Name: Charlie Allen
City: Grand Bay
It is hard to explain how I was feeling as I drove from Mobile, Alabama to Monroe, Louisiana. I was riding in a driving rain storm most of the way, but that was not what was on my mind. I had been around him many times but didn’t really know him very well. He had stopped in Mobile several times after the Run For The Wall. We always visited and went to movies and he would make his way back to Los Angeles. He was the reason I bought a motorcycle so I could do this “Run For The Wall” with him. John is my
father in law and frankly he helped change my life.
I was nervous as we drove to the starting point in Monroe. I had not been riding very long and was not sure I had the skills for this ride, but I went anyway. When they called all of the FNGs up to the front of the crowd, I assumed it would be for some sort of hazing as we were the new comers. Boy was I wrong. I have never heard a group so small in number sound so large with a resounding “WELCOME.” It only got better from there. From that moment I honestly felt like part of the southern route family. I was even fortunate enough to lay the wreath at the memorial in Monroe.
From there we began the journey that would not only lead to knowing John much better, but knowing myself better as well. I have been in the Alabama Army National Guard for nineteen years. I am active guard now as a battalion career counselor, so I had been around military folks for quite a while. Never before though had I been around so many combat vets. Being around the men and women made me think about my experiences in Iraq and how they had changed me. I saw many vets that had come to terms with their experiences and many that had not. Probably the most memorable experience was during a fuel stop in Virginia. I was walking out of the store after getting a cup of coffee when the guy in front of me was stopped by a guy walking in. The guy coming in said “Are all of yall vets” and the other guy said “Yeah mostly.” The first guy said “I was in Viet Nam in 68.” At that point, the guy in front of me hugged him and said ” Welcome Home.” The guy broke into tears and said ” I never got that before.” I left but I did see that they chatted for several minutes.
John introduced me to several of his friends and I am sure I will remember them forever. All of them accepted me as one of their own from the start. John and I talked throughout the trip . We got to know each other well. He prepared me as best he could for Arlington and The Wall. As an FNG, I was honored to be allowed to ride into Arlington. There is no way that I can describe the emotion I felt. Then came The Wall. Memories of news casts when I was a kid came flooding back. It was very difficult to stand there and see these men and women grieving and being helpless to help them. Then, it was like the V8 commercials! Just being there and one of them helps. I thought long and hard about my experiences in Iraq and they were nowhere near the stories that I heard on the trip, and I realized that its okay to relive those times and talk about it with those that will understand. I was so honored to be able to share those moments with John and others.
I will never fully be able to explain my feelings about this “Run” to those that have not done it, but I know that I am a better person, vet and soldier for having been there. Thanks John and company, I really
appreciate it. See yall next year.