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Day 7.  Tuesday May 24, 2022.  Cookeville, TN to Asheville, NC.  “Family Time

Family.

It’s not just who you are related too by birth.  It is who you choose.  It is who you associate with.  It is who you would die for.  It is who you would kill for.  It is who you have shed your blood with.  It is RFTW.

Today, my Midway RFTW Family really started to draw closer together.  I attribute this to several factors, chief amongst them is that our Mission is starting to be forefront in our minds, even when we are having fun.  From the very start of our day, with “Snax” and “Curly” singing and signing our National Anthem and with “Pin-Up” leading us in the Pledge of Allegiance, I noticed a palpable change from just yesterday.

I saw people hugging each other just a little tighter and a little longer.  I saw people holding hands in a prayer circle.  I overheard whispered conversations about lost Brothers in Arms, and saw the speaker get enveloped in a crowd to protect him and offer him support.  I saw a Chaplain walk up to a Rider that was near tears, and saw that same Rider about 10 minutes later with a wonderful smile on his face.  I saw a recently widowed 2019 Midway Route Rider bring her young Son out to our lunch spot, just to get him used to being around motorcycles, and also to remember the good times she and her Husband had on their own Mission.  She and her Son are Midway Route Family!

But let me start from the beginning of our day.  As I mentioned, we started, as usual, with the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem.  Have you noticed that I mention this every day?  Are you getting tired of it?  I can PROMISE you that our RIDERS aren’t tired of it!  In fact, today the singing was a little louder, and the pledge was almost boisterous.  The deep-seated emotions connected with these words are immense, and the commitment of our Riders to honor those words gets stronger and stronger every day.

As we rode down the highway, sometimes under LEO escort again, I noticed something.  The pack looked a little tighter.  The Riders were sitting a little taller in the saddle.  As we passed under bridges that were covered in Supporters, the Riders started honking their horns AND waving, just a little bit more.  When we got to out stop in Knoxville, at the Veterans Memorial Park, MANY more Riders participated in the tradition of walking through the fountain.  Peter Green (an AUSTRALIAN PATRIOT!) always leads the way.  He says it symbolizes (to Him) the Brothers that march off to war together, and also those that come out on the other side.  I don’t take this walk with them, as I am not a Veteran.  But I have been asked to join them.  Now THAT is Brotherhood!

At this park there is a series of granite walls that has the name of every Tennessee Boy that went off to War inscribed on them.  The significance of this location is that it is where the old railroad terminal used to stand.  For 80 percent of the names on these markers, this is the last place that they stood on Tennessee soil.  It is a solemn location, and as our Riders walked through it, a hush fell over them all.  It wasn’t planned: it just happened.  They were visiting with their un-known Brothers.  And when they exited the memorial, the conversations started again.

As with all Families, we came together over meals.  (Okay, one of these “meals” was at an ice-cream stop, But it still counts!)  While noshing on a “salted caramel and butterscotch” cone, I saw someone put down a $20 bill and say “This is for my Sister.”  And She did the same for the next person in line.  And when a very tired Rider walked in looking like he REALLY needed to cool down, he was offered a place at the front of the line, where someone paid for HIS ice-cream!

At our actual dinner, people that really wouldn’t have much in common with each other “back home” were sitting beside each other, talking about their lives and experiences.  They told funny stories that we laughed at even though we didn’t know the person they were talking about.  But they told the story as if we DID, and now, we kind of DO!

Bikers are all Brothers and Sisters.  We kid each other about the type of bikes that they ride.  (“Let me guess: Black Harley?”)  We give them a hard time when their engine makes such a cute little “WHEEEeeee” sound instead of a deep-throated roar!  But we don’t leave another Biker on the side of the road.  We take care of each other.  We help each other.  The “Midway 2022 TRIBE” (Indian Motorcycle Riders) even took a picture of “the BEST” bikes in front of the Harley Davidson Dealer in Asheville, NC, as a way to say Thank You for supporting the Midway Route for the past seven years.  We may not ride a Harley, but we support YOU the way you support US!

Our Family grew today when we arrived for dinner.  The people that served us were so gracious and loving that we just had to hug them!  We had three “FNG” Motorcycle Law Enforcement Officers that helped escort us into town for the first time.  They were given an official “FNG” badge, and added to our Family.  There was a 102 year-old Veteran sitting at a table, but not alone.  When it was announced that he was one of the FIRST Soldiers to cross Utah Beach during WWII, he got a standing ovation from HIS new Family of RFTW Riders.

The whole day was like this.  I saw people drawing closer together than they were just a day before.  I saw “friendships” grow and become a bond of Brotherhood.  I said that the change was palpable.  That isn’t really the right word, though.  We didn’t “feel” the change.  WE LIVED the change.

And our bonds will only grow stronger over the next few days.  We may only have three days left on our journey, but our Family Time has just begun.

