Posted on 1 Comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 11

Day 11 – May 27 – The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall

I was up early enough to hear the FNGs preparing for their ride into Arlington and then saw them off. What an honor for them to participate in this event. Memories from their visit will remain with them forever. Mine do, like it was yesterday. We were quite arriving. We were not hurried. We spoke in whispers if at all and looked with serious faces at those that spoke irreverently. I walked among many headstones and felt overwhelming peace and reverence. This is hallowed ground, in point of fact.

No morning mandatory meeting, no five minute horn, no Pledge of Allegiance which I miss and no chaplain’s prayer which I especially miss. I did say my own prayer however, one of thanks for helping me make it here safely as well as my platoon and all our company. About 0930 I headed over to the Lincoln Memorial with a friend and walked the grounds to take some photos. We found the vendors north of The Wall and checked them out. Did you find the Bayer Aspirin booth? If so, you know why I mention it. If not, you get to guess. I saw quite a few RFTW folks and talked with a few other people there also wandering the grounds. Some asked about Run For The Wall and I was happy to tell them about it. It started out a great day. I found many friends from all three routes and shared hellos and hugs. Just before our picture was taken a man stood and started singing God Bless America. We all joined in. I thought we sounded pretty good, but I didn’t have my hearing aids in either. Then on the bull horn “5 minutes”. Then 10 minutes later “2 minutes”. Then 5 minutes later we all posed but the photo had already been taken. Timing is everything. I wonder how it will turn out. “Like my photographer friend Ken says “It is what it is”.

With the group photo concluded. We all headed to The Wall. Although it wasn’t hot like other years, the line moved slow, but that’s the way it moves and that’s what we are here to do. I finished walking the wall for me and my good friend Paladin that couldn’t be here but wanted to and asked me to say high to his buddies on the Wall for him, which I did. At the end of the walk, I found my good friend Joe Hudson and he received my grateful hug and I his. I think I was late getting to the end of The Wall so unfortunately I didn’t get to turn any FNG pins. Got some great pics however. More hugs. Many “be safe” farewells. It started out a great day and ended a spectacular day at The Wall.

Charlie Mike – Run For The Wall. Let’s start making ready for 2018.

On a less somber note: Is it just me or is it impossible to find your way out of DC? I hear lots of folks say they take ubers or taxis because there’s no parking. Maybe that’s true, but maybe they don’t want to get lost like all the rest of us. It is my experience that you can get lost even if you have your GPS preprogrammed for a quick escape. I did finally escape, but nowhere near the time my GPS indicated. The ride in was “interesting”. The guy I rode in with knows what I’m talking about. Sorry, not givin’ this one away, unless you ask I guess. Happy Run For The Wall everyone. Until 2018. Remember to keep the shiny side up!

Day 11 is in the books.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 – Day 10

Day 10 – May 27 – Ashland. VA to Washington DC

Well, here we are our final day of riding on this mission to The Wall. I don’t know to be happy or sad. It’s hard to know what to feel. I feel some of both. I don’t want it to be over. Anyone ready to start over?

I always love the prayers our chaplain’s corps provide for us. Thanking God for all his blessings and asking Him to continue to be with us as we ride. That our bikes may carry us safely to our destination, that our minds may be alert, that other motorists will notice us and be safe, that we may find healing today and every day, that we will remember why we are doing this and that we will give all praise and glory to God. I do thank God for the safety we have received from day to day. We have had extraordinary weather following us every day, thanks be to God. We have been safe. Many have found healing, some I know personally. Thank God for all these things and for the blessings we don’t even realize we received.
No road guards making it easy for us today. Bandit said it well, “If you can’t get to Arlington just 94 miles from here, how in the world do you expect to make it back home?

We held our platoon meetings like always. I don’t know what other platoon leaders talked about, but I imagine there were lots of thanks passed around, maybe some final words of encouragement and perhaps the common quote “this is what we’ve been training for the last 9 days”. In my platoon, I heard something I was not ready for, “you’ve been talking to us a lot for the last 9 days and now you’re going to shut up and we’re going to do the talking”. I just smiled and didn’t say a thing. They complimented our team’s leadership and then offered some items they had collected over the last several days for each of us. Lastly my platoon handed me a motorcycle flag of the United States Navy which they had all signed. I was stunned by my shipmates’s appreciation. I was speechless. All I could say was, “I don’t know what to say”. They said, “Then let’s get going”. Their gifts, their appreciation and their love will not be forgotten. My eyes were wet when I put my helmet on. I walked back through our ranks and shook hands and hugged all our riders. Now we take our final ride together to Arlington.

We are on our way to the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA under LEO escort. I’ve been there before a couple times. Only the Midway Route stops here. I’m so glad they do. It’s a great place to visit. We didn’t have all the time we’d like if we intended to ride into Arlington together, only about an hour. There is a giant leaning spire which is the center of and most prominent object of the museum. This spire represents the raising of the American Flag over the island of Iwo Jima. The museum is not yet complete. There are additional wings in the planning stage. Inside there are exhibits with multiple dioramas depicting battles fought from the Revolutionary war up through Vietnam. Future exhibits will include battles fought since Vietnam. Outside there are also some pathways around the grounds of the museum. When I walked inside I noticed right away a righteous looking chopper dedicated to the United States Marine Corps. While inside, I saw an armed Marine walking around the building observing. I asked him if I could talk with him a while. He said for a short time. He told me he was assigned to protect the museum and the people inside. He told me that the Commandant of the Marine Corps considered it only right that there should be Marine Corps presence inside their museum. That sounded completely appropriate to me. He was a sharp young man, willing to answer a few questions and very polite. He said there has never been any threat at the museum, but that if there were he and others with him were ready. He resumes his patrol.

