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FNG Story – Jim Grafner

Name: Jim Grafner
E-Mail: jgrafner@comcast.net
Phone: 303-506-3054
City: Longmont
State: Colorado
FNG Story:

As an FNG I had no idea what I was getting in to. My experience was far beyond any words I can put in this letter. I had the entire gambit of emotions during the 6 days I rode with all of you from Burlington to DC. Next year, God willing, I will make the journey from coast to coast. This year was dedicated to my best friend, Thomas Paul Ray, who was killed in Vietnam on October 10th, 1967. I took him to the wall with me and the enormous hole I have had in my heart for over 40 years has finally started to heal thanks to all of you. I felt so much love and brotherhood that will now stay with me the rest of my days.

I hope the next year brings all that you wish for and need. Thanks you!

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FNG Story – Cheryl “Raven” Norman

Name: Cheryl “Raven” Norman
E-Mail: 2cnormans@gmail.com
Phone: 830-688-1718
City: Bandera
State: Texas
FNG Story:

Wow what can one really say after riding for the first time in RFTW! There are many thanks to go out to folks but I will mention a few. First a special thanks to my husband Claude “LawDawg” Norman for his willingness to make this run not only for the mission but for himself and his own mission! A huge thanks to Greg “Pied Piper” Smith and his leadership and encouraging words of wisdom!

I remember standing at the chain fence at the end of the Wall Saturday and LawDawg said to Pied Piper, look what you did! His reply was something like ya I made a big mess. LawDawg said no you made this possible pointing to the Wall and all the people coming down the walk. Without Pied Piper and
Too Tall and the SR team it would have been impossible to make it “ALL THE WAY.”

A special thanks to all the Road Guard for all of your hard work and direction. The advance team, the hydration team. What all these folks do behind the line of sight make the day safe is just beyond words! A special thanks to Pocket for your smiling face and hugs each and everyday. You truly are a blessing to be around. I will also thank the chase vehicles for being there even though I did not need you (see I ride a yamaha not a harley!) but you were there in case I needed you and Short Stack I don’t think anyone worked harder that you did. I once saw a posting by Pied Piper that stated that if you are going to be a new person on the ride in 2009 it will be an experience you will never forget. It is an experience that you will never forget and it is an experience that you can not explain! I have tried and I just can not find the words to explain it. I need to also thank Mojo and Wicked for a safe trip from Weatherford TX to DC. Even though I had been to the Wall and to The Tomb Of the Unknown before this time it was so different.

I am not a vet, I am the wife of a vet that I support with all my heart. I also support all vets. I really don’t know what it means to a vet to go to the Wall, I see the pain but as I am not a vet I really can’t understand the meaning of going to the Wall. Not that I don’t try, I cry every time I go there because I see the pain in others eyes.

This year we went back to the Wall Saturday evening and went back to panel 38E where the name of my husband’s best friend is and as we walked away I saw a young girl sitting on the walk about 2 feet from the Wall writing a letter. I just could not bring myself to ask her whom she was writing to but it
touched me deeply of someone sitting in the dark writing a letter to someone on the Wall by the light on the sidewalk.

Seeing the folks of the roads showing support is something you will never forget. The vet centers is for me the heart stopper. When you talk to the men and women there and you tell them Thank You for your service and the tears fill his or her eyes. That is a sight that jerks at your heart and makes you wonder how can this happen, how can it be that in the last 3 months that I have thanked 2 different vets for his service and welcomed them home and tears fill the eyes looking back at me, how can it be that one guy told me that he had never been told Welcome Home before and I sat with him and cried with him.

Thank all of you that made it possible for us to make the ride this year. We did not go all the way this year, joining in Weatherford and going to DC however next year we will go all the way. We met so many
wonderful folks that we will never forget. We truly feel like we have extended our family by hundreds! We have been back for five days and I can’t wait to go again. A friend at home asked how the ride was and as I tried to explain the folks on the road, the schools and the vets goose bumps came up and I found that I just could not tell her enough.

What an honor it was to be part of the Color Guard, and what an honor it was for Pocket to as if I wanted to ride MMF, I did not as I thought in my heart that I did not want to ride in a place that a vet should ride in. So many times the tears just flow. We did give a few bandid for the heart pins out to folks that we felt could really use it. I know that many of you that were on the ride should have gotten a pin. Just know to all my new vet friend and family that I say to you Thank you from the bottom of
my heart for your service and for what you gave up in serving and Welcome Home, it has been a long time coming! An FNG no more, now just a babe looking forward to riding with you all next year ALL THE WAY!

Thanks to everyone!
Cheryl “Raven” Norman

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FNG Story – Trent Caster

Name: Trent Caster
E-Mail: eagleeye25@live.com
Phone: 303-359-8862
City: Denver
State: Colorado
FNG Story:

First and foremost I would like to thank all of the many volunteers that made this the most memorable journey I have ever taken. It’s right up there with the birth of my kids and the marriage to my wife of almost 19 years now.

I did post some of this in another thread, so I apologize if you have read that and I’m repeating myself.

The beauty of the Run is that it serves many purposes for those on the mission. Each has his/her own reasons and the experiences are just as diverse.

