.

Q. Why do you run ahead of the pack?
A. We are always ahead of the run.  We need to be ahead so we can great and then leave the supporters so they can enjoy what they came to do. Always ahead.

My takeaway from the conversation with Eric and Sonia is that they are the perfect couple to lead the Ambassador team.  Eric and Sonia, thank you for your love of the Run and for those who support it. Thank you for caring for the Gold Star families you meet and thank you for your servant leadership.

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 8 Corydon to Hurricane: Overflowing

It is the close of Day 8 and I’m writing this SitRep from my hotel room while eating popcorn from Robley Rex VAMC. Robley Rex has been a stop on the Central Route for a number of years. Last year, riders were not allowed into the facility, but this year it was back to pre-covid operations where our riders were welcomed to visit patients in the hospital. I witnessed staff taking groups of riders to different floors and wings to be an encouragement to veterans who were admitted there. What a great sight to see! Popcorn has long been a tradition at Robley Rex as well. Stalwart RFTW champion, Popcorn Billy was there to greet us with his infectious personality and charm. When you go to a hospital you don’t want to “catch” anything from anyone there unless it is from Billy. His laughter, kindness, and love of all people are something we can all “catch” while at the hospital. “Popcorn Billy” was given his nickname as he used to volunteer making popcorn at the center for many years. Billy is no longer making popcorn but he is still a force of good at a shining example of how VA Hospitals can be run. The staff at Robley Rex clearly put Veterans first in all they do and that includes how they interact with the Veterans and supporters riding as part of the Run For The Wall. To a person I’ve met who works at the facility, each has a genuine heart of concern for the wellbeing of all veterans. It is refreshing and wonderful. Side note here: One of the hospital’s ER Doctors, Nathan Berger, registered for the Run and rode as my passenger for most of the day. It was great hosting Dr. Berger who is one more example of the great people who staff Robley Rex.

Another of the many great people employed at Robley Rex is Senay. Senay met my family and I last year and we reconnected this year. Senay is almost as bubbly as Popcorn Billy and has a huge heart for Veterans. I had the opportunity to introduce her to our Route Coordinator, Paul Marshall who Senay told of her love of veterans due to her family who has served in the military in Cuba under the Castro regime. Senay values the freedoms afforded here in the US and cares deeply for our veterans but that core value was instilled through the example of her father who no matter the leader has been true and faithful to his country. While most people in the US wouldn’t tie the foundations of patriotism and love to Cuban leadership, it was very interesting to see where seeds were planted that grew into Senay’s genuine love of US Veterans. I believe Paul was as moved by her story just as I was. He gave Senay both a Central Route “Mother Route” patch and one of his personal Challenge Coins. Senay’s response amidst tears was “I don’t deserve this.” On the contrary Senay, you do. We love how you love us.

While at Robley Rex the Central Route experienced something very special. Joan Shelton, one of the original group of riders that started the Run For The Wall by riding from San Diego to DC was present. She shared her story of losing her father in Laos during the Vietnam War. Joan described how her father’s sanitized aircraft went down and that he evaded capture for three days before he was ultimately caught. Col Charles Ervin Shelton, USAF is still MIA. The Shelton family has gone to great lengths to see his remains returned to the US, which has caused additional loss and tragedy to the family. Joan said to both Robley Rex staff and RFTW Riders that “We can’t ever leave anyone behind again.”  The Missing Man for the leg leaving Robley Rex was ridden in honor of her father, Col. Shelton. This is an example of why we ride. Every leg of our journey is in honor of a lost serviceman or servicewoman.

Our departure from Robley Rex saw us head for the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The use of a sundial to cast a shadow upon the name of lost Kentuckians on the anniversary of their death is both unique and awe-inspiring. The use of a sundial gives each hero a personal tribute. You’ll want to click out to the official Kentucky Vietnam Memorial website to read how it works and to see photos. It is a remarkable memorial.

I wrote the following words in my personal blog on the day of our visit to the Kentucky Vietnam Memorial during an alternative run to DC during Covid. “Marine SGT Reynolds opened our visit with a heart-moving story of how as long as he has breath, he fulfills his friend’s wish to make sure that on the Wednesday before Memorial Day at 10:00 am he would be there. The story was moving, powerful, and exemplifies the honor a warrior brotherhood bond forges between two people. While many of SGT Reynolds’ words were powerful, I greatly appreciated these; “If you don’t want to be prayed for, don’t come to Kentucky.” Nothing can stop a man who is a warrior both in his constitution, but also in his spirit on his knees. I look forward to seeing this man again. Next time, I will be sure to strike up a conversation and meet him.”  I had that opportunity today. Last year SGT Reynolds was unable to attend due to injuries incurred while using a ladder.  This year, SGT Reynolds was present and kicked off our visit to the memorial. Beforehand I introduced myself, shook his hand, and shared a few words. Thank you, SGT Reynolds, for fulfilling the promise you made to your friend. All who are present to hear your passion and to be led by you in the Pledge of Allegiance are better for having that experience. Thank you for praying for us and thank you for continuing to serve your country.

The departure from the memorial was also amazing. A Huey helicopter overflew the riders as they mounted their bikes. The aircraft then circled around until we left and then it overflew the pack several times. One rider remarked, “I love that sound. It means I am safe.”

After gassing our bikes at Fast Lane, lunch was provided in Mt Sterling where air conditioning was most welcome. Three doors with servers waiting to load plates with a hearty meal were awaiting the pack while in the lobby and out-front organizations and volunteers were present to provide sundries to the riders. My personal favorite was a Coffee Van. Think Food Truck but built in a Sprinter Van. I enjoyed a mocha while others tried blended specialty drinks or iced coffees. The graciously donated mocha that I enjoyed was the perfect treat before jumping on the bike to ride two hours to Hurricane WV.  Inside, another rider favorite was Kirkland brand 5-hour energy drinks. Thank you, Mt Sterling. You somehow upped yourself from last year. We are grateful for your support.

