It was a great day, sunny, warm weather and no rain.
All 3 routes meet in the Convention center parking lot. This is truly an organized chaos. The people holding the numbers are the stagers…this is how it gets organized.
Check out all the bikes
Breakfast was cooked on what looks like Coleman stoves. They were have a good ole time.
Here is Dan aka Papi. He is the Central route photographer. He always keeps us laughing
…. and is a great photographer
This is Eamon and Terri Tansey. Eamon served in the Australian army during Vietnam War. He is out route coordinator.
Tom Miller is the Assistant Route Coordinator (ARC) with his with Jan. Tom has been the road guard captain for at let 3 years. Maybe more. He always has a great smile!!
Larry (Leadership Support) and Jean Gault (Sit Rep Reporter)
At the start of every day is morning pray and the Pledge. Today is no exception, except for they way the colors are presented…..
Singing of the Star Spangle Banner and the 2 girls sign it also.
This women was introduced and a POW mom, The gentleman in the green is the brother of the POW.
Ok Saddle up!!!!! All routes will leave at the same time, then split down the road.
We are rolling out. The parking lot is getting empty.
Here are a few examples of the bike with trailer just to give you an idea.
Roger , aka Pops, will be carrying the Mayor of Loveland CO cross country. Funny thing is, I live in Loveland , OH
The flag is flying as we exit the parking lot. Safe travels, I will be watching over you.
First bridge as we leave the parking lot. What a way to start the day!!!
Little foggy….. that is an understatement…
Yeah finally starting to see blue sky. FYI for those that have followed my blog before, you will notice I love to take lots of pics of this beautiful country. I realize many people cannot make a trip like this so I want to show off our country. Hope you enjoy the pics.
Amazing. The patriotism.
First gas stop. The first day on gas stops are always hectic. There are lots of FNGs and this makes the task interesting.
Here is how it works. The pumps are turned on and not shut off until everyone is fueled. We round up and no one gets change. If your bill is $7.50, you owe $8. If you happened to give a ten, you just donated to the chase vehicles fuel bill… thanks
I am going to try timing one tomorrow but normally we can fuel 400 bikes in 20-25 minute.
Never ceases to amaze me!!!
“Heroic Road Guard Save Pack from Gator”
Kirk is one of our many road guards. One of the tasks is to try and clear any large debris before the pack comes thru. Today, the Gator, (that is a retread tire) was in the line of the bikes. He was able to get a break in traffic and retrieve it off the road…. however as he was throwing it to the side, he lands and slides head first on the side. Anyone have a pic of this…. I would love to post it.
Kirk “Pretty Boy” Olson and Ken ” Catfish” Ward are on the board for RFTW and are our road guards. THANKS guys for all you do. Hope your arm feels better Kirk.
Did you ever sit at a railroad crossing and count the number of cars of a train? Well I have. Out here you can see the whole train and these 2 had about 80.
This is “Walrus”. He is standing at every exit the pack needs to take. You surely cannot miss him.
Nice surprise by our Outreach and Ambassador teams.
Here is the staging team before anyone gets in the lot. They have to know how many bikes are in each platoon and then get enough space for them to fit in a lot. Way before all this, someone has to scout out locations to be able to handle 400 bikes in a lot. Thanks Steve!! This is all done way in advance. Every year you need check with EVERY stop made. Today we had 5, now multiply this by 10 day. That a LOT of planning
Look where leadership ended up. You have to improvise. And share the lot when necessary.
Hydration team Thanks!! We are heading into the desert…. so everyone hydrate.
This is Barry and Devine. They assign the new riders to platoons. This can be a tricky job since you want to balance them out. Also people come and go on the Run the platoon get bigger and smaller. Some can only make it a few day and it could be at the beginning, the middle, or the end of the run. Devine also helps with the Registration duties.
Day is looking good but still a little hazy. BEAUTIFUL!! Pics just do not show the full picture.
This is Wild Bill another one of our road guards and a Vietnam vet. Before we left Ontario, the Run is always trying to raise money. Someone donated 2 cows to be auctioned off. Bill got one of them. Bill did you get T-bone or Sirloin? This is a little cow mascot he has on the back.
What a great reception heading into Needles, CA for Lunch.
Rick is another one of your veteran road guards. I will show lots of these pics. It captures the respect that the Run has.
Wow only our 3 gas stop and you guys look like pros. Way to go Fuel team
Bud is the CA state coordinator. Each state has one. They have a big job. All the gas, lunch , dinner….stops need to be organized. The state coordinators do this to make he Run go smooth. I will not hold it against you Bud that you are a Pittsburg fan. (He was born and raised there, then move to CA).
Here is one of the table clothes in Needles. Kids do a great job
Now a few more of the leadership team. Bernadette is the 50-50 person , Cookie is part of registration, and Dabo…. he is not leadership.. he is a road guard.
Lance is our raffle rouser…. Dadbo, photo bombed us again.
People of Needles are always working hard to give us a great lunch.
And today we got ice cream. It was 101 in the shade today and this was sooo good. The gentleman in the center of the pic is a Vietnam vet. Several thanked him for his service. Remember, is only takes a few seconds to thanks them!!!
Head out over the Colorado river into Arizona.
Next fuel stop. Check this out. We are only thereabout 45 minutes and look at all the support
See the pine trees. This is how we know we are getting close to Williams AZ. They smell so good.
Great reception in town. Love to see the kids engaged. This is our future.
The day was long and I was a little disappointed there was no table to work at. NO big deal, we make do. I may need help getting up… LOL
Welcome everyone!! My name is Jean Gault and I will be your Sit Rep report for the Central Route. I come from Loveland Oh and this is my 5th year on the Run. I ride with my husband, Larry. I will try my best to make you feel like you are riding with us.
Let me give you a short summary of our mission:
Mission Statement of RFTW : To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.