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Day 6. Monday May 23, 2022. Forrest city, AR to Cookeville, TN. “CELEBRATION!”

There’s a party going on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We’re gonna celebrate your party with you!

Today we are heading to COOKEVILLE!!!  This is our “key” stop along our entire route.  Up to this point, we have been getting to know each other, learning each others stories, finding out about our shared pasts, and becoming Family.  Today we laughed and cried together.  The laughter was from the heart, but so where the tears.  And here is why:

At our morning meeting, one of our BRAND NEW FNGs asked if she could do something for our Riders.  She hadn’t met many of us yet, but she still had a gift for us all.  “Curly” got up on the stage, and in front of 250 strangers, she SIGNED the words to “Proud to be an American!”    We couldn’t believe it!  She was so passionate in her signing that we were all singing and clapping along with her!  She is going to fit right in with our little group!

Right after that, we had one of our Active Duty Personnel lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.  I have never heard it lead with such gusto and determination.  It was a fantastic start to our day, and definitely put us all in the mood to start our Celebration!

We were a little concerned about the weather this morning.  It was raining ahead of us AND behind us.  But being the Midway Route, we were right in between the storms.  We are the “Goldilocks” route: We are “just right!”  AND we made it through the entire day without getting wet.  ANOTHER reason to Celebrate.

Two Platoons of our Trike Riders got to go on a breakout Mission this morning to the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery in Parker Crossroads.  These People are always in the back of the Pack, so they don’t get chosen for a lot of programs.  Well not on the Midway Route!  It was my honor to get to accompany them, especially since I was on two wheels.  We participated in a wreath laying ceremony which was followed by “Echo Taps” and a rifle salute.  The Flag we were standing under was HUGE!  And the wind was blowing it hard enough to make it look like the Flag was at attention.  It was a great Outreach!

We just barely returned from THAT outreach when it was time to head out on another one.  This time, two different platoons went to Lebanon, Tennessee to visit the Veterans Museum.  This is a very unique museum, as it has displays primarily about the uniforms and arms for each branch of the Military, for the past 200 years.  They have a “wall of Honor” where they feature a local veteran from each branch of the Service, with a picture and a short biography.  Today, we MET William Seay, standing next to his own photo.  “Welcome Home, Sergeant!”  It is a really interesting place to visit, and I look forward to coming back when I can spend more time.  We performed a wreath laying ceremony here, as well.  And I must mention something else: As a Texan, I know that BBQ is BEEF.  But that pulled pork sandwich really deserves this Texans “Seal of Approval!”  I would ride back up here just for that sandwich!

Did I mention that we had LEO Escorts through all of the major cities AGAIN today?  Folks, let me tell you, it is an amazing site to see an entire FREEWAY shut down just so we can ride through!  It wasn’t easy to get, but I DID take a photo that shows a little bit of what this looks like from OUR perspective.

And then we rolled into Cookeville!  This place is phenomenal!  They cheer us as we roll down main street.  The wave flags WITH us when we arrive.  They hug us all, over and over and over.  Then they FEED us!  AND they provide some musical entertainment!  AND they auctioned off a super-delicious cheese-cake made by Sarah Winfrey.  How do I know it was delicious?  Right before the auction started, I ran to the front of the room to get some photos.  I just happened to grab an empty chair, and then that table bid on the cheesecake.  WE WON!!!  WooHoo!

So you see, Cookeville is a Celebration for us.  Yes, we had a lot of fun today, but we also participated in several very meaningful outreach programs.  (We have another one first thing in the morning!)  Cookeville is sort of a “turning point” in our Mission.  We have had a LOT of fun along the way and experienced some amazing emotions.  But today was Day Six, and that means we are more than half-way to our destination.  Every day from now on, as we draw closer to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in DC, our emotions are going to get a little more raw.  The joy will still be there, but it is going to be tempered with the solemnity of our Mission.

So today we partied and celebrated our Family.  Tomorrow, it all becomes more serious.

There’s a party going on right here
A dedication to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We’re gonna celebrate your party with you!

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Day 5 – Sunday May 22, 2022. Shawnee, OK to Forrest City, AR. 393 miles. “Scars, Hope, and Healing”

Today was quite an amazing day.  I can’t tell you everything that happened because there just isn’t time.  You had to be here to experience it all!  But I am going to tell you what *I* think were the highlights.  I will do a quick run through of what we did, but then I want to talk about the thoughts that went through my mind during the day.

Of course, we began our day “as usual.”  You know, with the Pledge of Allegiance, then announcements from our Route Coordinator, Road Guard Captain, the reading of an MIA biography, a 50/50 raffle, and other “general” announcements.  I won’t “bore” you with the details of this every day, because they are all very much the same, but with enough differences to make each morning unique and poignant.  It may be hard to imagine, but I actually look forward to these morning Riders Meetings!