A long two-hour ride from Mt. Sterling to Hurricane WV found the riders arriving to a throng of flag-waving patriots as we paraded through town to the Wave Pool facility where a ceremony was held and dinner was served. The local HS Airforce JROTC posted the colors while another youth organization led the riders in the Pledge of Allegiance.

An unexpected speaker during the ceremony was Anne Montague. Anne is the Executive Director at Thanks! Plain and Simple, an organization working to capture and preserve the stories of the women known as Rosie the Riveter. Anne, born in 1939, is the daughter of a Rosie and is known as a Rose Bud.  Anne’s compelling words described how “Rosies” did thousands of jobs, not just riveting, and conveyed the message that “Coming together as the Rosies did, is what makes a big difference.”  Her point is clear. We live in a nation divided. Only by coming together can we make a difference.

After the ceremony’s conclusion a brief dedication of a marker in honor of the Huey that previously welcomed riders at the WV state line was held. That Huey along with six passengers were lost last year in a tragic accident. Today, the RFTW dedicated a marker to ensure it is not forgotten. Chaplain Duane had these words to share at the dedication, “In years past we were greeted in Hurricane WV by a Bell UH-1B ‘Huey’ helicopter owned by MARPAT Aviation in Logan County. The helicopter was flown by the 114th Assault Helicopter Company, ‘The Knights of the Sky’ in Vinh Long, Vietnam throughout the 1960s. After the Huey returned to the U.S. in 1971, it was featured in movies like ‘Die Hard’, ‘The Rock’ and ‘Under Siege: Dark Territory’.  On June 22, 2022, at a reunion of Vietnam-era helicopter enthusiasts, the Huey crashed near the Battle of Blair Mountain historic sites and six people lost their lives. We will take a moment of silence to remember these six people along with a bird who flew into hot zones in Vietnam to deliver and to extract men on the ground and their supplies. So, we will remember the lives lost, but we will also remember the lives that were also saved when this bird showed up for them in Vietnam.”

Today was so full, that I feel as if I’m just reporting the details and not clearly conveying the heartbeat of what took place. Let me try to communicate that to you by sharing how I felt as we paraded through Hurricane. There were a significant number of supporters lining the roadway. Groups of people numbering in the multiples of tens were spread out along our route. The total of these groups was easily into the multiples of hundreds and likely into the low thousand range. This outpouring of patriotism was also evident upon our arrival at the Wave Pool facility where many, many more were present to serve us dinner, wash our bikes, lead us in the various aspects of the ceremony that was held, or were just there to support us with warm smiles, hugs, and handshakes. This was the perfect culmination of a significant day for Central Route. Robley Rex, the Kentucky Vietnam Memorial, lunch in Mt Sterling and finally filling my heart to overflowing was the amazing reception of the pack by the people of Hurricane. It rained in my helmet so that my cheeks were wet when I finally got parked and took off my sunglasses. Thank you to all who gave so much to us today. You have filled us full both physically and emotionally. We are very grateful for your support.

The video below is of the pack leaving the Kentucky Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial. It is a 360 video best viewed by clicking through to YouTube.  If you are viewing on a computer, you can change the viewing angle using the pad in the top left corner. If you are viewing on a mobile device, you can change the viewing perspective by moving your device in any direction (left, right, up, down).

Posted on Leave a comment

Day 7, Wentzville to Corydon: Speak their names

For a number of us headed as a Breakout to Missouri’s National Memorial, also known by many as the Perryville Wall, the morning started with an early breakfast provided at the Wentzville VFW Post 5327.  It was so early that the sun rose right about the time I finished eating. For those in the main pack, the morning started a little less early, but it wasn’t void of something to do. Let me break this down for you.

A breakout group (people and machines that go to another destination apart from the main pack) of about 15 bikes left at 6:00 AM for Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. I was among that number. It was incredible and sobering.  Arriving in the early hours on a Tuesday meant there were no crowds to navigate. The Wall stood in the distance with dignity and strength beckoning us to come, remember, read the names. I briefly took in the well-appointed museum and then answered that call. I walked there alone with only my thoughts and the names of 53,318 who lost their lives in Vietnam. Honestly, this experience overwhelmed me more than my previous visits to the Wall on the National Mall.  I believe it was because I was alone. There were no tourists and the RFTW Family I traveled with to get there had not yet made their way across the field to the memorial. I stood there reading the names of men I never knew while my fuzzy reflection was projected back to me. Just as my likeness was reflected not as it is in a mirror but altered and changed, the experience changed me. It was as if they in turn spoke my name and recognized what I carry having served from 1985 – 2006 but never having been deployed to a combat zone even though I was trained as an Arabic Linguist. I left active duty as a 1LT and then for several years, I held positions in the 104th Division Institutional Training. During that time and even beforehand on active duty at Fort Lewis, I trained ROTC Cadets in Field Artillery, Hand Grenades, Rifle Marksmanship, and Automatic Weapons. How many of those cadets who later earned their commissions never came home from Iraq and Afghanistan?  I will never know.  Just as I was processing this, feeling its full weight, a brother was there for me. Joining us in Gallup was my Command Team partner. Now CSM (Ret) John Jimenez, then 1SG Jimenez, we were the Command Team for A Company 3rd of the 414th, 104th Div IT.  John listened, I shared, and he then did what all great NCO’s do. He gave me something constructive to do. Together we found the name of Harry G. Cramer on panel 1E. Harry Cramer is the father of LTC Cramer who is part of the 104th Div IT. Harry Cramer was added after petition to the Wall and his name is not presented in chronological order. It is an interesting story that I suggest you look up using your favorite internet search engine.