I hooked up with the CR group in Gallup, NM and rode up to Burlington, CO. I started riding and standing with the PGR 2 years ago as a way I can give back to all the vets that have served, are serving and will serve this great nation. It is truly my honor to ride and stand for all of them. Some of the missions can be emotionally overwhelming, so when a good friend of mine “Bones” told me about the RFTW, I thought I would be fine and was ready for the experience.

What an experience!!! I experienced emotions I never expected. They ran from pride and feeling I was a part of the “family” to feeling very out of place. Let me try to explain.

Imagine that every town you go through no matter how big or how small was like a parade. People standing on the sidewalks, overpasses, etc. waving flags and holding banners, cheering, waving, etc. as you ride down the street with this mission in the front of your mind. What an overwhelming sense of pride to ride in honor of those that can’t. Just gives you goose bumps. Now, imagine, that you’re a non-vet at the Vietnam Memorial in Angel Fire, NM. It is a sobering place. One of reflection, remembrance and healing. Why are YOU there? You’re not a vet. What healing powers are there for you? Might get to feel a bit out of place at this point. That is until you get a big ole bear hug from a vet that says “Welcome
Home Brother.” You return the heartfelt statement and tell him you’re not a vet and that you are on this ride to show your appreciation and support to those that serve. Then this man turns to you, looks you right in the eye and says, “It doesn’t matter. You’re a member of this family and we’re on this mission together. Thank you for being here.” Now is when you just might have one of those AH HA moments….Are you kidding me? Thank ME for being here? It’s not about me, it’s about YOU, you vets that have made sacrifices I could never understand. But ya know what? Just because I wasn’t there, doesn’t mean I don’t care. We are, one big family!!! We are all in this together for one common cause. That’s why
I’m on this ride! To raise awareness of our military personnel and just how important they are to our way of life in this great nation. They are not to be forgotten. They are to be honored.

I want each and every vet to know I have such a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for the decision you have made to protect this country and those less fortunate and to allow us to live the lives we do in this great country. I ride in your honor and hope to ride in your honor until I am no longer able.

Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this great cause.

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FNG Story – Sharon McGee

Name: Sharon McGee
E-Mail: sharon@sharonmcgee.com
Phone: 512-517-7193
City: Austin
State: Texas
FNG Story:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for an experience of a lifetime! Thank you for the mission of Run for the Wall and for the purpose it stands. I am so proud and honored to be a 2009 FNG and I thank everyone for helping me along the way! Lord knows I needed it! Thank you, Greg for your superb leadership and for the entire leadership team that was responsible for making sure that we made it “All the Way!”

My life was touched in ways that words can’t describe. I will be there in 2010 the entire route!

God bless you all and God bless the USA!

Respectfully,
Sharon McGee

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FNG Story – Sharon McGee

Name: Sharon McGee
E-Mail: sharon@sharonmcgee.com
Phone: 512-517-7193
City: Austin
State: Texas
FNG Story:

Dear Friends,

Thank you for an experience of a lifetime! Thank you for the mission of Run for the Wall and for the purpose it stands. I am so proud and honored to be a 2009 FNG and I thank everyone for helping me along the way! Lord knows I needed it! Thank you, Greg for your superb leadership and for the entire leadership team that was responsible for making sure that we made it “All the Way!”

My life was touched in ways that words can’t describe. I will be there in 2010 the entire route!

God bless you all and God bless the USA!

Respectfully,
Sharon McGee

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FNG Story – Vicci Melton

Name: Vicci Melton
E-Mail: heritagevicci@yahoo.com
Phone: 928-261-3459
City: Yuma
State: AZ
FNG Story:

I waited four years to make the trek from Yuma, AZ to Washington, DC, and why I waited so long I’ll never know. I just turned 60 before the ride and was really concerned if I was up for the test. What an experience. I laughed, cried and was so humbled by not only my fellow riders, but the beautiful and gracious folks we along the way. While at Odessa, TX, I got lost in thought of the 60’s and the awfulness our boys came home to. One of the road guards, and to save my life I can’t remember this good old boy’s name, came up to me and asked me “where are you?”, referring to my thoughts at the moment. I looked at him and all I could do was cry. The run to the Wall was profound for me. My toy hauler boasted numerous placards of friends and family who have served our great nation.

After a triumphant trip to DC we headed to Alabama, and along the way encountered numerous other riders who had made the trip, and lots of folks who drove past us waving. Am I proud to be an American? Not only yes, but hell yes. I count each and every Vet to be a member of my family. And thanks to all of you who put on such a thrilling and memorable run. I can hardly wait for next year. God bless America and you.