We soon took off and headed east on the highway.  It was cool but not cold, breezy but not windy, humid but not damp, … okay you get the picture.  It was a FINE day for riding, and we did a lot of it.  Our Road Guards did get quite a workout (again) keeping us safe with all of the construction zones and traffic.  These guys really do work hard, and I am so thankful that we have them!

At noon, we arrived in Russellville, AR for our “picnic lunch.”  It wasn’t much of a picnic.  It was a full-blown, delicious MEAL!  We even had some homemade cookies!  (Yes, I at my cookies first!)  THEN I followed it up with some wonderful BBQ chicken, green beans, cole slaw, and hominy.  (“Hominy” do you think I had?)  But before we could have this scrumptious fare, we had to walk a gauntlet of Patriot Guard Riders “standing the Flag Line.”  As a PGR Rider myself, I can tell you that it is quite an honor to “stand the Flag line.”  But to be the recipient of said line is amazing!  These Patriots WANT to honor us, and they always do it with grace and style.  Thank You, Russellville PGR for such a warm and heart-felt Welcome!

All too soon, it was time to leave and get back out on the highway.  We hugged our new Russellville  friends and promised to return again next year!

Another hundred miles and we were in Forrest City, AR, where the Ridgewood Baptist Church served us an equally fine dinner.  The food was great, but the Fellowship and comradery was even better.  They always do this for us, they feed our bodies AND our souls.  We are all a little better off for having visited here.

But now I want to jump back in time, to the very beginning of our day.  First, today is Sunday, and for Run For The Wall that means EARLY morning church services with our Chaplains.  (Attendance is not mandatory, but it is always amazing to see almost all of our Riders gather on Sunday morning.)  What you need to know about our Chaplains is that they are here for EVERYBODY, so the services are non-denominational.  In fact, they aren’t “preachy” at all.  This morning, Chaplain Steve “Cherokee” Dow spoke a quick message of inspiration and hope that really set the mood for me today.  He spoke about having scars: Scars that were caused by both physical and mental adversities.  He explained how our scars, and we ALL have them, don’t define who we are or what we went through, but more the fact that we DID get through the ordeals.  And this got me to thinking about a recent event in my life.  Please bear with me as I “think” this will all make sense.

I have a couple of puppies at home.  Two Boston Terrier Bulldog siblings, a little girl, Raia, and my little boy, Winston.  We have had them for about two years and I love them both equally.  We do a lot of playing every day, we go on walks, we sneak a few snacks when Kathy isn’t watching, and just have a lot of fun.  But I have been traveling a lot lately, and it seems to be bothering Winston.  As I was packing up to leave for RFTW, He wouldn’t play with me, or lick my hand, or do any of the hundreds of little things that we do together.  In fact, he just laid in his bed and ignored me.  (Raia, the little girl, was just as happy as ever and didn’t seem to mind that I was leaving.)

A couple of days later, Kathy told me that he was still acting lethargic and basically moping around the house.  He was depressed.  She sent me a picture, and I could immediately tell that he was sad.  Kathy put me on speaker phone so that I could talk to him, and he immediately perked up when he heard my voice.  But after the call was over, he went back to being sad.  In order to make him feel better, Kathy gave him one of my old t-shirts to cuddle up on, and that is where he is spending his days right now.

And then I got a call that simply broke my heart.  Winston heard a motorcycle in the neighborhood and immediately started barking and prancing around and acting like his same old happy self.  But when the garage didn’t open and I didn’t walk through that door, he immediately started sulking again.  And now, every time a motorcycle goes by, he perks up his ears and waits.  But each time, it is a little less enthusiastic.  He is missing me and he is sad.

I am not telling you this to make YOU sad.  On the contrary, I hope it will make you happy, and here is why: Winston has an emotional “scar” because we are not together.  He doesn’t understand why I am not there.  But every time a bike goes by, he has Hope that I will return.  As this cycle repeats, his “scars” will deepen and his hope will diminish.  (Go ahead, cry just a little.  But the happy part is coming!)  Soon, I WILL be home, and I will spend days just holding him, playing with him, and re-assuring him that all is well and that I still love him.  The “emotional scars” may remain for a while, but as we all know, scars fade with time.  The HOPE he has for my return will once again fill his heart, and the happiness we share together will HEAL the hurt.  All will be Happy again!

So now WHY did I just tell you that story?  Because if a little puppy that doesn’t understand what is going on around him can have a scar or wound, find hope for the future, and then be healed of the hurt, think just how much better can life be for our Veterans and for their Families!

We can talk to our Veterans.  We can Listen to our Veterans.  We can reassure them that we love and honor them.  We can show them Respect.  And they will understand!  The Riders of Run For The Wall do this every day of their lives.  We are always there to lend a hand, offer a shoulder to cry on, listen to those that want to talk, or just sit there quietly so that our Veterans know that they aren’t alone.  We offer a little bit of emotional security in a very tough world.

So what did we do today?  We rode a lot of miles.  We had fellowship and fun.  We paid honor and respect to those that need and deserve it.  We laughed together, cried together, and consoled each other.  We saw the “scars” and offered “hope” for “healing.”