After my encounter with the Wall, I was with others of our group awaiting an informal ceremony where the Central Route ARC presented a donation to Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. On hand to receive it was Jim Eddleman, the primary donor, and visionary whose promise to his comrades made in Vietnam was fulfilled to make this memorial a reality.  While awaiting the ceremony, I approached a kind-looking gentleman and introduced myself. To my surprise, the gentleman was Jim Eddleman himself. We spoke for a few minutes about why he needed to create this memorial. Jim described carrying wounded, then dead to waiting helicopters after Vietnam’s Tet Offensive. His promise to do something for his comrades was born in that moment of great emotion and tragedy. For many years Jim didn’t know how his promise was to be fulfilled, but then financial provision came through by way of sound investments which yielded a large sum of money. That money along with grants and input from others was used to create Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial. It is a remarkable story, especially when told by Jim himself.

The site is expanding to include a Huey helicopter, which is currently undergoing the process of becoming a museum piece. The memorial is also adding a Jeep section to its museum. Presently a Jeep is being restored by the Career and Technology Center of Perryville. And lastly, in my notes I have that a sculpture has been commissioned to be added near the site’s courtyard. It is “The Old Guard”.

While the breakout group traveled to Perryville, the remainder of the Central Route visited the 1st Vietnam Memorial erected in the US. The site is a very short distance from the VFW and makes a great place to start Day 7.  This visit is an annual occurrence and is generally the same.  As I was not there, I cannot give you specifics, but it is with great care and due respect that a wreath is laid, the colors are posted, and rifle volleys and Taps are played. In years past the High School Band has been present and a good number of families turn out from the community. The Central Route values this portion of the Run from California to DC. Thank you, Wentzville, and all who work to make our stop in your town a success.

At our gas stop just prior to lunch the Breakout returns to the main pack and all move as one to lunch at the Mount Vernon Airport. The organizers here were on their “A game” this year streamlining the food distribution and simplifying the way that riders interact with those who come to support the RFTW. We all appreciate the effort it takes to prepare some of the very best fried chicken in the world and then get it quickly into the hands of 400+ RFTW participants. Your volunteer students are also amazing. We wanted for nothing as they all worked up the courage to approach us multiple times to ask if we needed anything or if they could take our trash. Not every time we were asked did we need something, but when we did have a need, the students rushed to quickly fulfill that need. Y’all are doing things well in Mt. Vernon. Your students are respectful, hardworking, and kind.  After a great meal and wonderful hospitality, Central Route moved out for Corydon, our overnight stop.

The gas stop between Mt. Vernon and Corydon is like none other on our journey across the country. Here, tents are set up offering food, prayer, and sundries and a color guard awaits us at the entrance to the station. Many of us look forward to a hot dog even though our stomachs are still full from lunch. This is so because the hot dogs are really good. Yes, reaallly good. Thank you to those who come out.

Dinner in Corydon is fried catfish. If fish isn’t your thing or if you are hesitant to eat catfish because it is a bottom feeder, toss that all out and get in there and try the Corydon fish fry. No other seafood compares. Thank you, Corydon. We all look forward to your hospitality and the great Catfish fry. We know it is an incredible amount of work. Thank you for the many hours it took to make that meal a reality for us.

There were so many great people present at each of our stops. Some are leaders of Foundations or Veterans Service organizations. All turn out to give back to those who have served. One such person is Jim Beasley. Jim is a WWII veteran having served in Occupied Germany. Jim is the chairman of the Veterans Tribute Committee. Among other initiatives, the committee maintains an installment at Kaskaskia College in Centralia Illinois where any veteran’s name can be engraved to never be forgotten. Jim passionately told me that he feels that engraving a veteran’s name on his headstone should not be the only place that name is recorded. Thus, the Veterans Tribute at Kaskaskia College. You can use this link to submit names to the project or to support it financially.

Today, I’ve probably said a bit too much about myself. These SitReps are to tell the story of the day’s events as they occur for all of our riders. I hope that by revealing some of my own story it helps you as you process your own. We all carry something and shouldn’t diminish our story because our brother’s seem more tragic. Wounds are wounds no matter how deep. They need healing. Turn to your brother or sister on this run and share that load or better yet set it down forever. This is your time to begin the rest of your life without past burdens. Don’t wait, your quality of life and freedom are at stake. We are all here for you.

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 6: Feeling the Love

Welcome to Wentzville! This is what the pack heard after a long day in the saddle that saw us leave Kansas behind until next year and enter Missouri. At the border, Central Route was joined by law enforcement officers from several agencies who worked in a ballet-like dance of motor officer and machine to continually move in front of, around, and behind the riders to repel would be encroachers of our space.  They stopped traffic from gaining access to us via freeway onramps and they also went ahead of us to move vehicles we might overtake to the right of the roadway. This had the effect of making our riders completely safe from outside influence. Wow, thank you so very much!

Our first stop of the day was for fuel on the Kansas Turnpike. We were met with open pumps staffed by the CVMA. Fuel and Turnpike tolls were donated by ABATE KS District 4, ALR 400, CVMA 21-4, Warner Electric, Skin Illustrations, and KWIC Staff LLC.  Wow! So many giving to the Run For The Wall. Your generosity is significant. Thank you for giving and for manning the pumps for us. It was great to see your warm smiles as you helped us on the road this morning and the massive flag that “presided” over everything… Loved it!

After fueling, I was relaxing near my bike when I was approached by CW2 John G.  John and I struck up a conversation. He was wearing a hat identifying himself as a Veteran, so I began to ask him questions about his service. John told a story of becoming a Sikorsky Choctaw pilot in the Army because his eyesight was too poor to be accepted as a pilot in the Air Force. John’s story isn’t much different than many I’ve heard or even my own. The specifics are different but the emotions and struggles are similar. However, John has yet to visit the Wall. He told me that he has been in DC on business a few times while working for the State of Kansas, but he could never bring himself to visit The Wall.  John, you are not alone. The Run For The Wall rides for men like yourself. Your burdens do not need to be carried alone any longer. Seek us out, ride with us next year on a bike or in a car and when you arrive in DC, you’ll have a massive support group to help you go to the Wall.