I talked with a couple docents there. One asked me if I had been there before and I told him a couple times. He said that I’d probably seen most of what was here then except one thing and he pointed to a plane, an SBD Dauntless. This is a scout, dive bomber plane that was used during WWII, but this one was recovered several years ago from the bottom of Lake Michigan where it was used in training. My attention was focused on this man as he told me the story of repairing and hoisting the Dauntless to the position it now rests in. The story about this Dauntless Dive Bomber is here:

In the center of the room there was a company of friends and family there to honor the retirement of a Marine Corps Master Sargent. It was an excellent service. Not long and it was time to depart. We got to our bikes and followed our LEO support. All traffic was blocked from the US Marine Corps Museum all the way to the host hotel in Arlington. We received this treatment last year and were grateful then, just as now. It was an amazing ride on the HOV lane of I-95 and the 66 to the hotel. Not a single car was on the highway anywhere. When we rolled into Arlington I announced over the CB “Charley Mike”. We rolled in and parked. More hugs and thanks were passed around our platoon. The ride was complete.

Later the Southern Route came in and then the Central Route. I went down to the main floor and found my buddy and great friend Joe “Gump” Hudson former POW OIF. More hugs.

Last year I wrote the following about my seeing Joe in the lobby. Standing next to him was a young lady in tears. Joe asked me if I had heard the story. I shook my head, no. He said this woman is a dear friend and he introduced me to her. Gump said this is one of the nurses that cared for me after I was rescued in Iraq. She recognized me here and came up and introduced herself to me. This is the first time I’ve seen her since I was released from captivity in Iraq. I hugged and thanked her for being there for my friend Joe.

Tomorrow is the day. A hard day for many of us. FNGs, ride to Arlington National Cemetery in peace. Remember it is a place of honor and hollowed ground. Reverence is the attitude of the day.

****Number of names in the wall for Washington D.C. (242) ****

Day 10 is in the books.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway SitReps 2017 – Day 9

Day 9 – May 26 – Fayetteville, NC to Ashland, VA

There’s something magical about staying at the host hotel. Seeing all your buddies and talking about the stories of the day or relaxing with a cold one with your platoon mates. To others, staying at the host hotel may be a little hell on earth. No close place to park, long check-in lines, card keys that don’t work that you need go back down the elevator carrying all your gear, and cut back in line to get them remagnetized (I think I just invented a new word there). There’s an endless number of things that work against you checking into a hotel that are multiplied at host hotels, so some avoid them. I’m beginning to think they might be the smart ones, but I’ll let you be the judge.

We left Fayetteville and headed for the Falcon Children’s Home. Falcon is a private school that cares for children that have not been successful in the public school system, it’s also a home for school age unwed mothers and those who are awards of the state. Teachers, faculty and children are doing remarkable things at this school, where doors are now open to them that would otherwise have been closed. I think it’s the very special teachers that work with these very special children. We are all alike in the eyes of God.

The children here at Falcon’s provided an excellent program for us. Starting with colors and the National Anthem performed by the choir leader on his trumpet. The choir also sung America the Beautiful. There were some presentations by Bandit and the principal, Mr. Leggett and Hawk had a few words for us and for the children. Then the senior class members were all given certificates from Run For The wall. After this a challenge coin designed by the school was presented to each member of Run For The Wall. What a great gift we were all treated to. The Colors were retired, benediction offered and as we left the school, the children lined the parking lot waving and cheering goodbye to us. Why do they love us so much? Us whom they don’t even know? Is it because of who they think we stand for? Are we who they think we are? God help us be deserving of their love and help us be who they think we are. We most assuredly love these children. We will be back again next year. Count on that.

We next headed to lunch at the Shiloh Pentecostal Church. We received a very warm welcome. Have you ever seen an ice chest filled with spaghetti? How about two? Well we did and it was really good with extra sauce in pitchers to put on top if you wanted more as well as plenty of deserts. So from lunch, we were headed to our fuel stop (the last of the mission) and then to dinner under local LEO escort to the Moose Lodge in Hopewell, VA.

Hopewell. What a wonderful, loving and caring place. I think I’d like to move here. I know, I said that about a few other places already, but it’s true. The people at the Moose Lodge were so nice to us. They spent all day preparing food and arranging tables and chairs for us. First they welcomed us inside the air-conditioned building and gave us water and iced tea, sweet tea, lemonade and water. We were quickly all inside and seated. Soon a children’s choir from Tussing Elementary School Third Grade was singing a medley of songs about veterans and how they are so appreciated. Finally they sang “Thank You Soldiers”. A song they recorded years ago. It’s quite popular on YouTube. Check this URL. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the place, I couldn’t see to check. Afterward, we stood and applauded. We were all touched, just like each of the three years before this. This song still gets to us all as sung by these children grateful for soldiers and all military. Dinner followed. I wasn’t really hungry after eating a mess of spaghetti, so I sat at my table and browsed through pictures I’d taken on my phone. I had some really good ones. As I continued, I came across my dad’s Navy picture. It took me back. My dad passed in ’99. I took my Missing Man ride with him my FNG year in 2012. I felt it a high honor to ride with him by my side. I miss him. As I sat thinking about him, I reflected on this year’s Run and realized after tomorrow’s visit to the USMC Museum in Quantico, VA we ride to the hotel and the Run is over with only a wake up for the festivities on Saturday. It was a sad feeling and I teared up a little. I think my dad would be proud I participate in Run For The Wall. I love you dad. RIP Gunner’s Mate, USS Colorado BB-45, February 1937 to March 1941.

