Well, here we are, our final day of riding on this mission to The Wall. I don’t know whether 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 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.
Last year we received LEO escort all day. This year it was a little different, but our road guards stepped up and got the job done making it easy for us. Thank you road guards.
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”. I spoke to my group about the riding days we’ve had together and how well they did. I said today, “there was nothing left to learn and nothing to prove”. Let’s ride like we know what we’re doing”.
We are on our way to the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA without LEO escort. I’ve been there before a several 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. Then I headed with some friends to the Vietnam War area. Here are some pics.
While here a young man maybe 13, walked up to me and said, “Sir, I’d like to shake your hand”. I extended my hand. Then he said, “Thank you for your service”. I said’ “You’re welcome”. Then handed me an envelope and said, “I wrote this letter for you”. I took it and said, “Thank you”. I stood there for a moment unable to move or talk. I opened the letter. I tried and failed to compose myself. It read as follows. “I’m taking my time to write you this letter to thank you for your service. What I want to see in DC is the monument. I also wish to see the Abraham Lincoln Memorial. I thank you for your service and commitment to keeping us safe. I wish I could go but I did not really want to, but I’m just glad that you saved our country. People like you have a great heart. In closing I am happy you have been a part of our service. People like you are amazing for what you have done. How can I thank you enough for what you’ve done”? It was signed. Thankfully there is a return address on the envelope: Northwestern Middle School, 7569 Elyria Road, West Salem, OH 44287. This young man will be getting a reply from me. I’m not sure, but perhaps there were more children from this school in the museum and perhaps they handed out letters to others similar to the one I received. I was at least one of the blessed to receive one. During my generation, this would never have happened. Thank God that era is over and our veterans are appreciated today. To all those of my generation, the words of this young man are for you as much as they are for me and like this young man said, I say to you, “How can I thank you enough for what you’ve done”? In Bandit’s words, I’d like to say, “to each and every one of you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. We are family”.
Not long and it was time to depart. Last year we were allowed to enter the Express Lanes and ride under LEO escort without any traffic issue. This year we would need our road guards to help get us to Arlington. Before we left the museum, I walked back through our ranks and shook hands and hugged all our riders. Now we take our final ride together to Arlington. We got to our bikes and departed. We needed to allow merging traffic into our ranks, but it all went pretty well and we arrived at the host hotel before long. When we rolled into Arlington I announced over the CB “Charley Mike”. We rolled in and parked. The ride was complete. Good Wrench rolled up behind me and asked if he could park behind me. I told him I considered Siler City a highlight of the ride. I told him I loved the letters from the children we received even more than the great food we received. I told him that last year letters were available for us to take with us as we departed. When I saw the box of letters, there were many still left. I did not want them going to waste, so I took about 25 or 30 of them. I read them all and I took them and left them at the wall, all except one. I said, I was always going to keep this one. I pulled that one out and showed Good Wrench. He was impressed by the handwriting as I was. I showed him the signature and he said, “I know that family. They are great family”. I could only imagine. I shared the message of that letter with you a couple days ago.
Later the Southern Route and Central Routes came in. Tomorrow is the day. A hard day for many of us. FNGs, ride in peace into Arlington National Cemetery. It is a sacred place.
I’ll and this years Sitreps with my final one tomorrow.
“We Ride For Those That Can’t”
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 5 Leader / Midway Route SitRep Writer
I’d appreciate your comments. For those that have emailed me their comments, my thanks and my love to you all.