Lunch was provided by the CMA and the Citizens of Concordia at the 13th Street Park in Concordia MO while vintage aircraft from The Commemorative Airforce, Heart of America Wing flew overhead. This is one of my personal favorite places. The peace that is present in this small town envelops you as you make your way through historic buildings toward the park. Once at the park, the people of Concordia carry with them such love, kindness, and warmth that everyone feels at home and at peace. Why this place is filled with peace becomes self-evident when the riders are led to join hands and recite the Lord’s Prayer. Lunch was pulled pork that was cooked and donated by Charlie Williams with Ham donated by Tyson’s Ham, homemade finger deserts (think cookies, brownies, etc.), and chips of various types. Teachers from the local school came around to each table to hand out bags containing cards students had written to our riders. Inside the bags with the cards were buttons, a card for a return message, and an envelope.  It was explained that the school maintains a map where students track where riders are from. How do they know? The cards we are to return should identify where we are from.  What a great idea! The card in my bag was genuinely appreciative of Veterans and the sacrifices given by so many.  Teachers, I applaud you. In the school systems I’m familiar with, teachers are undermining the military and our First Responders. In Concordia, you are teaching respect for the Military and probably First Responders as well. Thank you.

After our meal in Concordia, the Central Route donated $1000 to Wreaths Across America on behalf of Seth Vandekamp and the entire pack along with Concordia community members sang the National Anthem. How cool was that! Four hundred-plus voices joined together in unity to sing the National Anthem. I almost couldn’t sing. Pride in our country, pride in our mission, and pride in the men and women around me choked me up a bit. When the singing was done, as I mentioned above, we were led to take the hands of those around us and together recite or pray the Lord’s Prayer. I realize this had the chance for some to maybe not know the words, but for as much as I could see, everyone took a hand and at a minimum honored those around them. This was an amazing moment.  Our country was founded, and our independence won by men who wholeheartedly believed in God and who undoubtedly prayed those same words. I’m not trying to preach here for that is unnecessary. What I am doing is pointing out how appropriate it was for that to have taken place. Concordia, you are a refuge of peace for our riders. Some took naps or rested under your trees during the additional time we had after lunch. You have created an atmosphere where that is possible.

The massive flag flying high over the roadway on arrival in Wentzville always blows my mind. It is huge and the only thing that compares to it as we arrive are all the people cheering and waving flags of their own alongside the roadway. The entire scene is impressive and much like our arrival in Junction City yesterday, my helmet had a bit of rain on the inside and I’m sure I’m not the only one with the same condition. As has become a tradition over 33 years of stopping in Wentzville, a brief ceremony was held before getting down to the business of enjoying the Cattlemen’s Association’s BBQed steaks. For various reasons, some riders may choose not to stay for an evening meal. At this location, leaving for a meal elsewhere is not a choice very many make!  This year’s ceremony was different than in past years. Mark Schmitz, Father of Lance Corporal Jarred Schmitz, who was among the 13 killed during the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan briefly spoke.  Mark presented the Run For The Wall with a flag bearing the names of all 13 slain in the attack to carry to the Wall in Washington DC.  Mark also handed out window clings of the same flag design to anyone who wished to place one on their bike to honor the fallen. And lastly, Mark Schmitz told us of a new nonprofit “Remembering the heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice by supporting the veterans still with us.” For information, you can visit

This was an amazing day filled with acts of love of country, love of Veterans, brotherly and sisterly love between riders, a Father’s love for his son lost in Afghanistan, and love of a God in Heaven.  I can’t wait to see how tomorrow tops today!

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 5: Gold Stars

Day 5 started under strange skies and cool weather. Smoke from Canadian wildfires gave the sky an eerie feel. Unexpectedly, there was little wind until we departed our lunch stop, then it tried to make up for lost time by lashing the pack with crosswinds. Our Route Coordinator issued the hand signal for us to ride staggered and we stayed that way until our last leg from Bunker Hill to Junction City.

Breakfast was once again provided at the Limon school where volunteers started their day extremely early to support our riders.  With a hearty breakfast in our bellies and thoughts of the mission ahead, we left Limon behind us until next year intent on reconnecting with friends of the RFTW in Oakley and Junction City.

This year the organizers in Oakley coordinated donations and labor from about forty different businesses to provide lunch for our riders and to setup/tear down the venue.  A hearty “thank you” to each of those businesses and employees who gave willingly of their time and resources.  We are better for having experienced your hospitality.

A new addition to our visit this year was the GoldStars Tribute Wall. Per their website, “The GoldStars Tribute Wall exists to Honor the fallen while serving in the United States military from the beginning of the Gulf War through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.”  The presentation is impressive in its size and very well conveys the weight of loss the country has experienced since the beginning of the Gulf War.  It was a privilege for the Run For The Wall to experience this tribute as part of our mission.

During our 2022 visit to Oakley a number of riders met the Kuhlman family anchored by 97-year-old WWII Nurse Mildred Kuhlman and her veteran son Ron Kuhlman and his wife Raye, who is also a veteran. Those same riders, me included, were anticipating our arrival in Oakley so we could once again check in on the Kuhlman family. It is with great sadness that I report that Ron Kuhlman passed on February 4th, 2023 and his mother Mildred passed on May 4th, 2023. These two veterans leave behind a legacy family counting 193 in number. Raye, your Run For The Wall family mourns this loss with you but we rest in the fact that you are surrounded by a great number of family members who enthusiastically support you.

