Day 8 – Wednesday May 24 – Asheville, NC to Fayetteville, NC
Only one more full day of riding after today and tomorrow is not that long at that, only 250 miles. Tomorrow however, we do some fantastic stuff but I ain’t telling what. You can either experience it for yourself or wait until I write about it tomorrow night. After tomorrow only a half day on Friday, day 10 and we will be at the hotel in Arlington.
We left Asheville under LEO escort. The radar report said it would be clear in Fayetteville until the afternoon anyway so I left my rain gear off. Although it looked threatening, it didn’t rain. A little fog is all. Today would end up being another short riding day, but the events today made it one of the best days of the trip. I guess that could be said about every day, but today really was exceptional. We headed to Siler City to visit the Pentecostal Holiness Church. After a “fuel-n-go” stop, we headed off individually to the church. Our visit was even better than last year if that is possible. Many people were on the road and on the grounds to welcome us. The Buffalo Soldier Motorcycle Club was there to greet us again. There were three serving lines awaiting. The lunch however was just the same ole thing. Just the same ole grilled rib-eye steak with potatoes, green beans and rolls, then for dessert homemade peach cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream. Yeah, just the same ole thing. Yeah right. I love Siler City. We love Siler City. While we were eating, a former POW spoke to us for a while about his experiences which helped us appreciate our quality of life a little more I hope. I can’t imagine the horrors POWs endure.
We were asked to pick up handmade cards done by the children from on elementary school in Siler City. After lunch was over, I went back to the serving line and found many cards still there, so I grabbed about 30 of them. I’d like to quote a few for you.
One says, “Thank you for your service”.
Another, “Thank you for serving our country”.
More say, “Thank you for your bravery, loyalty and courage. We can’t thank you enough”.
“Thank you for your service. We are the land of the free because of the brave”.
“Thank you so much hero”. from Calvin Conroy
“To you who has put his life on the line in defense of our flag, thank you”.
“Thank you for keeping us safe”.
“This card is not enough to show my gratitude for what you’ve done, but it’s a start”.
“Thanks for your service, for your help when they tell you to go to save our country you don’t think about it, you just do it, so thank you”.
Some very nice sentiments from some very small children. I will leave all of these at the wall. Then there is this one. This one stays with me, so I can read it again and share it again and read it some more.
I would like to take this time to thank you. I want to thank you for fighting and defending our country. You left your families and risked your lives for our freedom. For that I am extremely grateful. You made it your responsibility and your priority to help, protect and defend our country. You’ve done your part and I deeply, deeply appreciate your work, effort and service. This is my way of showing my gratitude. Although it isn’t much compared to what you’ve sacrificed, my thank you truly does come from the heart. It’s because of your bravery that we are allowed to live so freely and for that, I want to say thank you. Sincerely, Jamia Walden
P.S. “The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment”. – Judd Gregg
P.P.S “On this Veteran’s Day, let us remember the service of our veterans and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free”. – Dan Lipinski
I hope these quotes touched you anything like they have touched me. The last one got me good. The printing was immaculate. It was carefully decorated with the American Flag on the front. The sentiment as profound as they come. Thank you Jamia. I love you.
After lunch we departed the church and paraded through downtown Siler City. Then we drove through the school parking lot and were greeted by a hundred kids or more. I think if I were to move somewhere it would be to Siler City, NC or maybe Cookeville, TN. The people of Cookeville are about as American as they come. Well, Fayetteville is that way too. Geez, I don’t know there so many great towns with such great people. How can anyone decide which is best? It’s impossible. One thing is for sure and that is we will be back next year to see these places and visit these wonderful people again.
We had two sponsored fuel stops today thanks to our anonymous benevolent donor. By the way, my platoon would like to thank you. I’m sure the entire Run For The Wall company would like to thank you as well, but I’m also sure you know already how much your gift is appreciated and how much we all love you for it.
Our next stop Fayetteville NC. From here all the way to downtown Fayetteville we had a police escort and they blocked highway roads and streets for us our entire trip into town. We pulled into the parking area of the Airborne and Special Forces Museum. We were there for a very important event by several accounts. First is the Field of Honor. Every flag honors someone from North Carolina who is currently serving, those who have served, and the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice for our nation’s security and freedom. There’s also a memorial for service dogs and some impressive statues of General Henry Hugh Shelton and Iron Mike honoring airborne troopers. Inside the museum there are several displays, one of which displays the actual events of the Mogadishu attack on a Black Hawk Helicopter for which the movie Black Hawk Down was created. There are other exhibits and a theater. We were all invited into the theater. A program was available and there were several invited guests. The company of Buffalo Soldiers was there and they escorted Mayor Nat Robertson from Siler City. There were a couple former POWs being honored one from World War II, F. Paul Dallas, and one from the Korean War, William J. Richardson. Paul Dallas spoke to us. What a story. The program included a biography of the experiences of these men and other POWs, while they were in captivity. Of these servicemen, several spent many years as prisoners from one to 5 years. Their stories are horrific. The suffering they endured unconscionable, the pain and loss they lived immeasurable, their character unconquerable. These are men that were determined to live and have to their last breath. They endured with the hope of someday being released. Their stories are incredible.
Rick McDowell (Hawk) was the organizer and MC for this presentation. There were several speakers and ceremony including colors, the National Anthem, invocation, benediction and awards presentation.
Following our visit to the Airborne and Spec Ops Museum, we were permitted time to browse through the museum then we headed to dinner at the Destiny Now Church. An excellent meal was provided followed by presentations from Hawk, Bandit and Top. Bandit asked our chaplain leader to pray for us. Next he said what he has been saying every day “and I’ll say it again. We couldn’t do this without you and your help”. Then he said, “What do we tell these people that served us this great meal”? We all said “THANK YOU”!
Hawk called Diesel and he held up the mic to his cell phone so we could all hear Diesel’s voice. Diesel said he had surgery that morning on his hand and he was feeling better now. He also said he wished he could be here with us and he enjoyed the last couple days he spent with us. We love you Diesel. Each of the organizations of Run For The Wall received their certificates and patches and Team Leaders received plaques. Curly said something that I thought was profound regarding the traditional turning over of FNG pins. Some people do it at the presentation meeting and that’s okay. Other’s do it at the hotel when they arrive day 10 and that’s okay. Curly said that we don’t do Run For The Hotel, we do Run For The Wall and his way of thinking is that the mission is not complete until we arrive at The Wall. Many if not all agreed. My way of thinking is this. FNG pins should be turned by someone after you complete walking The Wall like Curly said. To me however, the mission is not complete after we walk The Wall, but when we arrive home safely in the arms of our loved ones. That’s just my opinion.
Since this year’s Run was being spearheaded by Bandit, Bandit will be the Route Coordinator with Glen Waggoner and his assistant in 2018. You know what that year is right? You guessed it, Run For The Wall’s 30 year anniversary.
*Number of names on The Wall for North Carolina (1613) for Fayetteville, NC (84)*
Day 8 is in the books.
We Ride For Those That Can’t
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer / email@example.com