And we did it with the thoughts that Chaplain “Cherokee” put in our minds this morning.  From the book of Lamentations 3:19-24:

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:

God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
He’s all I’ve got left.

This is Why We Ride!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain (and Winston!)

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Day Four – Saturday May 21, 2022. Amarillo, TX to Shawnee, OK. 303 Miles. “Cold Hands and Warm Hearts”

Day four of the Midway Route started COLD!  Okay, not as cold as the Central Route, who had about 6 inches of snow.  But there is a reason that we are on the Midway Route.  We don’t WANT the cold!  But we didn’t let the extremely strong side-winds and the cold temperatures deter us from ANYTHING!  We ran our day as we always do, although we did decide to change a few things.  For example, instead of having a recorded version of our National Anthem, how about we have one of our own very talented Riders sing it for us?  I am still trying to find out her name, but let me tell you, even on a cold, blustery, overcast day, This Girl SANG!!!  It wasn’t the temperature that gave us the chills.  It was her passion and sweet voice!  And as usual, someone read a biography about one of our American Service Men that lost their life as a result of their Service.  The twist this morning was that the biography was tht of one of our own dear Riders late Husband!  I am not mentioning names here, as I want to respect her privacy and maintain the intimacy that our Midway Family shared with her this morning.  She did not know that this was going to be read, but we are all so glad that this Families story was shared.  It brought us all just a little bit closer!

So with tears in our eyes, we set out for our morning ride.  We took great care to make sure that everyone rode safely by going a little slower than usual and advising everyone to be extremely careful with the gusting side-winds.  As the Photographer for the Midway Route, I often travel from the back of the pack to the front several times during the day.  I have to tell you it is quite a site to see 250 bikes leaning into the wind while going straight down the highway.  And it is a little comical to see them all pop up vertical whenever the wind gusts stop for a moment.  We all looked like gophers!  I do have to apologize to you all for not having any photos of this, though.  For once, I opted to ride safe, and put the camera away!

But once we reached our first fuel stop, in Shamrock, Texas, the temperatures were starting to climb a bit and the winds died down just a little.  But some of our Riders were still visibly chilled, so our gracious “Refreshment Hosts” took care of them.  How does a cup of hot coffee or hot chocolate sound?  Would it be better with a fresh, warm, homemade cinnamon roll?  It was exactly what we needed for our bodies.

But to warm our hearts, we had each other.  As I wandered around “looking” for something to take a photo of, I started listening in on some conversations.  (No, I was not eaves-dropping.  I just overheard snippits of conversations.)  I heard people sharing stories of their Uncle that is Missing In Action.  I heard about a battle that took place and when the smoke cleared, two friends found each other and they didn’t know that they were both in Vietnam.   There was the story of how two other battle buddies ran into each other a few years ago, after having not seen each other for almost 50 years.  (They are both on the Midway Route together!)  I was able to forget the cold, because I had such a warm feeling of happiness coursing through me.  I can only imagine what it was like for all of these brave Men and Women.

To further warm our hearts, several of us were given the honor of making a “break out” trip to visit a brand-new Veterans Memorial in Weatherford, Oklahoma.  How new?  It is still being painted.  The Artist is still working on it!  And right next to this wonderful mural is a half-scale replica of “The Wall” in Washington DC.  Our small group was the first to visit here, and also the first to lay a memorial wreath.

But now I want to turn our attention to HEROES!  During Run For The Wall, most people talk about our Military Heroes and those who were POW or those still MIA.  We know that a 104 year old Veteran of WWII is a Hero before we even ask him what he did in the War.  But there are other Heroes that are surrounding us every day.  Obviously, our thoughts will turn to our Law Enforcement Officers and Fire/Rescue Personnel.  And we SHOULD think of them.  But there are also other unsung Heroes.  People like our very own Rod Guards.  These Guys and Gals risk their lives every day during the Run to keep the rest of us safe.  They don’t HAVE to do this, they just think it is their duty.  And then there are both our Staging and Fueling Teams.  How are they Heroes?  Why don’t YOU try standing in a parking lot and have 250 motorcycles descend on you, and you have to direct them to the correct place, while dodging these thousand-pound machines that can literally come at you from any direction.  Add in the fact that during fueling, all of the bikes are within inches of each other and just as close to the feet and shins of the Fuel Team.  There are hot exhaust pipes to contend with.  In the excitement, confusion and (organized) chaos, sometimes a bike gets dropped.  Who is there in the midst of this and is willing to step up and help?  The Fueling Team!