With a five-minute warning sounded by rifle volley, the pack mounted up and departed for a parade through Russell KS to honor POW, Senator, and Presidential Candidate Bob Dole then gassed at Bunker Hill where we were met with enthusiasm by a number of families, the VFW, and other supporters.  Children offered riders Chapstick and warm smiles.

Arrival in Junction City is always spectacular. There are no words to accurately describe the feeling of riding through a corridor comprised of three hundred US Flags all carried by volunteers spurring us on. Rain inside one’s helmet is nearly impossible to hold back. Thank you, Junction City, for such an amazing welcome.

After the pack’s arrival, a ceremony was held at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial where Kansas State Representative COL (RET) Pat Proctor gave the keynote address. A Broken Spoke Wreath was laid and Taps was played.  At the conclusion of the ceremonies, a ham dinner was served by the Fraternal Order of Eagles.

City Cycle Sales Harley-Davidson opened from 4:00 – 8:00 today just to help riders with whatever needs they might have. I ventured over to their shop to see if they could solve a CB issue. There were a number of other riders present getting emergency repairs or scheduled maintenance.  Thank you City Cycle Sales for opening on a Sunday just to take care of Run For The Wall.

This day is an incredibly long day for the riders, but it feels shorter than it is because the welcome in Junction City is very uplifting and the hospitality in Oakley is offered through genuine kindness. There is more to come for the Central Route as we navigate the remainder of our mission. Tonight we are grateful for all that has occurred and the people who have shown us tremendous kindness.

The images today range from the different places and events of the day to a number of shots of overpasses. From the onset, overpass after overpass was populated with patriots encouraging us on. Wow, those signs, flags, and cheers really help on long flat roadways. Thank you for coming out to support us.  The video below is my point of view entering Junction City.

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 4, Eagle Nest NM to Limon CO: Servanthood

By all accounts, this should feel like a short day. But tonight this writer is rather tired. I’m sure many if not all of the riders are in similar circumstances. Day four is in the books. So far, the Central Route has traveled roughly 1400 miles crossing about 1/3 of the country.  This day, last year, I wrote of a snow day where an impromptu overnight in Raton due to forest fires, turned into planning the Central Route out of the harm of a snowstorm. That day we bypassed Pueblo and Fountain opting for a more direct route to Limon free from snow.

Today was much different and the wait was worth it. Thank you, Pueblo for opening the doors of the Praise Assembly church building where Chik-fil-A was served to a hungry hoard of riders. The comments I received were all made through wide grins and thumbs up!  The fine folks in Pueblo made our stay very welcome. They not only served a welcome meal, but they also had a hydration vehicle that rivaled our own by serving soft drinks, Gatorade, and water. And the volunteers? I think I skipped right over them. I’m so sorry!  The volunteers walked the parking lot and the main indoor space with bags collecting trash. What we saw today in Pueblo is servant leadership. Everyone there took on the role of Servant willingly. They did this to recognize the “service” of our veterans. This wasn’t just lunch, it was a gift of servanthood very easily overlooked because it was done so well.

Mack Ward, one of our FNG’s had his family drop by. What a cute grandbaby girl! Congratulations Mack!

Also, I found a willing participant to pose with Squatch. I’m hoping Papa Smurf doesn’t face any backlash from his Smurf friends but Squatch does suite you.

I got ahead of myself chronologically there but it seemed appropriate to speak of the servanthood on display in Pueblo first.  Something about how they walked the parking lot seeking out ways to help stirred my heart to gratitude. What they expressed for the riders wasn’t better than what is received anywhere else. It just hit me harder today.  Limon and Eagle Nest also demonstrated servanthood. In Eagle Nest, we were blessed with breakfast at the Senior Center by faithful volunteers who served us with joyfulness despite the very early morning they faced to do so. In Limon, about 20 volunteers served us dinner at the school cafeteria. All of the little things each volunteer did to create the effort of the whole that we riders received are acts of servanthood. All of them appreciated and noticed. Thank you.

This morning in Eagle Nest some Run For The Wall magic happened!!  Each day Lance, our RaffleRouser holds a 50/50 drawing.  Riders buy tickets for a set price and one lucky winner gets half of the funds collected. The remainder is collected to donate, most likely to Rainelle, but there are other schools and organizations we contribute to through the Ambassador and Outreach teams.

When the winning number was called, the value of the half won was $136.  I do not know the backstory but the rider who won the money gave it to the Grandson of the leader of the Chamber of Commerce.  The young man appeared to be in the range of nine years old to me, but I’m way past having children that age and am not a good judge. Regardless, the boy is young, he’s just been given $136 bucks.. Now what?  He said thank you and we all thought it was over; nope not by a long shot.  A few minutes later the young man returns half of the half as his own donation to the monies we are collecting every morning. Wow! What a heart of gold this young man has. Mom and Dad, you have done well.  But just like a good infomercial, “There’s more!”.  I am uncertain of who had the idea but it grew legs very quickly. Word spread throughout the rider’s morning meetings to give the boy one dollar each. The money came pouring in, the boy was found, and the new amount given to him in the form of a huge wad of cash was over $400.  The pay-it-forward mentality of giving selfishly raised money for Rainelle, and then went above and beyond that to teach a young man the lesson of generosity.

I really want you to read my Q&A with Tommy “Two Chains” featured next, but if you came here just for photos and video, you can scroll to the bottom. However, please do come back and give the Q&A a read. I was blown away at how much our Chase Team does for us.

To finalize this day’s post, I’m going to feature our Chase Team Leader Tommy “Two Chains”.  Why this day? Well, I didn’t land on a truck but I did find myself riding my own ride behind Tommy’s “last man” vehicle. If a rider taps out of their position in the pack, there is no returning to that position until the next stop. I tapped out and quickly rejoined the pack, but I had to adhere to the rule so there I was, thinking about Tommy and his crew who work so very hard to provide a tow and a receptive ear to a rider in need when a mechanical issue finds them on the side of the road.