After dinner and presentations, the quilt made out of a single pair of Diesel’s britches was raffled off. Guess whose name got pulled, yep Diesel’s. Someone called him on the phone so we could all hear his reaction. Bandit said, “You won your britches back”. Diesel laughed. $1570 was collected for this quilt. Now Diesel will get his own britches back, in a better form than when he wore them.

Next was the anticipated time to hand out the coveted zip ties for entering Arlington on Saturday. FNGs were called up by state where they began the Run. Hawk tried to sneak in line, but got caught. Sorry Hawk, only FNGs get to enter Arlington. All FNGs got a zip tie this time. In another couple years, some may get turned away. We had 167 FNGs with us this time on the Midway Route. We hope to get many more in years to come.

**** Number of names on The Wall for Virginia (1305), from Ashland, VA (2) ****

Day 9 is in the books. Tomorrow the final leg.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitRep 2017 – Day 8

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.

Dear Veterans,
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 /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps Day 7

Day 7 Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Wow this mission is going by fast. Only three days left and the last day is only a half day for the Midway Route. The last day we have less than 100 miles to ride, then a visit to the USMC Museum in Quantico and then on to the hotel. That’s it. I can’t believe we’ve been waiting for so long for our anticipated event for to be over so quick. It’s like waiting in line for an hour or more to ride Peter Pan at Disneyland because your children just have to and you finally climb in your flying gondola, then in three minutes you’re climbing off. Your children are happy and that’s what matters. This ride, this mission just feels like it’s flying by like we were on a Peter Pan gondola. Way too soon it will be over.

Today was a great day for a motorcycle ride. We rode with rain gear on all day, and it rained most of the day, but it was still a great day for a ride. Everyone knows that if you wear or even pack rain gear it won’t rain, but today was the exception. Still we all made it to our destination in one piece and had a great time doing it.

It started with the usual stuff, including the reading of a bio of a fallen hero. These bios were carefully chosen. Diesel requested that certain ones be selected, bios that concerned individuals who were lost or recovered on a date during Run For The Wall. Each one read takes us older veterans and non-veterans back to a time we remember too well and for some a time they still wish they could forget. However, it’s a time to reflect on the life of one that paid with his or her life in service to their country to protect and preserve our freedom and our liberty and we thank God for their service and their sacrifice. This is why we ride.
Mr. Patriot (Michael Hill) was on hand to see us off and he brought some friends. Michael thanked us for coming and honoring him, he blessed us to ride safely and bid us farewell until next year. The mayor of Cookeville also gave us a few words of thanks and encouragement on our journey.

We are riding to Ashville, NC today. Our final venue is Ashville Harley Davidson for dinner. Although our start was delayed because of an accident on the interstate, we soon set off and were uninterrupted throughout the day. As we entered the interstate, the beautiful country beckoned our eyes to look, but we could not. The greenery everywhere, the hills, the canyons we rode through, all were wonderful to see and marvel at but only by passengers. What we saw was the tail end or back side of the rider in front of us. The same view, we’ve had for more than 2000 miles. I think I got that image engraved in my skull. Anyway, the ride today had many sweeping, ascending and descending turns and a few tunnels and lots of traffic. I keep thinking about an eighteen-wheeler passing me on the left just a few feet from hitting me. We can’t always be looking in our mirrors, but sometimes you need to if you want to avoid someone that’s driving too close to the zipper. It happens.

We headed to our first stop which was Knoxville and the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial for lunch. There were a few words from local dignitaries and then a prayer from our chaplain corps. Afterward, a Wreath Laying ceremony commenced followed by cheers and applause. Lunch was served and we enjoyed the Veterans Memorial. I have a few Medal of Honor coins from this memorial already, but I had to have the new coin created for the latest Knoxville Medal of Honor “recipient” (you don’t say “winner” you know) and it ain’t the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s the Medal of Honor which happens to be awarded by Congress. I learned that from Gene Goldware at the Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery and you can bet he knows.

Our next stop was the Citgo station where I figured Hawk (AKA Rick McDowell) would be waiting for us and he was. We haven’t seen him for a year, so the first half hour or so was mostly hugs and pictures. Hawk is a lovable guy and no one is more dedicated to Run For The Wall than he is. He is the North Carolina State Coordinator and he is responsible for the multitude of Fire Engines we will see on overpasses throughout North Carolina. (Tomorrow in Fayetteville we will have a very special event he coordinates at the Airborne Special Operations Museum).
Before long we arrived at the Asheville Harley Davidson shop, all in one piece. It didn’t take long partly because we lost an hour when we entered North Carolina. Now we are on Eastern Time. Our excellent Staging Crew got us parked at the Harley shop so we could each get out when we wanted to. Well, some of us anyway. There was a band playing and the smell of barbecue in the air. What a great event. Dinner was excellent and the band was great. They played a couple of my favorite Merle songs. There was also singing of the National Anthem and Presentation of Colors by the Owen High School JROTC. After dinner, Bandit said to all present like he has at most of our meal stops, “What do we say to all these people that fed us?” We answer in unison “THANK YOU”.

Soon it was time for presentations. Several plaques and certificates were handed out. One of the representatives from the VA Hospital spoke some words of welcome and appreciation. Her name is Cynthia Breyfogle and she is the director of the VA Center. A few of the patients that live at the center were on hand. The mic was handed to Staff Sergeant Wayne Carringer, POW, and Bataan Death March survivor now 96 years old. He read a story about his experience and the many lessons he learned about life. He said, “Always be thankful for every meal you receive because you never know if you’ll have one tomorrow. Always be kind and loving to your friends, because you never know if you will see them again”. One last thing he talked about was avoid doing things that you will regret in the future. Thinking back on things we said in anger or hard times we gave to someone will cause us pain in the future when we reflect back on them. I thought the wisdom this elderly gentleman has gained over the years of his life and the unique and traumatic experiences he endured were of particular importance to helping me find happiness in my life, if I’ll remember his words and make them a part of my life.