Philosophy: We strive to maintain a safe, supportive, and private atmosphere in which all participants can reflect and heal on their journey to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, DC in the hope that they can return home to a new beginning.
Goals: 1) To guide the participants across America. 2) To educate future generations as to the importance of accountability in wartime actions emphasizing that no one should be left behind.
History(from the RFTW.org website)
Run For The Wall® (RFTW) was started in 1989 by James “Gunny” Gregory and Bill Evans, two Vietnam Veterans who traveled across the heartland of America on motorcycles. They talked to local radio, TV and newspapers about the thousands of men and women still unaccounted for from in all wars. The Run gives Vietnam Veterans and all Veterans the opportunity to receive their own “Welcome Home” and start their healing process. The need for this awareness continues today and we carry on this tradition every May.
We had another beautiful day today!! Lots going on. It is out final day to prep for our departure tomorrow. It was very exciting for me as I have met so many new people. We welcome them to the RFTW family.
As I write this every day, I thought I would give you definition of roles people play to get us cross country. I have also listed a number of how many for each. Here is a list you may want to reference. 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 know to clear some debris off the road to keep us safe.
Staging– 30 = Get to the next stop ahead of
the pack and set up for each platoon to be staged
Fuel-24 = 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 also 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 – 6 – 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 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,
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……you will see more through the blog.
(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 10-12 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
Sit Rep Reporter – 1 – This person give a summary of the day (this is me this year 🙂 )
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.
Additional Terms: 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
We start our day in the lobby of the hotel. Lots of people seem to be scurrying around. As I walk around I notice a gentleman and see that is he a Medal of Honor recipient. He is John P Baca.
On February 10, 1970, Specialist John Baca dove on a grenade thrown near his firing position in Phuoc Long Province, South Vietnam, saving his fellow soldiers. Baca received the Medal of Honor on June 15, 1971. He returned to Vietnam in 1990 and worked alongside former enemy soldiers to build a United States–Vietnam friendship clinic.
I went over gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek. I whispers to him “Thank you very much for your service, and welcome home.” He hugged me back and gave me a Challenge coin.
Very humble man.
I was just walking around and saw a WWII veteran. This is Royce Williams. He served in WWII, Korea and Vietnam.
As we sit at a table for lunch, we meet these 2 gentleman from Tuscan AZ. They are FNGs. They said they better do the Run this year before the get too old. A comment made by one of the men was “when we arrived in California after our tour, people were lined up and as the walked from the plane, they were spat on.” I have hear this before, but still hard to hear that Americans would treat our service men and women this way. Welcome home gentlemen!!
Had to show you another beautiful paint job on one of the bikes. WOW!!
I ran in to “Gunny” Gregory (Founder) and his wife “Patty-o”. Great couple!!!
Every year there is a Bike Build. Combat Hero Bike Build is an organization that builds a bike for a service man or women that have lots a limb. This year it was for Jed Morgan, USMC. He was blown up by an IED in Afghanistan. He is a double amputee and has lost much of the function of his right hand.
Prior to the unveiling of the bike we say the Pledge of Allegiance. All service man will salute and other place their hand of their heart. This is an amazing site. You will see lots of these pics throughout the run.
Jed and his wife are introduced….
…. and welcomed and thanked by the Colonel.
A comment by him really hit me:
Those that have lost limbs, did not lose them…. the gave them for our freedom.
Then a big surprised. The corpsman that saved his life came for the event. What a neat reunion. Several tears among the crowd. Where are the tissues?
Larry got a chance to thank him for his service
WHAT A BIKE!!! and Jed was grinning from ear to ear!!!
He gets instructions….
….and he is off. Smile never left his face.
Ok off to the next meeting. On our way I spot one of the Chase Vehicle trailers. Thought you may like to see how this one is set up. You never want to be on one of these. But last year we ended on one. Thanks goodness these guys were there.
Next meeting of the day is the All Hands meeting. This is mandatory for EVERYONE.
We meet up with Scooter. He is the road guard for the Central Route that is way out front. He will let us know of any road issues and keeps us informed for all the turns.
I true fashion, we start with the Pledge.
President of RFTW Welcomes everyone especially our FNGs.
Check out the participant!!
The men here are the Route Coordinators. They have worked all year and put in 1000s of hour to make this happen. Currently there are 3 routes to DC: Central, Midway and Southern. This year there is a fourth, the Sandbox. More on that one in a bit.
For those of you that followed me last year, Shanna was our staging person for the leadership platoon. Since last year, she got married and has had a baby. Her and her husband drove over 3 hours to meet up with her Run family and wish us well. Flo is in the blue hat and will replace her. Flo I hope you are ready to do some jumping around like Shanna do for us to find you. Congrats Shanna.
The day seems to get better and better. After the All Hands meeting, Little Big Mike is all anxious to find me. He introduced me to Tony Cordero (oops forgot to get his pic). He is a Gold Star son. His father was killed in Vietnam. Most of the time, gold star would be given to a wife or mother. But what about the kids of those killed?
Tony, with others, has an organization called “Sons and Daughters in Touch”. Goal Sons and Daughters In Touch is an all-volunteer, national support organization committed to uniting the Gold Star sons and daughters of American servicemen who were killed, or who remain missing, as a result of the Vietnam War. In addition, our membership includes family members and many military veterans who served with our fathers — all dedicated to furthering the mission of SDIT.
About every five years, this organization has a Father’s Day at the Wall. This is to help with the emotions of all family members.
In 2003, 50 of the Vietnam gold star kids along with 20 Vietnam Veteran as chaperons, took a trip to Vietnam. They broke out into groups to visit where their father lost his life. The people in Vietnam were extremely happy to see them and treated them with great respect. For some it was a life changing event and it put some of the demons to bed.