Here is a Q&A session I conducted with Tommy a few months back in anticipation of adding it to a daily SitRep. I met Tommy for the first time last year. If you’ve not yet met him, I encourage you to do so. Tommy has a deep heart.

Q. When did you start leading the team?
A.  I lead the team for the first time last year.

Q. What roles did you fill for the Run prior to leading the team?
A. I started as a Chase truck driver in 2017 and filled that role again in 2018 and 2019.   Each year I hauled 25-30 bikes.

Q. Have you always loved being around bikes and Veterans?
A. I have ridden bikes and have not always been involved with Chase Trucks. I was almost killed in an industrial accident and tried to ride again after surgeries but it is no longer possible for me.

Q. Tommy, are you a Veteran?
A.  Yes, I am a Marine. My skill set was that of Ground Support Electrician for an F4 Phantom Squadron. I enjoyed the job but in the Marine’s everyone is an infantryman first.

Q. Have you served during any of the Nation’s conflicts?
A.  I served during the Vietnam War.m War

Q. Tommy, thank you for your service as a Marine in Vietnam. And thank you for leading our Chase Team. About how many miles does a chase/last-man truck drive on a typical run across the country?
A. In 2022 I logged 7100 miles. That is roughly 3,100 miles during the Run itself and the remainder getting to and returning from the Run

Q. What hours do you and your teams keep?
A. Ideally, we have no mechanical issues and do not have to stop, but that isn’t a reality. Our goal is always to take bikes forward. Doubling backward adds miles. Sometimes catching up to the group is many hours after the pack arrives. One time I arrived at 11:30 pm.  That experience was extreme. The Last Man vehicle is always with the pack working with the Road Guards to manage the traffic that backs up behind such a large group of bikes. The Chase trucks typically get caught up in the traffic behind the pack and find themselves arriving up to an hour or more behind the pack’s arrival.

Q. How do you manage such a large task?
A. First it is due to the great team that helps me. Without the Chase Truck Drivers themselves, this team would be no help to anyone. The thanks go to them. Second, I have an exhaustive list of dealers and contacts who can help us as we travel across the country. I reach out to each of these between runs and within a short period before the run to be sure they can be counted on if we have a rider in need. The book contains Dealer locations by the manufacturer; Honda, Harley, Indian, BMW, and others. For each, I have the address, phone number, and the days and hours of operations.

Q. While there never is a good time to break down, is there a “worst” time to break down?
A.  Sundays and Mondays are the worst. Most Dealers are closed for the weekend on these days. From Columbia to Wentzville there are few Dealers available and the stretch from Limon to Junction City is nearly void of open Dealers.

Q. Is there any Run For The Wall magic that you’ve seen happen to help a stranded rider?
A. Yes, the Harley Dealer in Hayes KS. Police helped reach the HD Dealer to support bike dropoff. The entire HOG chapter was there waiting on the trucks and several mechanics were waiting with the garage doors open. These folks helped the rider get back on the road with great sacrifice to themselves and with extremely short notice. Hayes is no longer in business. It was lost during Covid. Now the son owns Doeflers Moto Shop and the shop across the street, BJ’s, are both available to assist us on Sundays.

Q. What is the easiest way to keep from being towed? I.e. the most common dumb mistake you see that lands a bike on a trailer.
A. Do not run out of fuel. The most common issue is fuel related.

Q. What would you like riders and supporters to know about your Chase Team?
A.  Reimbursement is provided for fuel costs during the run, but many or most times drivers miss scheduled meals with the pack. Then there is wear and tear on vehicles and trailers. The cost of towing is crazy expensive. Nobody will ever ask, and frankly, it isn’t expected, but you would really make a driver’s day if you were to tip him.  You can also talk to the Chase truck drivers to coordinate the towing of your bike to Ontario or from Washington DC.  A driver with a full trailer before and after the run can have a lot of his travel expenses covered.

Q. Do you have any last words?
A. Riders, we are here for you, but you are not entitled. There are so many people involved here. The chase team themselves and all the dealers and support staff at those facilities go above and beyond to get riders back on the road after hours and on days when they would normally be closed. This is done willingly to support your healing, support your having come back from war and are dealing with PTSD. They are here for you. Remember that all those who are serving you are your equal but should be treated even better than you’d like to be treated. You cannot complete the run without the many people who serve to make your experience possible.

I’ve said a little about a lot of things today and I’ve provided you some photos and even a video of some of Central Routes experiences. In all, it was a great day. Patriotism, respect, servanthood, and kindness were in full bloom and shared with us freely.

I enjoyed the massive flag raised over the road and Riders in Raton so much that I decided to take you all on a stroll with my 360 camera.  You can move the video image any direction you like. You can turn the perspective to the sky as I cross under the flag, you can turn it to the left and right to see the faces of the riders and you can turn it to see Nick our Assistant Route Coordinator ask me where Paul our Route Coordinator can be found. “At the front!”.  The other random conversations may cause you to chuckle, but wow, look at that flag!

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 3, Gallup to Eagle Nest: Bonds

This morning the Central Route departed Gallup en route to Eagle Nest. The weather was good but rain was on the horizon. A police escort was generously provided from just outside of Albequerque all the way into Eagle Nest. Thank you to the Officers who supported us, their Command who gave the green light to do so, and to anyone who was delayed by our crossing your path at just the right time to cause you a delay.  Lunch was provided at the Big Rock Bowling Center in Española. Rain had been significant in Española prior to the Pack’s arrival but that didn’t mean there was none to be found. Rain was with us most of the way up to Eagle Nest from Taos and was heavy in Santa Fe. However, the rain didn’t darken the mood or diminish the spirit of our riders. Everyone arrived well and fully enjoyed the abundant Eagle Nest hospitality.