But again, there are OTHER types of Heroes.  There are the Men and Women that go out of their way to feed us, provide some entertainment, tend to our physical needs, and provide comfort to our hearts.  Why are THEY Heroes?  Because, like the others, this is not something that they HAVE to do.  Well maybe they DO have to do this, because it is in the hearts to do so.  But when so many others would ignore someone else’s needs, these people step in and take over.  That selfless act is something that more people need to do, in my opinion.  The World would be a better place if we all pitched in a little bit more, especially when it is needed but not expected.  Our Route Coordinator (Ken Dugas aka Six-String) has a philosophy about this and our other Leaders role for the Midway Route.  He calls us “Servant” Leaders.  We aren’t here to tell you what to do, but instead to help and guide you to where you need to go.  Six-String is a Hero, though He would deny it if you called him that.  Most true Heroes will deny it.

But there is one other type of Hero that I want to mention.  And these are the people that stand on corners waiting for us to Ride by.  I am talking about the people that offer their talents as tradesmen that fix our bikes on a moment’s notice, and then don’t charge us anything.  It is the Artist that creates a work of art as a tribute to our Service Men.  It is the Wife that drives for hours to see you for just one evening.  All of these people, the supporters of Run For The Wall, these people that believe in our Mission to Honor our Veterans and Remember our Fallen, that go out of their way to help US get on with our Mission that our True Heroes!  We couldn’t do any of this without them, and we Thank You, each and every one of you!

So our day started with cold hands and ended with warm hearts.  That is what RFTW does.  We take a bad situation and make it better.  Whether it is helping a Veteran release the demons they have carried in their hearts for years or “just” telling our government that we want to know what happened to all of our Service Men, and that we want them back!  The Riders of Run For the Wall are the type of people that don’t give up.  They stand for a principle, and will not back down.  They are Patriots, and it makes me a better Man to be associated with them.

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Day Three – Friday May 20, 2022. Albuquerque, NM to Amarillo, TX. 293 miles. “Chillin’ by the Pool!”

Today’s SITREP may seem a little strange to you.  Why?  Because today was all about making some miles and relaxing.  Our Riders have been through a lot of stress already, going through some major cities and some hot temperatures.  Learning to ride together as a pack takes a lot of time and energy, leaving ALL of the Riders very tired by the end of the day.  So Day 3 of the Midway Route is an easy one.  We rest, eat, and play!

Our day started with a FANTASTIC breakfast provided by Rich Ford in Albuquerque.  Rich Ford has been hosting the MR throughout it’s history, and we really appreciate it.  Especially THIS year when you realize how much a breakfast for a couple of hundred hungry Riders will cost.  With auto sales being down, we REALLY appreciate their generosity!  But they pledged to support RFTW EVERY year for as long as they are in business.  Thank You, Thank You, Thank You!

Our morning ride was extremely pleasant, with temperatures in the mid-60’s.  With not even a wisp of clouds overhead, we knew that the day would heat up pretty soon.  And it DID!  By the time we got to our lunch spot in Santa Rosa, New Mexico, it was outright HOT!  How do a bunch of hot and sweaty bikers cool off?  They take the plunge into the infamous “Blue Hole!”  Two of our Riders, Peter Green and Mark Masman, are our “keepers of traditions” for the Midway Route.  “Mazz” did an excellent job of telling how this tradition got started (Road Guards, of course!) and then invited EVERYONE to join in.  “Gear shift” was the first one to jump, while “Mazz” followed right behind.  Before you could even blink, about twenty or more Riders climbed up on the rocks and went right in!  There were all sorts and forms of jumps, from a classic dive to a cannonball!  A group of our Lady Riders decided to do a “mass jump” and then started an underwater aerobics class!  It was quite a sight to see!  (Oh yeah, then we had some lunch!)

Our Riding for the afternoon was uneventful … except for all of the construction zones!  And there were a LOT of them.  But fortunately for us, we had more LEO Escorts today.  In fact MOST of our day was under LEO Escort.  That allowed all of us to relax a little bit and “just ride.”

Part of “just riding” was a parade through the town of Tucumcari, NM.  This is a fun little town.  Situated on Old Route 66, this place looks like it could have been in the movie “Cars!”  It is a very “vintage” looking place, and I wish I could have spent more time here.  Some of the buildings would make excellent photo backgrounds!  But better than all of the neat buildings, were the wonderful people that lined the streets to cheer us on.  I apologize for not having more pictures of them, but it is sometimes hard to hold a big camera, wave to the spectators, wipe joyful tears out of your eyes, and ride all at once.  Still, I managed to get a few photos.  (I loved seeing the shark, even though I can’t quite explain how it got there!)

Another “treat” for us was our afternoon fuel stop.  First, this was another of our DONATED fuel stops.  That doesn’t mean that the fuel was free.  SOMEBODY paid for it, so that the Riders wouldn’t have to.  It is generosity like this (and all of our meals during the Run” that really let us know that Americans DO care about our cause, and that they respect what we are doing.