Tony found this medal. It is the Gold Star Pilgrimage Medallion. It was given to Gold Star mothers and wives. If you look closely at it, there is the Statue of Liberty and the Eifel tower with a ship in between. The government at the time would sail the member to Paris. All expenses paid.
If you look a this side, is says “…the world war”. When this was made after WWI, they never dreamed of a second world war. These medals were made by Tiffanys. you need a magnifying glass to see it. It is at 5:00 postion.
Tony has this pin on his shirt. It is a Gold Star pin that is easily worn on a shirt collar.
As we were finishing up, he made a comment ” when you start out as a blue star family….you do not what to be a gold start family”
Thanks Tony for sharing.
The day is not yet over. Remember I mentioned about a 4th Route. Well this route will be from DC to Marceilles, IL. This is where the Middle East Conflict Wall is. It will take place after we reach DC. It will be a 2 1/2 day ride. We are trying to get the younger generation engaged.
The WWII veteran made a comment “We need the Vietnam vets to hand of the baton to those in today’s conflicts. We need to continue to fight for our freedom. We need to keep the wall running.”
Those going on this recon mission were all here: platoon leaders, tail gunners,……
Then the word was given: Man the mission and bring it to life.
With that said, they all started their bikes and revved the engines. Sooo cool to hear that.
This is called “Wall to Wall”, aka W2W. It is now commissioned!!!!
This flag is on the Scouts bike for the ride to Marseilles.
It has been one heck of a day. And it is now getting late. Cannot wait for tomorrow!!
My beloved Daddy was Killed in Action (KIA) on June 7, 1968 in Vietnam- thus, Memorial Day, June 7th, and Father’s Day always felt like a 1, 2,3, gut, heart, soul punch each year. I carefully avoided any Memorial Day events my entire life. Since June of 1968, I have recited the pledge of allegiance with my right hand over my heart and my my left hand behind my back with my index and middle fingers crossed. Even though my dad was career USMC, he was the nurturing parent and we all adored him. He was the embodiment of loving kindness, patience, integrity, strength, passion and a hilarious sense of humor. Needless to say, his death left a huge hole in the fabric of our family soul.
In the summer of 2017, I left Santa Fe, NM and bought a one way ticket to New Zealand. I was planning to immigrate to New Zealand and spend the rest of my life in a monastic setting. I shut down my website of 20 years for Healing Retreats, and gave away all my belongings save my car and some clothes. I went to California to bid family and friends farewell. I made one last trip to my dad’s grave at the Serbian Cemetery in Los Angeles, CA and fully thought I’d never return unless for a family emergency or death.
Three days before I flew to New Zealand, I had coffee with a childhood friend whom I had run into at an event. Because I had joined SDIT (Sons and Daughters in Touch, a private Facebook group for Vietnam Gold Star sons and daughters) I was becoming more at ease with actually speaking about being a Vietnam Gold Star daughter—language that was never used prior. My childhood friend Ken apparently had a passion for documentaries unbeknownst to me. As I was sharing some of the miraculous unfolding of what I thought was my last “Healing Retreat” I led, he suddenly got sparked with an idea to do a documentary about how I had in effect “raised myself from the dead” since my father’s death and used the tools on myself first, then applied them for the healing of others. After our meeting, I sat in my car dumbfounded as God revealed a “movie trailer” vision of how my time in New Zealand would unfold, and it wasn’t at all what I expected… in other words, the New Zealand “plan” was now dust and this “project” with Ken was God’s Will. Both Ken and I had felt the “buzz” that comes when a project clearly has God’s handwriting on it. I didn’t have the courage to share this with anyone at the time, so I went ahead and flew to New Zealand and returned to the USA within two months time. I met with Ken and he simply told me to start writing the story.
Since everyone thought I was still in a far away country, instead of returning to Santa Fe, NM, a friend in El Dorado Hills, CA suggest I come to her home to write the story and be away from any and all distractions. I started writing a week before Christmas and completed the first rough draft by April. A few days before Christmas I took a walk in this new neighborhood after writing all day. I passed a home that was flying the USA flag alongside the POW/MIA flag. The still small voice whispered to me to ring the doorbell and introduce myself. I ignored it and continued walking. I was afraid perhaps that a PTSD Vietnam Vet would not appreciate the intrusion. When the voice repeated itself for the third time I finally surrendered. Taking a deep breath, I rang the doorbell and promptly stepped back, ready to make a mad dash just in case… As the door slowly opened I heard a man speaking on the phone. Oh dear, I had interrupted a phone call. Once the door was fully open and I saw his kind, blue, soulful eyes. I knew I was in no danger at all. He was wondering what I had to sell perhaps, so I said, “I’m sorry to interrupt you but I noticed your flags and I’m a Vietnam Gold Star daughter”. I think that was the first time I had ever uttered those words to a stranger. He was a large husky man with an unassuming demeanor and he very quickly said into his phone, “I have to go, something has come up and I will call you back” and he hung up and came towards me to hug me and asked, “Can you please repeat that?” As we embraced, and I cried, I felt like I was with the brother I never had, but always wanted in our family had suddenly materialized and I was safe, warm, and held in a knowingness about the War like never before.
His name is Don Burns, and his road name is “EZ”, and he certainly embodied kindness, patience and a calm presence. God could not have picked a better brother for my journey. He told me about Run for the Wall (RFTW), which I had never heard of before and I confess, at the time, I thought – what a great pilgrimage these Vets do, but I would never get on the back of a Harley after all these years. He made me promise I would send him an email with my information and my dad’s and I did. He gave me his card and my housemate was astounded when she innocently asked, “how was your walk?” and I tossed his card on the counter for her to see.