Last year I reported that I passed Les Williams with a guy on the back of his trike. It was Staff Sgt Carringer and Les was driving him back to the hospital. I wonder if he got a similar ride today.

** Number of names on The Wall for North Carolina (1613) for Ashville, NC (36) **

Day 7 is in the books.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 6

Day 6 Monday May 22, 2017

According to my GPS we finished today with a little over 2000 miles. We are now in Cookeville, TN. Today started out a little different. It had all the usual activities, breakfast, mandatory meeting, drawings and bios (I don’t know about you but Denise reads these things in a way that tears me up). After that, I took a minute to explain to our group that since I had been writing these SitReps a young man in Cookeville, TN had been reading them and following along with us and we’d be seeing him at our dinner venue in Cookeville. I explained to everyone that Michael was deaf and that I thought it would be nice for everyone to say hi to Michael “Mr Patriot” Hill (he’s called that because he dresses up in red, white and blue). I was going to show everyone how to sign “Hi” but simply said I think I know the sign for “hi”, but I’d like Talking Hands to come up and teach it to everyone. So she did. She said it’s really difficult, so pay close attention. Then she said “first, look them in the eye, then with your hand open, placing your forefinger up to your temple you extend it out, like this and she showed everyone and said “hi”. It was so easy everyone laughed. Then she had us practice it a little. It was really funny, but we all learned. I’ll tell you later how it all turned out in Cookeville with Michael.

(I wrote this last year, but it’s too good to omit). Many individuals on the Run have painful memories that they hope to find answers to or at least relief from by associating with friends that share common stories and common pain and know some of the dark places we sometimes fall victim to. A friend of mine had such an experience while on the Run. I could tell he was troubled. I waited a moment and then walked over to him and hugged him for a while. The emotions were thick. The pain is still there after many years, but Run For The Wall has become his reason to cope with the pain and he is doing the best he can with it. Others are suffering with pain and demons of their own. There’s no way we can tell how deep this pain goes or how tight a grip these demons have on them. All we can do is comfort them as they struggle to get through their battles with them. (This friend of mine could not be here this year. He really wanted to. He assured me he would come next year however).

Getting through Memphis was a challenge, but we cleared it with expert Road Guard service. We have in our hearts a warm place for these brave men and women to risk their lives to help keep us safe on the Run.

We stopped in Brownsville for another sponsored fuel stop, and headed to Dickson for lunch at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Last year we had Nachos, this year it was grilled dogs and all the fixins. Here in the south that is a word. They also had many deserts like last year, but I kept looking until I found the peach cobbler, because I remembered it from last year. There it was and it still tasted the same. So the same person must have made it or maybe they had enough left over from last year and they just set it out again. I don’t care which. It was excellent.

Getting through Nashville was a real nightmare. My platoon got separated by cars and trucks wanting to get from Lane 1 to Lane 3 or from 3 to 1 or were too confused to just pick something. After a little while I had lost sight of them. With us separated, platoons in the rear were separated as well. It took several miles for all of us to catch up again. When we got to our fuel stop several of us were rattled but we had made it. A few I talked with actually enjoyed the excitement of having to catch up with the pack again. I love these riders.

We made our way to our final stop at Cookeville. On the way into town, I heard a rider say “FNGs are you ready for this”. It is a “must be there” kind of experience. It is the Run For The Wall feeling that each of us thrive on, a personal feeling of welcome, of belonging, of love and appreciation for someone none of them know except as veterans. The welcome was indescribable as in past years. Police directed us through town. People and groups lined the streets with flags waving and cheering all the way to the Leslie Town Center. I’m sure there were a thousand or more people on the streets welcoming us. What an amazing sight. Two years ago a huge rainstorm had rolled through just before we arrived. We were soaked and so were many of the towns people, but I remember they were still out there to greet us rain or no.

(Now the rest of the story and no I ain’t Paul Harvey). As we were riding to the Leslie Town Center, I saw Michael (Mr. Patriot) in the middle of the street waving a flag. Earlier he texted me that I couldn’t miss him and he was right. I rode right up to him. He knew it was me and gave me a big hug right there in the middle of the intersection. We all parked and made our way inside. We were greeted by everyone including the Mayor and several dignitaries. Inside there were tables set with Red, White, and Blue table cloths. We found our way to tables and had a great meal quickly followed by a prayer from our Chaplain giving thanks to God for our safe travels of the day and the meal we were about to enjoy. When I saw Michael inside, the unusualness began. A day earlier I had asked High Maintenance (Denise), our Ambassador Team Leader if she had another hat and she said she had one left. I asked if she could present the hat to Michael when we got to Cookeville and she said she would. When Michael came over, Denise and Talking Hands (Laurie) were there with me. I signed “hi” to Michael and introduced Denise and Talking Hands. I presented him with a RFTW challenge coin and Denise presented him with an Ambassador hat. He got all emotional as you might imagine. Then I got everyone’s attention and introduced them to Michael and asked them to say “hi” to Michael so everyone signed “hi” to Michael. Then I told them that deaf people could not hear applause so I asked them if they knew the sign for applause and a few did. So I said, “let’s give Michael a round of applause” and everyone signed applause by waving their hands in the air. Again he was overwhelmed. Later Bandit had one of the Cookeville dignitaries lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance and after that the National Anthem. We all stood and saluted while Michael signed the National Anthem. It was beautiful. He did a marvelous job. You could cut the emotions with a knife. They ran thick for all of us. I told Michael I would keep in touch with him. Michael texted a picture to me of himself up at the big cross that overlooks Cookeville near the interstate. He also texted me the following: “Man, I was overwhelmed. Thank you so much. I’ll always carry the coin you gave me and the hat. I’m now part of the family and being an ambassador of the RFTW Midway! Mayor Shelton gave me a big thumbs up. I guess I’m the face of Cookeville for RFTW Midway”. Yes you are Michael. Welcome to the RFTW family. Bandit has been saying every day since we started that we are all family and today that number grew by one.