I almost forgot about the “treat” part of this story.  This particular stop is ONE of our ICE-CREAM STOPS!  All of the “seasoned” Riders fueled, parked, and got off their bikes REALLY fast and headed inside.  And of course, we made sure that all of the FNG (new Riders) knew about the ice-cream.  (Mmmm.  Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough in a waffle cone!)  And then we got ANOTHER surprise.  One of our own Riders dropped off a big ol’ wad of cash on the counter and asked the Ladies to serve until the money ran out, and to keep the change if it didn’t.  (They ended up with a big tip!)  This is just the type of person that rides with RFTW.  They are caring, loving, and supportive people.  The kind of person that we call Family!

Did I mention that it was pretty hot by this time?  We all wanted to cool down, and people were chanting our mantra of “Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate.”  So imagine my surprise when I looked over and saw Jim “The Mayor” Frost walking around with an Anheuser-Busch can!  I mean, come on Jim!  We still have some riding to do!  And then I looked a little closer.  It is a can of WATER that Anheuser-Busch produces whenever there is a natural disaster and then ships them free of charge to the effected communities.  They donated some of them to the Midway Route!  So go ahead, Jim, and drink up!

So I think you can tell that we had a pretty fun day.  Lots of smiles, hugs, joking around, and just enjoying being in each other’s company.  But we NEVER forgot that we are on a Mission.

At each fuel stop, several things happen that most people will never know bout.  I mentioned the folded flag relay ceremony in yesterday’s report.  It happened again today, at each stop.  We have a “Missing Man Banner” that we lay out at each stop.  This “holds the place” for our Missing Person and really sets the tone for how serious we are about honoring the memory of our MIA.  This banner has a place to put a “bio” of the missing person that explains what they were doing and how they were lost, plus any other information that we may want to share.  People DO come over to see the matt every time it is displayed, and they will take the time to read about our Missing Man.  I have seen Riders get visibly moved while visiting the matt.  It is a very solemn and personal moment.

I have mentioned just how powerfully emotional riding in the Missing Man Formation can be.  It is not uncommon to have the Rider break down, sobbing with emotion as the enormity of the loss and their vital role in keeping the memory alive hits them.  It affects everyone around them, as we are both sad and proud for the honor that our Missing Man Escort Rider has had.

And that brings up another new tradition for the Midway Route.  As each Rider concludes their portion of our Missing Man Formation, a Chaplain will meet with them and offer words of encouragement, Thanks, and a prayer.  This year, thanks to the generosity of “Faith Comes By Hearing” and the Crossroads Cowboy Church of McKinney Texas, EVERY Missing Man Escort Rider is provided with a “Military Bible Stick.”  This is a narrative reading of the New Testament provided on an MP3 player.  The package comes complete with headphones and a battery!  These are actually only available through an Active Duty Chaplain, but when “Faith Comes By Hearing” heard about our Mission, they were ecstatic and helped us out immediately.  I have talked with “Cherokee”, our Missing Man Chaplain, and he has told me that the Military Bible Sticks are being VERY well received!

And of course, at our dinner tonight (We are back in Texas!  BBQ Ribs!), we continued with some of our other traditions.  As we walked into the room, the first thing we saw was a Missing Man Table.  Each object on the table is placed in a specific location, and symbolizes different aspects of the loss.  Before anyone takes a single bite, we have the “posting of the Colors,” this year provided by a local ROTC organization.  That was followed by the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of our National Anthem.  It is important that Americans do this.  Not just when we were in grade school, but even as adults.  We NEED to be proud of our Country, but more importantly, proud of those who have SERVED our Country.

And that is what Run For The Wall is all about.  We may have had a lot of fun today, but we NEVER forgot what we are doing.  It is a part of us, it is what we do, and we will “Continue The Mission.”

“Charlie Mike!”

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

 

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Day Two – Thursday May 19, 2022. Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. 337 miles.

Wow!  What a day!  WHAT A DAY!!!  SO much has happened, and there is still stuff from yesterday to tell, that I am WAY behind!  And I really can’t get to the “meat” of todays post until I get some of the “clerical stuff” out of the way.  And by that, I mean just what does it take to organize the Midway Route, and how does it all shake out as we roll down the highway?

First, there is no “I” in RFTW.  It takes a team.  A BIG team!  (I won’t even bother to explain what the Board of Directors do, because that is all of the ‘legal’ stuff.)  The Individual Routes have a hierarchy that starts with a Route Coordinator and his Assistant Route Coordinator.  The RC and ARC are responsible for overseeing the daily logistics of the entire Run.  It is an incredibly difficult role, and Midway has been blessed to have Ken “Six-String” Dugas as our RC for THREE years!  (Just because the Run didn’t happen for two years doesn’t mean that there weren’t plans put in place.  It just means that He had to start over three times!)