I went to the Northern California Run for the Wall lunch the following month and again assured myself that there was absolutely no way I could ever do this for a myriad of reasons: I don’t do well in crowds, I’m too sensitive, I have low back issues, I’m emotionally empathic and I would be in constant overwhelm. The list appeared endless as to why I could never participate. Not to mention that visiting The Wall always seemed to elicit a gigantic inner turmoil of emotions that simply wanted to be acknowledged and simply allowed, but were always politely stuffed back down for fear of upsetting others.
I eventually shared with Ken about meeting Don (EZ) and the RFTW mission. We had no money for our project and just the thought of entertaining the idea of traveling with The Run to participate in its Mission to get to DC seemed absurd. However, the more I simply prayed, it seemed I was being led to participate with RFTW on some level. I attended my second Northern California RFTW lunch with the local group and EZ showed up with a picture of my dad and announced to the group that he would be riding for my dad that year. Bam! The depth of how this landed in my heart is impossible to convey in words, suffice it to say that the purity and soulfulness of it touched me profoundly. And, I noticed I was still terrified of getting on the back of a Harley. It had been 30-years and I had memories of crashes, although no broken bones but I was all too well aware of the inherent dangers of motorcycles.
By the next N. CA lunch meeting, I was feeling at ease with the group and easily embracing the other Vietnam Vets and Gold Stars that were attending, as well as the civilians who support the mission. Ken and I had a phone conversation, surprising me to no end, he simply said, “I don’t know what it is, but we have to be in DC. We have no funding, so let’s just each pay our own way and we’ll figure it out as we go along”. Wow, I truly had no idea Ken was like me, a “jumper”, one who is willing to leap without a parachute, follow the mystery, and not worry about earthly details! I had certainly chosen the right person to do this project with! He said he would drive up in April for the next lunch and interview EZ and me for the project. In the meantime EZ kept mentioning we needed to go for a “ride” so he could see how I handle on a bike. I skillfully kept avoiding this “ride”.
Needing funds to get to DC, I did what I know how to do… I scheduled a weekend retreat for mid-May (that I teach), and that gave me enough funds to purchase my airfare to DC, and then meet-up with the Central Route for Day 10. I would be done teaching the Wednesday prior to Memorial Day, so I’d fly into DC Thursday. It seemed God’s Grace kept leading the way though I still worried about being in crowds and my innate sensitivity. While praying one morning, the inspiration for a “Go Fund Me” to fully cover my remaining hotel costs came. I had never done a Go Fund Me and felt quite wary of it, but I had to surrender yet again. I posted it on Facebook simply stating a Gold Star Daughter was making a pilgrimage to The Wall. I didn’t say it was me, and I simply just let it be. I was stunned to say the least, and with each donation, I found myself bawling. With the exception of one of my dearest friends who is an amazing civilian and “gets” my profound loss, each donation came from others profoundly touched in their own way by the war—a Vietnam Vet started with the first donation and I wept. Next a Gold Star widow, two childhood friends whose dad’s served in Vietnam, but returned home with deep wounds, and then a few Gold Star Vietnam children. They all had already made the supreme sacrifice. I was incredibly touched and it seemed the tears were never going to stop.
EZ had to spoon feed me step-by-step as it was a lot of information to assimilate the details of the RFTW. He told me I would be receiving a ticket to ride through Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday morning, and RFTW is the only group with this permission, and only 400 bikes do this each year with FNG’s on the back. I would be an FNG. He then hinted that it would be good for me to ride with them for some of the journey, and again I worried about my low back issues, being on a bike, being with “this” particular crowd, etc…and I kept resisting. We were raised by our “strict” Marine mother who had forbade us to cry about our dad the day we got the news, the day of his funeral, and basically anytime we began to show emotion about it, so I surmise I was also afraid I might cry, even though on some level, I knew I couldn’t be with a better crowd in which to allow my tears to flow.
In April at our last lunch, I was finally going to jump on the back of the Harley with EZ and the group after our lunch. My specially ordered t-shirt had arrived which had a cross inside a heart and the words, “Semper Fi Daddy” underneath, so I wore my shirt and prayed! I trusted EZ, he was the big brother I had needed since 1968. He filled a “hole” that I didn’t even know existed prior to meeting him. I hopped on the back of his Harley and thought, if we die, I’m good, as truth be told, a part of me has always looked forward to dying since 1968. Ken stood by capturing all of us on video, and as soon as our pack pulled out onto the road, I got “it”. My body was flooded instantly with “the mission”. It suddenly all made absolute perfect sense. Wow. Robert “Old School” Reavis gave me my road name that day. My body flew up a bit when we hit a hard railroad crossing, my helmet strap was flapping in the wind, my earrings and ponytail as well… so “Dangles” was my road name and it fit.
Now of course everything had changed, and I wanted to go “All the Way” but alas my retreat, that I was teaching was planned and full. My heart ached. There was no possible way to change things, so I had to surrender. My flight into DC Thursday wasn’t arriving until 7PM, not enough time to get up to the Central Route lodging. So we planned the next best thing, Ken would show up early Friday at the host hotel where I was staying, and he would drive me west to meet up for the last day of the Central Route’s journey. EZ had been discussing this with me for awhile, but I didn’t quite understand and I was attempting to avoid being on a Harley. Now all that had changed.
The Missing Man Coordinator was a man named Tom “Bones” Pogue, and EZ told me I needed to call him. Just like with EZ, as soon as I heard Bones’ voice on the other end of the phone, I knew I was “home”. It was astounding to me that Bones was not a Vietnam Vet as his heart and soul was cut from the same cloth of depth, genuineness, care, and love. If this was the “crowd” I was going to be around, I had nothing to fear. If I had any expectations or fears left, they were skillfully being burnt up in a huge bonfire of blazing love to reveal a simple spaciousness that soothed my soul.