After dinner there were a few words from each of several dignitaries including a Tennessee Congressman that lives in Cookeville. Then Bandit and Top gave the usual presentations. One of the Cookeville speakers told us that Boswell’s Harley Davidson would be open late tonight in case anyone needed help with their bikes. So I thought I’d check it out later. Bandit excused us and we all headed out. I headed to Boswells HD. I thought I might need a battery. They checked it out and it did need replacing, so they installed a new one. Now I’m good to go again. Thanks Boswells. Several other riders from RFTW came after me. I hope they got their needs taken care of as well.

A beautiful day and an exceptional experience but now it’s over. I can’t wait to come back to Cookeville, TN. It is my home away from home.

**** Number of names on The Wall for Tennessee (1295) for CookeVille, TN (5)****

Day 6 is in the books. Tomorrow a challenging highway ride.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 5

Day 5 Sunday May 21, 2017

Do you remember the tornado warning a couple years ago in Shawnee that made us all evacuate to the lower floor in the middle of the night? Well, no such warning last night thankfully. The weather was great today. We seem to be in between storms as we are traveling east, a great place to be when you’re riding on a motorcycle for hundreds of miles.

After packing and breakfast we gathered in the Walmart parking lot for a short worship service. Our chaplain gave a very encouraging talk about how the things we say and the things we do have a ripple effect that can make people around us feel better or worse basically. The idea I drew from this is we should say and do things that help people feel better. When people feel better, they may be able to help others feel better as well.

Our platoon gained a couple more riders this morning, so we covered all the bases with them and we all set out for our first fuel stop in Sallisaw, OK. It was a little chilly, but not freezing. Of course, if you have electric gear like some of us do, it can be as comfortable as you want. The welcome into town was tremendous. There was a large American Flag hanging from a fire truck over the road and the truck had its siren going as we pulled in for another sponsored fuel stop. Thanks again. Dennis Okie-D Freie the Oklahoma State Coordinator pulled out all the stops. The people there at the gas stop were warm, inviting and happy for us to visit again.

Then, another welcome LEO escort. Our next fuel stop was only a short distance, and again it was sponsored. So far I think all of our fuel stops have been sponsored. Practically like being paid to ride a motorcycle. That’s got to be the best job in the world. Someone might argue my point, but I don’t think I’ll let them. Anyway, I am certainly grateful as I know everyone else is to have fuel donated. The Fuel Team is really thankful. It makes their jobs much easier not having to count cash and all. The entire Run has been a marvelous experience.

On a personal note: It appears to me that most of our FNGs have become rather adept at riding in formation. I think my platoon has improved a great deal. No one seems to be nervous about riding up close to one another or next to someone. I think that’s great. It helps increase the safety factor for sure. It doesn’t mean that you are safe however. We all are behind the controls of our own machine (except passengers of course). Ride with confidence, but also ride with awareness.

Soon we exited Oklahoma and entered Arkansas where LEO teams swapped around and the escort continued. We were on our way to the little city of Ozark and then to the VFW Post 8532 in Coal Hill, OK. This was a nice change since most of our riding has been on the “slab” as we call the interstate. I thought the narrow sweeping roads were a welcome change. The Staging, Fuel, Road Guard and Ambassador Teams were all at the entrance of the VFW and saluted when we arrived. Very sharp and very professional! They do the same thing at our other venues. We love these guys and gals on all our teams. The welcome by the VFW members was also wonderful and the food was marvelous. The food is always great, but the BBQ chicken was to die for, a nice smoky, sweet, savory taste that made your mouth smile from ear to ear. I needed a few extra napkins. While we were having lunch, Bandit brought in a special guest, Diesel. We all stood and applauded. He made the trip up from Louisiana to see us. We were happy to see him as well. Some special presentations were made and then we were given 10 minutes until we had to depart. There were some long lines at the bathrooms. I wonder how many actually got to go. Oh well. We were off again to our next fuel stop in Maumelle off again, this time to Forrest City and the Ridgewood Baptist Church. A couple years ago it was pouring rain here, but this year it was sunny and dry, lovely riding weather. Again all our teams were there to welcome us including many members of this wonderful church. Members, servers and cooks all greeted us with open arms. The food was great just like last year, fried chicken, mashed potatoes & gravy, rice, green beans, and biscuits. Bandit asked Good Wrench, our Chaplin Corp Leader to offer a blessing and we ate. There were plenty of deserts as well. After many plaque presentations, this time by Diesel, we were privileged to hear from one of Arkansas’ Senators. He talked about how great it is for the service we do to help other veterans and to serve in whatever capacities we do to help make our country great. He then presented Bandit with a certificate to RFTW stating our mission which is for healing of our veterans of all wars, for requiring accountability for our POWs and MIAs, for honoring our KIAs and for supporting out military wherever they may be serving. Seems to me we are the grateful ones, yet we were honored to be thanked for what we do. After this we were excused to our hotels.

On a side note: I received an inquiry from a young man in Cookville. He wanted to show his patriotism by thanking us when we arrived. He’s deaf. He wanted to know if “Talking Hands” (Laurie Waggoner) would be with us. I texted back she would. He has been grateful for the SitReps I’ve written and he loves following our progress toward the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall. He’s really happy we stop in Cookville and wants to express his appreciation to us somehow. His name is Michael Hill. You won’t miss him I’m sure. Just look for the guy in red, white and blue. His call sign is Mr. Patriot. Say “Hi” to him. I don’t know how to sign myself, but I understand saying “hi’ in sign language is pretty similar to a salute. With your hand up to your temple in the form of a basic salute extend it forward. So when you see Michael, say “Hi”.