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FNG Story – Mario Puccio

Name: Tsgt Mario J. Puccio
E-Mail: mjp1975@wildblue.net
Phone: 740-517-1433
City: Vincent
State: OH
FNG Story:

I am one of the sore butt guys that rode a sport bike in from Hurricane WV this year. Why did I put myself through the punishment of riding such an uncomfortable bike? I am a 15 year veteran of the US Air Force and the West Virginia Air National Guard and the son of a Vietnam Veteran who was on the USS New Jersey. When I was asked by another buddy of mine if I wanted to do this run this year I was all for it right off the bat. Then I started telling my Dad about it (who didn’t have a motorcycle at the time). I kept telling him he needed to rent a bike and do this with me. About four weeks later my Dad bought his first motorcycle in about 29 years. We got more and more excited about the run the closer it got and then it was upon us. We joined up in Hurricane and if that wasn’t enough of a sight to see that many veterans and veteran supporters, DC would change my mind forever. My Dad had never seen The Wall nor did he ever really talk about Vietnam that much. I did not know that he had a very good buddy killed there until Saturday, May 23. 2009 when he stood in
front of his name on The Wall with tears coming down his face uttering the words I miss you. It was an honor and a privilege to be with my Dad during this time and also an honor and a privilege to ride with all the other bikers on this run. Short of seeing my daughters born it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen or been a part of. God Bless all of you, thank you for letting me ride with you and share this experience with my Dad and I hope to see you all next year.

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FNG Story – Embe Kugler

Name: LTC (R) Embe Kugler
E-Mail: kem10@cox.net
City: Phoneix
State: Arizona
FNG Story:

I have been planning to do this ride from the first time I heard about Run for the Wall and Rolling Thunder. Something of higher priority always seemed to get in the way. I am now fully retired (US Army/State of Arizona) so work was no longer an excuse. Living on a fixed income in a rotten economy meant camping instead of hotels, but in the big picture not much of a sacrifice.

I was on orders for the Nam six times, took all the shots six times, made it through POR six times, but never made it to Nam. I was pissed at the time, but now nearly 40 years later I realize how
blessed I was.

I have friends on the Wall, I have friends in Arlington and other National Cemeteries, and I have friends still serving in harms way. I have visited the Wall and Arlington several times. It never gets any easier.

However, this time it had more impact because of the “Run”. I hope never to miss another “Run for the Wall” until I join my compatriots in a National Cemetery.

Embe

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FNG Story – Mike Oliver

Name: Mike Oliver
E-Mail: mholiver@cox.net
Phone: 504-494-7309
City: Metairie (suburb of Nawlins’)
State: Louisiana
FNG Story:

I just got back from one of my trips of a lifetime – – 12 days of awe – I will remember this experience with a smile on my death bed, believe me.

kicker of the trip was standing in line at Thunder Alley near the Vietnam Wall at the burger tent. A vet with vest walks up behind me for his lunch – has one artificial arm. I order my hot dog, hamburger, and diet pepsi and tell the lady I’m getting whatever this vet behind me wants. I wish him welcome home and he surprisingly brightens up and thanks me profusely. I tell him I’m Navy, fought the Cold War, and am a PGR Ride Captain from Nawlins’. He points to a patch on his vest. It’s indicates “Society of the Medal of Honor”. Holy moley, he’s a Vietnam Conflict Medal of Honor Recipient. I offer him my card and a PGR pin. He takes my card and says he isn’t into pins, but he has something for me. He pulls out his “Mission Coin” with the pic of the Army Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart on one side with the logo of the Society of Medal of Honor Recipients, and his nameand date of incident – during Tet 8 Jan 1968 and that he’s Gary G. Wetzel. I told him with pride that because of PGR, he’s the sixth Medal of Honor recipient I’ve shaken hands with, including fellow Vietnam Vets General Livingston, Mr Jon Caviani, Mr Michael Thorton, and had a relationship with Mr. Jack Lucas and attended his funeral standing the PGR flag line in Jackson, MS.

He was pleased about this and had nothing buy accolades about Mr. Jack Lucas who just passed recently.

I have nothing but praise for all the leadership of the Run and their dedication of making it a great success which it was. Thanx much to all.

Mike from Nawlins’

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FNG Story – Scott Durrett

Name: Scott Durrett

E-Mail: kc7dji@gmail.com

Phone: 636-328-5446

City: St. Peters

State: MO

FNG Story:



Brothers – Sisters, let me first start by saying Thank You and welcome 
home! This year was my first time to be able to ride with you. I was 
only able to ride from Junction City, Kansas to Wentzville, Missouri but 
that short run meant everything to me. I have very strong emotions for my 
brothers and sisters who are serving and who have served. I spent most of 
the drive with tears in my eyes as I constantly thought about the sole 
purpose of such a ride and seeing the outpouring of support along the way. 
I must also mention the unthinkable task some of you have accomplished by 
putting together this ride. I wasn’t on the entire journey but there was 
not a beat missed on the leg of my adventure.

I am going to try my best to make it all the way to Washington D.C. next 
year and experience the full impact of your/our purpose, Riding for those 
who cannot. What an honor.

I was lucky enough to serve 8 years for our country. I was lucky enough 
to receive veteran status from serving however I remained stateside during 
my time. The only thing I truly regret is leaving the military. My 
veteran status only shows that I served and I do feel less of a person for 
only serving stateside. My honor and my heart is for all my brothers and 
sisters who did serve overseas and who have truly earned their titles as 
veterans. Regardless how I feel, I am here to honor those who gave 
everything. I honored to ride along side my brothers and sisters. Thank 
you all. Keep the rubber side down and drive safe!

Scott