I had never met other Vietnam Gold Star “kids”, save for a long ago picnic and Christmas event in 1968 that was actually a horrid memory, as we all were shell shocked and shattered, and never saw one another again. On The Run were some “wall siblings” (those whose dad’s name are also on The Wall) that I would be meeting, and words can not convey what this meant to me as well. I had already connected with them via our private Facebook group, and had talked to some on the phone, but being able to meet face-to-face and hug is just beyond description.
Early Friday morning before Memorial Day had finally arrived! Making the drive from DC to meet up at RFTW’s meeting spot was amazing. I had visceral memories of living in Quantico, VA with Daddy and our family, and my heart was singing as my body recalled this entire area with fondness. Wearing my special t-shirt which matched the color of the blue sky reminded me of our happy times in this state. EZ had told us to be on time and we were early. Waiting for the bikes to finally roll in seemed like an eternity, my excitement was palpable!
Vroom, vroom and here they come! Platoon leaders, road guards, motorcycles galore and there I was obviously an FNG trying to contain my overwhelming emotion and excitement! My big brother EZ told me where to wait for him. I met my first “wall sibling”, Sandy who was also an FNG who had started the morning riding in the Missing Man formation for her Daddy, also a Marine and we exchanged quick hugs and tears as I was escorted by EZ to our spot and to meet Bones. As soon as I saw his soulful eyes, I said “Bones” as I went in for a hug. Two other RFTW brothers came up and introduced themselves as friends of Jed’s and gave me bear hugs. I was truly “home” here. Bones showed me the Missing Man chalk drawing and dedication he had made for my Daddy and it was perfect. And then it was “time”….something that had been building for months, perhaps 50-years was about to begin… I was going to ride Missing Man Formation for my beloved Daddy on the back of a Harley in the beautiful state of Virginia behind a police escort.
As we pulled out, it wasn’t lost on me that the last time I was in a police escort was 1968, as we rode in a black limousine following the flag draped coffin in the hearse ahead that carried my beloved Dad. Almost 50-years later I was now riding on a Harley, hair blowing in the wind, heart, soul and body finally mended back together, full deep breaths and easily allowing any tears to flow. Wham, the presence of My Dad was there as soon as we entered the road. Ohhh the love, the love was so palpable, strong, deep and overflowing… that is what brings the tears now. Sure perhaps always a hint of sorrow of what could have been, but the love is so thick, I can breath it, taste it, smell it, and touch it with my hands it seems. “Dangling” in the wind through the veils of time and space is the palpable essence of shimmering love… Mmm, was it my Daddy who whispered to Old School the idea of my nickname of Dangles?
Dear Lord, what a day this is… the sky is azure blue, a few soft fluffy clouds here and there as I ride with my brother who simply gets “it”, no words necessary, and behind me, a long flowing sea of souls on motorcycles committed to the same mission and whom are my “family”. I don’t use the word “family” flippantly, for the word alone means we “belong together” and I belong to them as they belong to me. My healing is their healing, and their healing is my healing. Together, we will love the war out of one another for the rest of our days. As we pulled into the host hotel, flags are waving, people are cheering, and I’m happier than I ever have been. All of my many years of individual healing, leading healing retreats, prayers, and such has all been deeply exquisite and lovely, but “THIS” was the missing piece. Thank you Holy Spirit for insisting I ring the doorbell. My brother EZ opened up so much more than his front door.
To be continued RFTW, to be continued…. so much love and gratitude to each and every one of you,
Hi again. Just a few notes to wind up the Sit Reps for 2018.
There were so many FNG’s to brag about on this RUN. It was so good to see many come on board and enjoy the RUN and many have caught hold of what the RUN is about and have ordered their lives to make permanent changes. One, among many, is Frank Davis of California. He was brought on board by Don Burns and Frank regularly attends meetings. In Frank’s words, the mission of the RUN is outstanding and the mission of helping all vets is a very good one and one that hits home with him. Frank has dealt with PTSD as a fire fighter for 28 years and 3 years ago he began to study and understand more of nutrition’s effect at the cell level on PTSD. He has also said that his belief in Christ has helped him and has really been the impetus in his finding the help he has needed. The RUN has given him the process to find healing and he encourages any one going through or dealing with PTSD to try to put aside the feelings of abandonment and come be a part of Run For The Wall people and you will find some of the healing you need.
Okay, this is the last one. Thanks so much for reading and I hope I have given you a taste of what the RFTW is all about. Please also visit mamag03.blogspot.com. for a bunch of great pictures and if you have questions for me, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I wanted to go back to yesterday which would place us in Nitro last night. 5/23 We were at the Nitro presentation when the song by Lee Greenwood, I am proud to be an American, was played. The song had barely started when seemingly the entire front half of the people around the “stage” came together and held hands and lifted them up and began to sing along. It was an emotion packed moment-in-time that says so very much about the spirit of togetherness in the group last night. And then this morning when we were sitting on our bikes ready to go, someone honked their horn, then another and it erupted into a symphony of everyone’s horn going at the same time. There just seemed to be a joyful spirit among the group and it was fun to be there. The video I took of the song is about 3 minutes long and will not fit well in this format but may see it on the rftw.us facebook. I will try to include it here but if you cannot pull it up, send me an email and I will send it and some others. sSitreprftw2018@gmail.comAlso you may visit the new sit rep for next year and she may have this posted now. Her name is Jean Galt and her blog is mamag03.blogspot.com.
We left Nitro so thankful for all the good things the people had done there and headed to WV capital in Charleston. If you have ridden with us before then you know what a beautiful peaceful place the rotunda is. We fit all 500+ bikes in there. We took pictures and enjoyed some down time and then headed to Rainelle WV. It is a long road, about 95 miles but the beauty of the place helps it to slip by quickly.