**** Number of names on The Wall for Arkansas (592), for Forrest City, AR (2) ****

Day 5 is in the books. The run is half over. Does it seem like it is already? There’s still a lot of great stuff ahead.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup / Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 4

Day 4 Saturday May 20, 2017

What a fantastic day. Great weather! A little cold to start and a little windy, but we’re under a high pressure area. Know what that means? No rain. The high pressure is pushing the rain east. God is blessing us just as our Chaplain’s Corp has prayed for. Thank you Heavenly Father. I’m sure the weather is helping us travel safely as well as all your prayers. Thank you. Everyone made it to Shawnee in one piece. We had LEO escort throughout our trip through Oklahoma.

The morning started with the usual mandatory meeting, except that the Outreach Program director Vickie Meyer “Needy” got up and read us a couple stories of fallen heroes, more specifically one Missing in Action and one Killed in Action. The Outreach Team will be visiting their families today. God bless them. Then High Maintenance read another bio of a fallen hero. These stories are touching and bring emotions sometimes uncontrollable. Rightly so. This is why we ride and we will Never Forget.

We started out from the Sam’s Club parking lot again like last time. The overpasses were covered with patriots waving flags and saluting as we passed under. Again our fuel stops were sponsored in Oklahoma. We were scheduled to stop in Clinton at the Veteran’s Center, but for some reason we couldn’t and arrangements were made for us to stop near the Stafford’s Air & Space museum for lunch. These arrangements were made by local folks with only a few days’ notice. We sure did appreciate their service and the great food we received there.

While were having lunch, I talked with Laurie Waggoner “Talking Hands”. I told her I was writing up the Sit Reps and she mentioned a lady that is traveling with us. She said at age 70 she decided to get a tattoo and buy a motorcycle. Her family didn’t know about this idea. They thought she had lost it when they finally heard. This is her 77th year and she still rides. In fact, she’s going all the way to DC with us. Her name is Karol Oules and she rides in my platoon. If you happen to see her, recognize her for her efforts. This is one amazing lady. Thank you Karol for stepping up your game to include Run For The Wall. I think you show remarkable resilience and gumption not present in the ordinary. You are unique. Truly a one-off gal and I’m thankful to know you.

We had a few minutes to spare so we headed over to the museum. “The Stafford Air & Space Museum is located in Weatherford, Oklahoma. The museum features exhibits about aviation, space exploration and rocketry, and a collection of over 20 historic aircraft. Displays include artifacts from the Space Shuttle program, Hubble Space Telescope and the Mir Space Station, a Moon rock, a Titan II missile, a Mark 6 Re-entry vehicle and a Gemini spacecraft”. (Thanks Wiki).

On our way to Oklahoma City, traffic got plenty worse but riding with LEO made it much easier. Still there was some rubber-banding and the occasional vehicle that needed on or off the interstate, so we made room for them. That’s really not an option since most of the time motorcycles lose. One of our Road Guards, Peter Green “Gearshift” noticed a driver in a cage determined to merge into our pack while the platoon was unaware of her presence. He pulled in front of this car in a somewhat safe manner, so the driver would know not to proceed, all the while keeping the pack safe. I’m not sure others know that although the Road Guards are not to endanger their own lives, what they do is dangerous and they are all appreciated by our riders and our leadership. They do keep us safe and their mission is to get us to DC in one piece. They do a dang good job of it as well. Thank you my brother Gearshift.

We made it to downtown Oklahoma City under full LEO escort and without much effort we arrived at the Oklahoma City Memorial and spent some time there. A ranger for the memorial was on hand to explain the design of the memorial. It’s quite an amazing story and all aspects of the design have meaning, from the Gates of Time (9:01 to 9:03), to the Reflecting Pool, the Field of Empty Chairs and the Survivor Tree. It is a wonderful memorial to a devastating attack against the American people, women carrying unborn children, mothers, fathers, children, families, all innocent people. These words are on the wall behind the Survivor Tree.

Team 5 4-19-1995
“Search for the Truth.
We Seek Justice.
The Courts Require it.
The Victims Cry for it.
And God Demands it”.

At 0902, a rental truck packed with explosives detonated in front of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The powerful explosion blew off the building’s north wall. Emergency crews raced to Oklahoma from across the country, and when the rescue effort finally ended two weeks later the death toll stood at 168 people, including 19 young children who were in the building’s day care center at the time of the blast. More than 650 other people were injured in the bombing, which damaged or destroyed more than 300 buildings in the immediate area. The Survivor Tree and many buildings in the area still bear the scar of the horrific event for what happened here twenty two years ago. Lives were forever changed. Our country was forever changed, but we will NEVER FORGET”. You know, I’m not even sure it’s any consolation that the perpetrator of this crime paid with his life June 2001. We know his name, but I’m not mentioning it. Only those whose lives were taken away from us are worth mentioning. Their names are under the chairs in the Field of Empty Chairs. Nineteen of which were children. God grant peace to their families and to the community of Oklahoma City. Our hearts go out to them all and to the thousands that came to rescue hundreds of survivors. The American Spirit lives on.

We arrived in Shawnee and headed to the VFW for dinner. A most excellent meal was provided by the VFW. Following the meal there were probably the usual awards, plaques and certificates graciously handed out, but I had to depart early so I only suspect this occurred. Feeling a little under the weather, I asked Bandit if it was okay to leave early and was granted his permission. For better or worse, the mission goes on and I will be there to continue it to completion.