Along the way, I witnessed men and women doing things that change people from strangers to family. I witnessed, laughter, tears, joy, prayer, the somber playing of taps, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, people sharing meals and stories, riders and supporters opening themselves to each other, and the open exchange of like-for-like genuine kindness without pretense or mask. These are the formation of bonds that cause people to name others they did not know at the start in Ontario “family,” “brother,” or “sister.”  These are some of the RFTW experiences that bring healing to Veterans and nonveteran supporters alike.  In support of the RFTW’s stated mission “to promote healing among all veterans and their families and friends”, the Central Route made a donation to The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center at our dinner this evening.

There are reasons the Central Route stops in the locations it does. In Eagle Nest, the reason is the David Westphall Veterans Foundation, located in nearby Angel Fire. There is a deep relationship between the Foundation and the Run For The Wall. Each year, over Labor Day Weekend, a number of RFTW riders come back to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest to lay up to 500 bricks at the memorial. The Walkways of the memorial are all lined with bricks inscribed with the names of veterans.  Today, something very unusual and special occurred. The laying of a brick for RFTW Chaplain, Rupert Harrell was held.  The Foundation made an exception to allow the bricklaying now because the traditional September time is in conflict with an annual Chaplains conference.  For those of us who are unable to come in September, this was a solemn honor to witness. For the Harrell Family, it was clearly emotional. It is my prayer that each Harrell family member experienced healing in equal measure to the emotional struggle. Your RFTW Family and Chaplains are here to support you. The ceremony was also clearly challenging for the Chaplains who served side by side with Rupert. It is clear that Rupert will have a lasting legacy here in the natural even though he has heard the words “well done my good and faithful servant” Mathew 25:21.

Here is Rupert’s Bio as read by Chaplain Duane:

“Today we rode in honor of Rupert Harrell and we will lay a brick in his memory by this Huey. Vietnam War (1962-1975)

Rupert Harrell, Jr. proudly served in the U.S. Army for 2-1/2 years as a Helicopter Crew Chief. Service medals and awards received include the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, two Bronze Star Medals with Valor, Vietnam Service Medal, two Overseas Bars, Air Medal, two Purple Hearts, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Marksman with M-14 Rfile, Sharpshooter with M-16 Rfile and the Army Commendation Medal. Rupert was a true hero. In Vietnam, he served as an assault helicopter Crew Chief/Door Cunner for a Co. 158 Avn. 101st Airborne, Ghostriders. He was shot down four times. I personally met one gentleman who credited Rupet with saving his life in Vietnam when he pulled him into his helicopter and extracted him from a hot zone. They called him Preacher in Vietnam because he received his credentials with the Assemblies of God while he was in Vietnam. In his ministry, he has taken many Vietnam vets back to Vietnam to do ministry, build churches, and find their own inner healing.

Rupert was a husband, a father, a pastor, an evangelist, an HonorBound Motorcycle Ministry member, and a Run For the Wall Chaplain. Rupert was scheduled to be the Senior Chaplain for the RFTW Central Route in 2020 and 2021 but the official runs were canceled. Sadly, we lost Rupert before he could fulfill that role and I served in his place. Rupert is greatly missed and I’m proud and honored to have been able to call him friend.”

There was one additional item I think will bring a bit of levity to this otherwise somber posting. Not to say that somber isn’t okay. It is. If we don’t experience both somber and joyful moments while conducting this mission, we will have probably failed. Early in the evening at the Community Center, it was discovered that the cake decorator had been creating these ginormous and amazingly beautiful cakes for our arrival but she had never had a slice of her own. Well now, that cannot be!  Paul Marshall cut the cake and gave her the first piece. You’ll see some of that in the grid of photos above.

Posted on Leave a comment

CR Day 2: Honor and Generosity

Gourd Dancers in full Regalia

So many of us look forward to Central Route Day 2.  This second day is filled with experiences of honor where the Native American communities in Holbrook Arizona and Gallup New Mexico honor the members of the Run with dances that honor the Warrior while proudly displaying their heritage and culture.


The morning started with rendering honor and never forgetting the tragedy of 9/11. A breakout platoon visited the Winslow Arizona 9/11 Memorial where two beams represent the twin towers. Coincidentally, they also look like the number eleven, the date in September when life ended for many and the way we live in the United States changed forever.

In Holbrook, Tʼiisyaakin as it is known in Navaho, every school is visited by the Central Route’s Ambassador Team where a flag folding ceremony is held and the Ambassadors communicate what the Run For The Wall is all about. To accomplish this effort, the Ambassadors ride well out in front of the main pack. By the time our large group of riders arrive in Holbrook, visits to the schools are complete and the students can be found lining the streets welcoming the riders home with signs, flags, clapping, and cheering. What great honor they show each and every rider. The pack navigates the streets of Holbrook passing every school before coming to a stop at the American Legion Post 37 where lunch is served, Native Dances are performed and students play music out of the back of an old Duece and a half. Here new riders may have their first encounter with Native dances. Today we witnessed several. I was at the back of the room and couldn’t get good photos. However, you can go to Mama G’s blog where I expect you can find some good images of the dancers. Mama G in years past was the daily SITREP Writer for the Central Route. Now she keeps an informal archive of her RFTW experiences on her own blog. That link is here.

Between Holbrook and Gallup is the New Mexico border, where most years we pick up a Law Enforcement escort. This escort is a ballet of officers, mostly on motorcycles, who run ahead to block on-ramps, then quickly recapture and pass the RFTW main pack to get back in front where they can once again block an on-ramp or in some cases pull over vehicles we would otherwise overtake and have to change lanes to pass. All the vehicles that we delay are allowed to follow our Last Man Vehicle operated by Tommy Two Chains, who also functions as the coordinator of our Chase Truck team. I’ll give you more information on the Chase Team in a post another day.  The New Mexico LEO escort is very much appreciated. With their help, the risk to rider safety is diminished, but even more so, their presence serves to validate the RFTW Mission. Each rider feels it in different ways, but all are impacted by the presence of the LEO Escort. For me, it speaks this truth to my soul; my service is worth their time, their effort, and the small sacrifice of delay for those they kindly move out of our way or stop from entering the freeway until after we have passed. It says “Thank you for your service, welcome home, this is your parade.” We will encounter other escorts as we cross the country. If you are reading this and you are one of the escorts, or were someone who approved police resources to escort The Run For The Wall, or you are maybe someone who was delayed by the escort, thank you. We appreciate you. We are grateful for the honor you give to the Run For The Wall.