Rainelle is a very special place for the people of the RUN and we look forward to being there and sharing with the kids. They come out and stand along the fences and are excited to see us and I think we are actually more excited to see them as there are a lot of happy faces on all who are in the midst of exchanging signatures and some homemade pictures and etc. I met Randy earlier at the capital and told him about Rainelle and later I saw him in the middle of a bunch of kids. He had a smile from ear to ear, and I asked him how he was doing. He said, “I love this, I just wish I had something to give them, I wish I had known”. So, we made sure he had something to give the kids and when I left they were surrounding him and all had a good time. If you have not been to Rainelle, I will briefly explain what is going on. The first RUN came to a point where they had to either pay to go through a toll road or find a different way. Being just a little bit old fashioned and maybe a little stubborn they decided to go up through the mountains. The local sheriff saw or heard they were coming and alerted the teacher and the teacher took a chance on these old Nam Vets and had her kids out on both sides of the street and the local people were there too. They had made some small gifts and prepared some food for the riders and when the riders came into the town they saw the people on both sides of the street and thought they were interrupting a parade and were apologetic. Well when they were told the gathering was for them, you can imagine the change that came over the riders and it has been a real love affair for the last 30 years. I have seen hardened old growly vets who could not even smile all the way from LA, when they get there and the kids surround them, I see them smile and their whole world begins to change. I have seen it happen, it is like a miracle at Rainelle. It is worth doing the entire RUN just to be here and experience it. Yall come!
A gorgeous day for anything you wanted to do except playing in the rain. Beautiful Kentucky and West Virginia sky with white fluffy clouds against the beautiful green forest areas. And oh yes, that sweet smelling honeysuckle vine that adds an air of mystique and or elegance to the country side. Truly a post card day for riding.
What a beautiful country we live in, not just the country side but the people who come to our rallies or meetings are some of the most hospitable people I know. Nitro tonight, every server, greeter and etc. made sure you got good meal, ice cream, a hug and or handshake with a smile. It was one of those moments in the history of the RUN that seems to be repeated often, in each place we meet, and we are so glad it is. It seems to me, as someone who has been on 11 times now, that the RUN has grown in size and scope by about 1/3 to ¼ in the last year. Unofficial, of course. Not only have the number of bikes increased from about 350+- last year to 600+- this year. But what impresses me are the number of people who come out to support us and the genuine outpouring of affection and love from every source. It seems so many more people and companies step up to help with food and gas and other expenses. There also is a renewed expression of patriotism, nothing fake but a genuine heartfelt excitement, appreciation and enthusiasm, seemingly at every turn. We are most thankful for the great spirit of cooperation that exists now and we realize that it is not by accident that these things happen. Much of our success is due to much planning and hard work at every turn and we have very good leaders who do much work and planning. Harlan, our route coordinator, has done an excellent job in organizing and keeping thins running smoothly and directing all the moving parts. Sure, there are always problems when dealing with the many issues of a RUN this size. He could not do it by himself and he has surrounded himself with good talented people who have a heart to do things right and to get them done without fussing and problems. Still I am reminded of the proverb that says “that unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain that build it”. I know that all this has not happened by accident but there certainly has been much prayer behind what is being done. I believe God is blessing this organization because people are being healed and are being helped and He loves people and He will work through any person, group or organization that has a real mission of helping people. This RUN is a place where people can find healing and that original and sustaing source of healing is of course the Holy Spirit. All are to be commended for their spirit of cooperation in this the “Greatest Run In America”.
The temp was hot and humidity moderate and many of us were very tired as it took some concentration to stay alert, but still great to be riding. Our trip to Robley Rex V A Medical Center was another treasure. I think about every nurse in the building came out to welcome us and we were able to go in and meet some of the patients. It is good to so many of the medical staff with great attitudes and who love their work and people.
The engineering marvel of the Kentucky Vietnam Memorial is a must see.
I usually type up my report and add the pictures later. Last night my ability to pull up pictures has stopped due to my overloading it with too much of the wrong stuff. But, this will be to your advantage because we have a lady in our RUN who is an expert in doing her blog and she has a lot of pictures posted so I want you to go to mamag03.blogspot.com. You will be amazed at what she puts together each day so look at all her posts from days past and going forward. You will be able to enjoy her posts now and going forward into next year as she will be the sit rep next year. And that will be a good thing for everyone.
Day 7, Wentzville Mo. To Corydon, In., May 22, 2018
Today was a beautiful day to do anything outside. Bright sunny skies with just a few clouds to take the blistering heat away. Needed to stay hydrated riding. We went from Wentzville Mo. to Corydon, Ind.292 miles, a light day for miles.
We left staging by the Church and headed a few miles to the Wentzville Vietnam Memorial, which was the first memorial in the US for the Vietnam war. It has grown and been improved over the years and it is always good to see the young band members playing. Met two ladies there who were daughters of WWII soldiers.
We had some interesting events yesterday. Corydon is such a favorite place for all the riders and we look forward all year to the great fish fry that they provide for us. Thanks much for the great outpouring of love and hospitality each year. You make a difference in the lives of the riders!! I was just sitting down to my delicious meal of fish when of course the fire alarm went off and we had to leave the building, maybe next year.
Thanks for reading and watching. Comments are welcome at email@example.com
Day 6, Junction City to Wentzville Mo. May 21, 2018
Another great and glorious day on the RUN. I started out to ride with the Ambassador team and I got to staging late because I was still finishing up yesterday’s sit rep and wanted to get it completed so of course I was running late and forgot to plug in my tether cord to my CB and left it in the trunk, therefor I could not hear the leader’s commands to go off the road so therefore I did not get to go out and meet and thank people along the way. That is the way it is on the RUN and I suppose in life too. Some days you just start out behind and you find it real hard to catch up. That is what this RUN is like, most of the time. Maybe it is just me but I talk to others and they chime in and agree with me. Unless you are really disciplined and stay the course it is easy to get behind and then it snowballs and then you are really behind. I just needed to share that so you may get the impression that it is all fun and games and to a certain extent it is, but reality in any theater comes back to haunt you unless you prepare for it.