Day 4 is done. Onto Day 5, the half way point.

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup Platoon 6 Leader / Sit Rep Writer

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 3

Day 3 Friday May 19, 2017

We had a late meeting start so we could sleep in early. Yay! Over at the Rich Ford Dealership, breakfast was served. What a spread! They had everything. The bacon, sausage, eggs, fruit, biscuits and gravy was all great and there was much more.

Mandatory meeting time again, but it didn’t start until 0800. Nice. After the usual stuff, several items were raffled off and one lucky winner of the fifty-fifty chose to donate the cash he won back to Run For The Wall. What a kind gesture. He was applauded. Then the Platoon Leadership briefs. We had a new rider join our platoon, so we covered everything and then some. We were out of there at 0900 under LEO escort and headed to the little town of Moriarty not for a fly-by, more like a ride-by. When I hear that name, it reminds me of the Sherlock Holmes nemesis in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series. It’s the only other time I’ve ever heard the name. Anyway, we rode slowly through this little town waving at some of the residents obviously there to watch us ride by. It was great to see then and to be welcomed by them. Quickly we were back on I-40 with LEO escort that seemed to not have cruise control. Maybe he had the cheaper model. Platoons were constantly changing speed to match that of the cruiser. No big deal, but it was a little bothersome to the riders.

Next stop Santa Rosa for another donated fuel stop (this is becoming a regular thing, thank you again to our donor), then the long trek to the Blue Hole (all of three miles). I’ll bet Ken posts some pics of the Blue Hole on his website at It’s really something else 61 degrees year round. It’s a natural spring of fresh water which is often used for diving. It’s also used for the occasional jumping in of one or more of our Run For The Wall riders. Lunch was great. While in line talking to Top, I told him that before I stated doing Run For The Wall I weighed 120 pounds. He laughed so hard. Others around us cracked up as well. Yeah, we have a tend to put on weight doing Run For The Wall. Cause? All the great food. One place serves steak with homemade ice cream and homemade peach cobbler, it’s all a diet’s nightmare. It’s always great to sit down to a meal next to fellow riders on the Run and talk about everything. Books could be written of topics covered at these venues. Several plaques and certificates were handed out again. Each venue this occurs. There must be about 10 boxes of these things in back of the service vehicle. Everyone and every organization that contributes to the Run are appreciated for good reason. As Bandit says, “we cannot do this without them”. Bandit sees to it that all are appreciated with a huge dose of love and hugs and thanks to all that help. On top of that, he gives credit to Mark “Diesel” Breland who is not on the Run with us for health reasons. At the last minute, Mike Huber took the slot of Route Coordinator and is doing a magnificent job for the limited time he had to prepare.

As we left the Blue Hole, somehow I got mixed up and ended up leading our platoon out before our turn. The staging team told me where to park earlier and I parked there and my platoon was behind me. When the riders in from of me left, I followed, but I guess I was supposed to wait for 5th platoon to depart before me. Oops. What are they going to do, tell me I can’t volunteer anymore? Take away my birthday? Send me on a WestPac? (Navy jargon) Anyway, I apologized to the Platoon Leader who is supposed to be before me, but he was having none of it. He is a great sport and thankfully he felt it was no big deal. Stuff happens right?

On the way to our next fuel stop we ran into a bit of rain. It wasn’t bad and by the time we made it there we were dry again. At the truck stop (which has a great, free of charge, car museum inside) we were treated to another full tank of premium fuel. Thank you. The beverage and snack truck were also there for a while. As we gathered in the parking lot, we noticed that the rain we previously went through was quickly catching up with us. Then the 15 minute warning was given as it started to drizzle, then the 10 minute warning as it started to rain, then the 5 minute warning as we started to get wet again, then we were off again as it really started coming down. No problem however, we dried off in the wind before our destination in Amarillo. As we crossed over into Texas there were two planes overhead to greet us releasing streamers as they flew. We saw many overpasses with lots of patriots on them cheering us and waving flags with a few very large flags hanging from the overpass or from fire engine ladders high in the air, an amazing and very patriotic, very American sight for us to see. Do you know we have a special team celled the Ambassadors whose responsibility it is to visit these patriots and thank them with pins and other items they bring for them? They do a lot of other great stuff as well.

Through downtown Amarillo we were escorted by LEO right to our venue at the Christian Heritage Church again. We where we were greeted by many patriots with flags and a huge flag draped between two fire engine ladder trucks. The food line went fast and we were all seated inside. The ribs were so good and they loaded us up with them. All the food was great and there was homemade peach cobbler! A member of the Christian Heritage Church opened with a blessing for us to be safe on our ride. We will of course always take any divine help we can get. The Star Spangled banner was sung by a sweet girl and we all stood and saluted. There were a few guest speakers including a representative of the mayor’s office who read a proclamation regarding Run For The Wall which was presented to Bandit. Several Purple Heart recipients were recognized and applauded. The servers were all thanked and hugged and hugged again. I think we all love coming here to Amarillo and to the Christian Heritage Church, most especially for the love the community pours out on each of us riders on the Run For The Wall. I know these people truly love us also. They plan far in advance for our arrival and see to it everything is prepared for the event and what an amazing event it is. I can’t wait to be back again next year. We’ll be back again next year and the next.

Tonight I am staying at the Host Hotel tonight. I wonder if this will be a memorable experience. You know what experience is right? Experience is what you get, when you didn’t get what you wanted.