Upon arrival in Gallup New Mexico, the riders encounter what can plausibly be argued as “the most honoring” of all the stops we make. I say “argued” because the sacrifices made by the hundreds of volunteers who graciously serve us at every stop are themselves right there in comparison. There is something extra special about the Native American tribes who come together in Gallup to engage with the Veterans in a ceremony that cannot easily be forgotten. US Flags line the roadway entering  Red Rock Park and Drummers and Singers can be heard in the distance as we dismount our iron horses. I chose that term not because we hear Bon Jovi over the loudspeakers but because we hear songs and drums from a distant past that carry the tradition of a proud Native Heritage across the centuries from the days before motorcycles and modern transportation where Native Warriors, often horse-mounted, were honored with the same songs and drums as they honor the Veteran Warriors of the Run For The Wall today. Each song and pattern of the drums has a specific meaning, as does the regalia worn by dancers who invite our riders to join them in the center of the gathering to dance or carry one of a significant number of flags representing Native tribes, and the United States. Many of the dancers are US Military Veterans themselves. It is important to not overlook the fact that the people who undertake such an effort to honor our military were once hunted by the United States military, yet now they embrace us under the flag of the United States as Brothers, Sisters, and Warriors.

The service of Native Americans in the armed forces is legendary.

“…American Indians have proudly worn our nation’s uniform in every one of our conflicts…American Indians per capita – have had the highest percentage of their people in military service, exceeding every American ethnic group.”

Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Former U.S. Senator, COL.)

Here are but a few of the many who deserve mention. The Navaho Code Talkers provided secure radio communications that helped turn the tide of WWII. Minnie Spotted-Wolf, Blackfoot tribal member, USMC, first Native American woman to enlist in the USMC; Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation tribal member, U.S. Army, WWII and Korean War veteran, medal of honor receipt; The more than 42,000 Native Americans who served in Vietnam, of whom 90% were volunteers; Lori Piestewa, Hopi tribal member, U.S. Army, Iraq War veteran, first Native American woman to die in combat, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal recipient.

To all who have made this day so special, we salute you and with our deepest gratitude we thank you for your sacrifices of time and resources to welcome and honor the riders of the Run For The Wall.


I was hesitant to add this to the SITREP today but at the prompting of the Route Coordinator, Paul Marshall, I am doing so. Every day of the Run, while we are on the road leading up to our arrival in Rainelle on day 9, our Raffle Rouser, Lance works feverishly each morning to raise funds to donate to Rainelle Middle School. To do that, Paul collects donations to be used in his fundraising efforts. I reached out to him via text message asking that this morning he would auction off a blanket or quilt if any were donated. Here’s where doing something beyond yourself can be multiplied; follow the dots with me. At some point well before we left Ontario Papa Smurf’s wife, um.. Mrs. Papa Smurf? Chose to be very generous with her time. She created the most beautiful set of quilts that had two large ones and two pillowcases all made with great care. That set is what Lance put forth to auction this morning. I bid an amount that probably wouldn’t cover the cost if the set was sold in a quilt store, but it wasn’t an embarrassment either and with luck, I won the auction without having to fight someone to do so. Ok, there were two dots to follow there, Mrs. Papa Smurf graciously donated Quilts for auction and I purchased those quilts. Dot one, generosity to the Run for the Wall. Dot two, funds that were going to wind up going to Rainelle from me in some method this week. I budgeted them to be donated. Now they have been. Now we get to the exponential growth of this generosity. Mrs. Papa Smurf likely never expected that the buyer of her amazing quilts would give them away! That is exactly what I did today while at Red Rock Park. I have interacted with Native people on a number of occasions, and I have learned through those interactions that the giving of gifts is incredibly meaningful within their culture. I also know as the recipient of a blanket from a member of the Lumi Nation in Washington State that to some tribes the giving of a blanket indicates acceptance as family and adoption into the tribe. There is, of course, no paperwork and you aren’t now formally a Native American, but you are indeed respected and thought of as family. Using that knowledge, I sought out Larry and Victoria Anderson. I met Larry and Victoria last year. Larry had just been released from the hospital the morning of our arrival and was determined to be present. Similarly, Larry has still been fighting illness and today was one of the few times he has been out of his home over the last year. This couple works behind the scenes to bring all of the nations represented at the ceremonies together and they advertise the event while they spend countless hours ensuring the event is successful all without asking to be recognized. Today, I gifted them one of the larger quilts and the two pillowcases. They are now forever a part of the Run For The Wall Family, and mine as well. The second large quilt was given to PJ James, Gunnery Sergeant, USMC Ret. Gunny James is a member of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and is a direct descendant of the heroes who helped win WWII. Gunny James himself is a Purple Heart awardee among his many other military accomplishments. Gunny James and his family are now forever Family to the Run For The Wall and mine as well. So, if you’ve been following the dots, the one action of Generosity given by Mrs. Papa Smurph has now given to the Middle School in Rainelle, to me by bringing me great joy in the purchase and gifting of those quilts, and also to the Anderson and James families, who tonight are enjoying their gifts and the generosity and honor bestowed upon them by a member of The Run For The Wall.

This is a 360 video taken of the Dances and Songs Ceremony in Gallup for the Run For The Wall.