Okay, enough of my struggles. I arrived at staging just in time to leave with the ambassadors. They are a special group that gets out ahead of the main pack and goes to where the people are standing along the road and or on the overpasses and thank them for being there to support RFTW. Many people on the overpasses have been coming for several years and they are so glad to actually put a face to the RUN and to touch an actual person connected to the RUN. They are there to support the RUN and they are always gracious and supportive. The ambassadors give out pins, hugs and thank yous. Sometimes the people want to talk but when it (bikes) comes the bikes get their full attention and that is as it should be. I wanted to get some better shots but due to circumstance, like no CB hookup and etc. I was only able to get a few and I have some stock photos also.
The Ambassadors are led by the very capable Eric and Sonia Amond. Their dedication and attitudes toward the RUN are outstanding. They have been involved with the Ambassadors for 2010 +-. Ambassadors was started because we wanted a way for the pack to say thank you to the bystanders. To just drive by and wave seemed inadequate so the Ambassador team was started. It has been a very successful endeavor.
We headed through Topeka to the fuel stop which was paid for the VFW national headquarters, and we thank you very much. Fuel on the RUN is often paid for by others which allows many to go on the RUN that otherwise would not be able to make it, so thank You.
We headed straight east down I70 to Concordia Mo. And arrived to a wonderful meal and presentations. A high light for many were the two WWII Vets that were present. They are Melvin Rehkop, 99, sitting, and Mel Bockelman, 90. Melvin shared with me that he was a young farm boy when he went to war and that 90% of all the soldiers in his community were farm boys and that their stride when walking was longer than most of the other men and they had to teach the farm boys to take smaller or shorter steps in order to march with the others. An interesting side note “coincidence” develop. Yesterday at JC I met two men from Dutch or Holland, actually I had met Maarten van Lunenburg in 2013 (?) when he was by himself and now his brother, Bas van Lunenburg, (on left) is here with him. They very much wanted to meet the WWII men as the soldiers had liberated Belgim during WWII.
Unfortunately I am out of time and I have much to post. I will get to the many posts when I can and if I don’t get them done before the end of the RUN days I will continue to post in the days after. Thanks much and I will talk with you tomorrow. Whats ahead, Road Guards, platoon leaders, many coincidental conversations that I must share as they are so interesting. Please be patient and I will do my best to get them out this week or maybe next.
Day 5, Goodland Kansas to Junction City Kansas, 5/20/18
We will have to wait a day or two for the Road Guard report, only so many hours in a day and many to try to track down.
Oh so very much to cover today so please read fast as I try to type fast. This was a very special day as most of them are but this one seems to be special to a lot of the riders. Maybe it is because of the long sleepy road to get here, maybe because of all the flags that are placed everywhere, maybe because they treat us so very special, maybe it is because they presented all the Vietnam Vets a special pin of thanks. I suppose it is different for each, but it became emotional for most of us when we came up to all the people and the man, many flags. Most of us were really touched by the outpouring of love and appreciation for the riders and or Vets. So appreciated, thanks very much for making it happen.
As you read about the few things that are written here please remember that it represents only a small fraction of the event that I experience in a day and a very tiny fraction of all the events that transpire on just one day on the RUN.
Take a look at this picture. Do you see fatigue like I do. This dear couple, pray for them, they are exhausted, this is early in the morning at Goodland and I just happened to be going by to see this. Rockie is the head medical person for the RUN and she is busy and Roadside is a platoon leader. They are trying to maintain a household with two dogs in a car and yet be available whenever an emergency arises. This RUN can be very trying and tiring too.
As per the course, Goodland folks fixed a great breakfast and sent us on our way. At our location in Goodland in the morning we had a service put on by our Chaplain team. They are great team lead by Curtis Hubble and he spoke from Isaiah 43. Later Keith also gave a message of inspiration. Isa 43:1-3, But now, thus says the Lord, who created you, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you. 3 For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior; Curtis spoke about the importance of trusting God to take care of the past and the future we face, it is best to face it with the Holy Spirit guiding us. Picture of servers X2 Rockel
We loaded up and headed to Oakley about 60 miles. Upon arriving with over 500 bikes and getting staged, I met a couple form Hawaii that are now living in Colorado. They are Rockel and Fred Haskell who now live in Falcon Colo. They have been married 30 years and wanted to celebrate by going on our 30th year of the RUN. She rides a Can Am bike. I asked her what she thought of the RUN so far and almost with tears she explained that she had never seen such love and patriotism for across America. It has changed her perception and has given her more love for America. (her words). We are so glad you both came with us and are sharing in this American experience. Picture of bike and Rockel
The next interesting coincidence was with two guys setting across the picnic table and they began to tell of things they do and they found out they live in nearby California town they raise the same kind of dogs for service dogs and interact with the same people in the God business. They were both very passionate about the dogs they have trained. Both were FNG’s and they were amazed at the outpouring that they seen across America, especially the overpasses. Their names are Ronnie Sever on the left and Ted Kapner. Picture
Next I met Lynn Vernon who works with Missing in America. It is an organization that addresses unclaimed remains of Veterans. They contact mortuaries and find out if there are any unclaimed ashes and then they do their due diligence in finding out if they have relatives etc. and when all the facts are brought out they will have a funeral for the remains and the people involved and provide for burial and final closure. We may think this does not happen often but according to her there have been over 1,200 such cases that her group has worked with. She made it clear that there are many organizations that come together to get the job done. Thanks for your part Lynn.