**** Number of names on The Wall for Texas (3415), for Amarillo, TX (52) ****

Day 3 is in the books.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup / Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer /

Posted on Leave a comment

Midway Route SitReps 2017 Day 2

Day 2 Thursday May 18, 2017

Thankfully I got a little more sleep last night in Flagstaff, but the morning was a wide awakening to 30 degree temperatures. My bike had a layer of frozen water on it. The locks were even frozen; had to pour some water in them just to get them open. It’s nice that hotels provide rags for us to clean our bikes with. A couple of them made quick work of disbursing the frost. Thankfully my bike started okay as well. I have an electronic starter in case it doesn’t and as long as I happen to have some warm water on hand, I can open the lock to the saddlebag where I keep it.
Mandatory meeting time. Geez. Do I need to say anything? Well a couple things. Each morning part of this meeting is a prayer. That’s a big deal for me. One of our Chaplain’s Corp offers thanks for our safety and health and prays for good weather and for us to be awake and to ride safely and for our motorcycles to operate properly. I must say that there is a God. He does watch over us and blesses us on our ride, I mean mission. We sometimes call this blessing “traveling mercies”, and we receive them, thank God. No rain, a little wind, a little fog, a little cold, but certainly nothing to complain about. If anyone complained at today’s weather, I ask them to quickly sell their motorcycle and get a freakin’ car, seriously. One other good thing to mention about the Mandatory meeting is the reading of a bio belonging to someone either a POW/MIA or KIA. They can hardly be read without emotion, or listened to without emotion for that matter. I love this moment and like it has been said already many times “this is why we ride”.

Gas stops. Fuel paid for again, thank you and free breakfast burritos this morning thanks to Cisco Foods. Our fuel team does such an incredible job. They are so nice and often ask us how our ride, I mean mission is going. I wonder if they know how appreciated they are. I tell each of them that help me, but I’m just one guy. Our staging team is awesome. They get us exactly where we need to be. Sometimes we balk, but they know it’s just the way us older generation guys are. I gave the stager for our platoon a bad time for not holding up his number and saying all kinds of derogatory stuff, in jest of course. Another rider next to me was making all these moaning sounds but I saw our stager’s face and he was laughing and I was smiling. He knew I was far from serious. He came over and we hugged. I love this guy. It was a great moment for both of us. Oh I forgot to mention we were counseled this morning to leave our poor attitudes in Flagstaff and only bring our good attitudes with us. I hope no one thinks I have a bad attitude or I might have to return to Flagstaff and drop it off.

Did I mention LEO supported us leaving Flagstaff until we were safely all on the interstate? No? Well, they did. When we crossed into New Mexico, LEO was there to escort us from the beginning and they are with us to escort us completely through the state.

Lunch was at Milan Elementary School, in Milan, New Mexico (you were thinking Milan, Italy maybe, am I right)? The children were outside to welcome us chanting “USA, USA, USA…” We all took our turns riding around the cul-de-sac and waving while chanting USA with them. We parked and I got out all the stuff I had determined to bring with me to hand out to the children. I had cut-out American Flag stars from retired flags. I took RFTW 2017 pins, lots of them. I took beaded key chains I made. I took glass beads with flag symbols on them. I kinda clogged the hallway handing them out, but the children loved all the stuff. I wonder if they love us as much as we love them. I think their love for us is much more in my opinion, but we sure love them tons.

We were led to the auditorium where some introductions were made followed by the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the children gave the Arizona State Pledge followed by the verse I shared with you last night. I had printed my copy out and read it with them while tears filled my eyes. Some children and a few of our riders turned to look at me. I wasn’t ashamed, just very, very grateful for their words and their code and their patriotism. Maybe next year we will be a little more prepared to cite the children’s code of conduct.

Then the usual certificate and plaque awards. Then the unusual happened. Senator Clemente Sanchez was present and spoke to us on how much the community appreciates us visiting them. I’m sure the appreciation is mutual. For a US Senator to show up at our little gathering meant the State of New Mexico appreciates our presence there. I think that’s exactly what it means.

Lunch was amazing. Enchiladas, beans rice, tortillas, chips, salsa and cake. The Red sauce enchiladas had a little kick. I liked them, but the chicken ones were really good as well. Thanks for those that prepared and served our meal to us. We are so grateful. After I ate, I went over to the wall the children had prepared for us. I don’t think many of our group noticed what they did, but there was a map of all the places we will stop at on our way to DC. There were also about 40 or more of these Thank You cards the children made pinned to the wall. The outside was nicely colored with the words Thank You and inside were sentiments that choked me. Inside they had written things like: Thank you for making me feel safe, for saving our country, for saving the world, for making me free, for loving us by going to fight for us, one said for being willing to die for us, another for saving me and my family. Then the 10 minute horn sounded. I didn’t have time to read all the cards, but I wanted to. Thank you to all the Milan Elementary Children and to their great teachers that help instill patriotism in their students. I love going there so much.

A short drive to the next fuel stop (you guessed it) then over to the casino parking lot. We watched as several LEO on motorcycles gathered and talked a while. Then they mounted up and we headed into Albuquerque. Absolutely no one else was on the interstate clear into downtown to the Duke City Harley Davidson shop where dinner was on the grill for all of us. Later there was cake. Then the usual plaque and certificate ceremony for those that contributed to our activities in New Mexico. A very special thank you to all the officers that guarded all the roads and on ramps and kept us safe all the way into Albuquerque. What an amazing job and equally amazing experience for all us riders. I think our FNGs may have been somewhat impressed perhaps. As we entered the HD facility I saw all the Leo in formation down the street as if you say mission accomplished. I waved. Later I talked with one officer and offered my appreciation to him.

**** Number of names on The Wall for New Mexico (395), for Albuquerque, NM (111)

Day 2 is in the books. Tomorrow: The Blue Hole and Amarillo. Watch for the 10 half buried Cadillacs in the field to the right just before Amarillo.

We Ride For Those That Can’t

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup / Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Witer /