Six-Strings Team consists of a Missing Man Coordinator, and Honor Guard Coordinator, 4-Wheel Coordinator, Hotel Coordinator, Camping Coordinator, Leadership Team Support, an MIA Outreach Coordinator, an entire Promotions Team, a Merchandising Team,  a Registration Team, an Ambassadors Team, a Chaplain Corps, Chase Vehicle Teams, Medical Teams, Hydration Teams, a Road Guard Captain (and 30+ Road Guards), an INCREDIBLE Fuel Team, a Staging Crew, and Platoon Leaders.  Most of these Teams have between 4-8 people on them, and the “crews” can have 20-30 people involved.  All told, there can be over 100 people doing various jobs just to coordinate and then safely move our Riders across the Country.  It is an unbelievably complex system with hundreds, if not thousands of moving parts.  And they ALL have to work, or none of it does.

But the volunteers for RFTW love what they do.  They are willing to sacrifice their time, energy, effort, and personal finances to make this Mission work.  And it DOES!

What the public sees is simply a bunch of motorcycles riding down the highway.  But even this seemingly random bunch of bikes has a hierarchy of it’s own.  I could try to explain it, but instead I will post a link to a quick 2 ½ minute video that I made back in 2019.  It visually explains what the “pack” looks like, who rides where, and in what order.  You can see the video at https://vimeo.com/341649711

Okay, that is enough of the “logistics” for this evening.  Let’s step back to yesterday so I can tell you about a very solemn and moving experience that we are doing on the Midway Route.  During our “opening ceremony” back in Ontario on Wednesday, each Route Coordinator was presented with a special folded flag that is to be carried all the way from California to Washington DC.  On the Midway Route, the flag is being carried by an FNG (first time Rider), with this flag escort being transferred to a new Rider three to four times a day.

It may sound like a simple thing, to carry a flag in your saddlebag.  But there is more to it than that.  What the Rider is REALLY carrying is every ideal and virtue that our Country stands for.  It is the symbol of the blood that has been shed defending our freedom.  It is the visual reminder of those that we have lost.  It is the flag that we pledge our allegiance to each morning, and that our Military Personnel have sworn to protect.  And if you don’t think that our Riders take this task seriously, just look in their faces.  You will see the respect and honor that is held in their hearts.  You can see the determination in them to keep this flag safe and to deliver it to the next Rider.  It is another position of honor that really makes Run For The Wall special.

Today started out in a most amazing way.  Normally when we wake up in Santa Fe, we have to know frost or even snow and ice off of our bikes.  Not today!  We woke to refreshing temperatures in the high 40s, which soon became the perfect 50s and 60s that bikers LOVE to ride in.  Oh Yeah, we had clear skies, too!  WooHoo!  So we got to truly enjoy the ride through Arizona.  It is a beautiful State!

Okay, I already have to correct myself.  Yes, I DID enjoy my morning ride.  But it wasn’t really a “ride.”  I had a special Mission to perform first thing today.  I have ridden through the town of Winslow Arizona MANY times.  Over the years, I have come to know some of the shop owners in this quaint little town.  One in particular is a former Marine and a true Patriot.  Several times in the past he has asked me it Run For the Wall could PLEASE stop in the town and say Hello.  He WANTS to wave a flag at us!  I was honored to get to lead “Cowboys Desert Renegades” through the town one year on the way out to California.  With only a few hours “warning” this shop owner arranged to have 100 people lining the streets to greet us!  So my Mission for the morning was to go say “Howdy” and deliver a few of our RFTW lapel pins.  It is a small gesture, but it is greatly appreciated.  This is a Mission that I took on by myself, but with the blessing of our Ambassador Lead.  As I was getting off of my bike, who should roll up but James “Gunny” Gregory and his lovely wife Patti.  It seems that Gunny had the same idea!

I had timed my stop so that I would have just enough time to reach an overpass outside of town to get a few photos of our Riders.  I made it with just a few minutes to spare!  And what a site it was!  Yesterday was our first day or riding together.  The Pack looked like it had been riding together for years!  They rode perfectly!  The spacing was impeccable.  The lines were razor straight.  The Riders were all sitting tall in the saddle and waved and honked at this lone photographer standing on a bridge.  They gave me my own personal parade!  Thank You to all of the Midway Route Riders!  You brought tears to my eyes!

I rejoined the pack just in time to enjoy a special treat for a Rider.  I have mentioned an LEO Escort before.  But today e got what is known as a “presidential” escort, which means that the Police SHUT DOWN THE INTERSTATE for us!  And it happened TWICE today!  It is an amazing experience to be heading down Interstate 40 and not have to worry about traffic.  In the morning, it gave me an opportunity to get some really cool pictures of ALL of our Riders and their great formation.  In the afternoon, going through Albuquerque, it gave us smooth sailing through the (normally) congested highways and streets.  It is quite a rare treat, and it was greatly appreciated!