Before we left Oakley I just had to take a picture with these fine looking kids on their home from Church; Phillip, Abby, LJ and Norma too shy to be in the picture. Picture
Next we headed to Junction City by going through the fuel stop at Bunker Hill. That was a very sleepy leg and I was not doing too good and drank some Red Bull like the youngsters do and it helped a lot. Never too old to learn a new trick! Someday, you have got to come along or come out and see the staging, fuel crew and road guards all working together as one at a fuel stop and they do a very, very good job at it. It is masterful and exciting to see. Keep in mind that no biker ever knows where to go nor how to get there, well maybe some do, unless someone tells them. And our group is 47% FNG’s so they have never seen these places before.
At this fuel stop I met another interesting couple that you will like. They are Sandra and Jim Judge and get ready for this. He started in Key West Florida and drove to Pruedo Bay in Alaska in 12 days and 15 hours. He does Iron Butts as a hobby. An Iron Butt is doing over 1,000 miles in 24 hours. I have done one and was wiped out the next day. He paced himself to do at least 500 miles per day. That takes determination as you have time for very short hygiene and eating and sleeping to keep your strength up. Okay, now guess how old he is, 82 years young. This is his 3rd RFTW and her 1st. He is driving her on their Can Am bike and having a great time. He is also a pilot, flight instructor, A&P mechanic and FFA Inspector. So, now what is your excuse, you can’t use that old line, “I’m just too old”, that doesn’t get it with these two. I know there needs to be balance but if able go for it. If you are using too old as something that keeps you from enjoying life or at least trying new things, stop it, don’t limit yourself and don’t limit what God can do in your life, go for it as best as you can. Picture.
Our trip to Junction was uneventful until we entered the city. My-O-My, what a place. Hundreds of American flags throughout the route and the people there applauding the entrance of the pack. It made me proud to be an American and thankful for the Welcome Home that the Vets and others received. Life changing from my perspective. If you would have gone through that street and had seen what we saw, I believe you would well up with some pride also. I took a video but it is too long to Instagram but if you want a copy, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our Outreah group
We enjoyed a rousing speaker by the name of Ray (? Last name) and we went on to be served a very tasty meal prepared by some more great, salt of the earth people. Thank you, thank you!
We awoke in Eagles Nest to a beautiful morning. The mountains were beautiful. Now these are real mountains, not those little bumps you have back east and there was some snow and frost on the trees. As usual the ladies and men of Angel Fire and Eagles Nest had our breakfast ready and we packed out the hall one more time. We all really like the great food and service at this place, and I don’t think you could go anywhere on this earth and find it any better food and or friendlier people who invite you in again and again to share with you. Really a special place as others have been along the way. It amazes me how friendly, helpful, caring and loving the people are on this entire RUN. As I have said before, they work all year in some cases just to spend it on us, what a treasure they are to us and we thank God for them.
Okay it may have been pretty out but it was pretty cold and made for a chilly ride over to Raton NM. (40+- degrees) Along the way I happened to see about 6 wild turkeys, just as we came out of that beautiful canyon and a little further I saw what looked to be about 40 head of elk and they were more than a little disturbed by all our noise. There were also the ever present antelope that enjoy watching us and let us get close as we go by on the road and then they sometimes quickly decide to go across the road where we are driving. It didn’t happen today however.
Our fuel stop in Raton was paid for by the “Independent Riders” whose president is Tim Trujillo. Thank you for your continued support, it really does mean a lot to us, THANKS. There were refreshments provided for all of us by some gracious people. I know I have talked about this before, but it always bears repeating. The dear people who turn out to help feed us and put fuel in our tanks and do so many things for us, you are so appreciated and your kindness really touches the riders, they don’t expect it yet you are always there helping.
We darted off towards Pueblo and fueled up and went over to a large staging lot to stage for our trip to Fountain Colo for lunch. I have been on the RUN since 06 and have seen some good growth since, but it seems that now the growth is much bigger than in the past. In the past we would never fill a large parking area like we did today, approximately 5 acres. To watch the staging crew do work their wonders, to be able to organize and get each person and bike in the right place in a matter of 15+- minutes, is fun to see. It is very organized chaos. I am part of the leadership team and hence I get a parking place towards the front of the lineup each time we park and that can happen several times per day. To make it easy for the parking ladies, they draw a line on the pavement and then put our names on the pavement. It is fun to see and now I realize that I have finally arrived as they now put my name in the pavement. How fun, it’s the small things in life, right!!!
From there I had to run up to Denver because somehow I was “blessed” by with a broken CB antenna. In this RUN it is a good thing to have your CB on so you know what is happening all the time when we are moving. So I made the trip in little over an hour and they amazingly had the part at RPM Power Sports. Great people and they jumped on my bike like a chicken on a June bug. They also noticed that my back tire was in serious need of changing and they said it was so bad that in a rain storm it may not hold and cause it to slip or slide. Who knew? They quickly (1.5 hours) the tire and I was off to Goodland and not able to get in until about 9:30 PM. I am sharing this part with you as you probably have similar things happen to you and sometimes they don’t work out in getting repairs done but it is best to get them done in order to stay safe. It was the little thing like the antenna that caused us to see the big thing, the tire. I am thankful.
On a personal level, I am riding my bull named Fu Man Chu (sp) and I am getting to ride him more that 2.7 seconds. Some of you will recognize that from the song by Tim McGraw, live like you were dying. Well I am not dying yet but I bring this up to encourage you if you have not been out with us to come out, there is still time if you are on the eastern part of the US.
I was bummed that I missed the Goodland folks and the presentation that they put on. It is another one of our favorites. I know, I seem to say that with all of them but it is difficult to say which is best as they are all very good and the great people make the difference. Maybe here is a good place to talk about our great country. This is mostly fly over country and if you have not been it is high time you come with us and see the great heart of America. The people who help us and serve us and provide for us are some of the best on earth. They deeply care about others and the RUN gives them that opportunity to show it and gives us the opportunity to give love and respect back. We need each other.
Tomorrow night I am going to do a special on our road guards so stay tuned.
That is all for today and I am looking forward to tomorrow morning and the great service at the Goodland stop.