At one of our fuel stops, I saw a couple of elderly Native American Women sitting in chairs out in the parking lot.  They were waving and yelling “We Love You” as the Riders went by.  Something compelled me to go visit with them.  They are Native Navajo.  I am sorry to say that I don’t know enough about their culture to use the proper term for them.   But I was saved from embarrassing myself TOO much when one of our own Riders came up to say Hello, and suddenly we had THREE Navajo Women together, talking in their BEAUTIFUL native tongue!  Turns out, our Rider belongs to the same clan as one of the Ladies, so they are pretty sure that they are related!  This kind of interaction is exactly what we mean when we say “The Magic of the Run!”  Our two guests were such delightful Ladies, and I just wanted to hug them!  I could have spent all day with them, but I had to tear myself away.  I jokingly said that she would just have to tell me to go away our I WOULD stay.  She smiled at me and winked, then told me to leave and do what I needed to do … in her Native language!  We both cried tears of happiness as I walked away, after one more hug!

Our lunch today was at Milan Elementary School in Milan New Mexico.  Let me state right here and now, I am not a big fan of Kids.  (I didn’t like them when *I* was a kid!)  But THESE Young Men and Women are SPECIAL!  It was the highlight of my day!  They line the circular driveway and wait patiently for our arrival.  And then they burst out with screams of delight and chants of “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.!”  They wave American flags and Red White and Blue hearts. They will give a high-five to anyone that puts out their hand!  Even your Photographer and SITREP Author ended up running around this (BIG) circle slapping hands and yelling along with these young Patriots!  Once inside, we ALL stood for the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem, young and old alike.  The children sang a few patriotic songs for us, and they sounded GREAT!  I can’t believe it, but they make me kind of like kids!  These people are WONDERFUL!  They also serve a very good lunch!  Thank You Milan Elementary!  I know that I am looking forward to seeing you again next year!

After eating a hurried lunch (I had been a bit busy), I joined an outreach program that rode a few miles to the City of Grants New Mexico, to pay respects at their Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  This is a very simple but meaningful memorial, comprise of five flag poles, a large bronze medallion for each branch of our Military, and two large stone markers that honor our Vietnam Veterans.  To make it just a little MORE special, there was a brief “ceremony” for “Jet”, one of our slightly more unusual Riders.  “Jet” travels around the country, riding with various Riders if and when a seat is available.  He has even ridden with ME once.  Jet’s Mission is to go where his Best Friend can’t, and to pay honor to a special person in both their lives.

Jet is a little stuffed Bear in a Flight Suit.  He belongs to our good Friend Shannon Spake.  When Shannon realized that she couldn’t join us for the Run this year, “Peppermint Patti” offered to take Jet with her.  “Jet” is Shannon’s representative this year.  He is paying tribute to Lt Commander Dennis Pike, Missing In Action for 50 years.  Dennis Pike is Shannon’s Father.

THIS is Why We Ride!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Day ONE – Wednesday May 18, 2022. Ontario to Flagstaff Arizona (435 miles!)

Howdy Folks!  I am Jim “Hoofer” McCrain, and I will be your SITREP Author for the 2022 Run For The Wall Midway Route.  I am honored that our Route Coordinator asked me to do this again.  I will do my best to let you know what it is like to participate with the RFTW Midway Route, and keep you informed of just what it is that we do every day.

A little background about the Midway Route is in order.  Midway is the youngest of the three cross-country routes.  It was first scouted out in 2014, with the first official “Run” being made in 2015.  We crossed the country together for five years before the Covid pandemic shut everything down.  We waited for two years, and now we are back!

The Midway Route begins (just like the two other Routes) in Ontario California.  Midway has the distinction of being the FIRST route to leave the main staging area each year.  This is because we have farther to go on our first day of riding.  And since we are the “younger sibling” of the other Routes, THEY wouldn’t let us use their toys!  Uh, … I mean fuel and food stops.  Actually, I am just kidding about that.  When the Midway Route was first developed, it was decided to NOT put any extra burden on the cities and small tons that we travel through, so we set up our own fuel, food, and lodging logistics.  RFTW tries very hard to not disrupt the locations that we ride through.

I guess I should tell you more about where we are going, and why those logistic decisions were made.  The Central and Midway Routes SHARE the same highways for the first half of Day One.  We both travel from Ontario to the Kingman/Seligman Arizona area.  While Central route starts moving north from there, Midway continues heading East along the I-40 corridor.  Both Routes combined have approximately 1000 Riders.  That is a LOT of fuel and food, not to mention at least 500 hotel rooms.  (Most Riders find a roommate before the Run begins, to help cut down on the cost of participating.)  So you can see why we have to ride a little farther.  It is nicer for the communities that we visit.

And the communities that Midway visits are the BEST!  Let me tell you about the reception we had at “Mother Road Harley Davidson” in Kingman, Arizona.  We were lead directly to them by some of Kingmans finest Motor Officers.  It is NICE to let our Road Guards have a break for a while, since it WAS 100 degrees today!  When we got off of our bikes, we could smell a delicious hamburger lunch being prepared for us.  But they wouldn’t let us go eat it!  First, we “had” to shake a lot of hands from all of the supporters that were waiting for us, waving flags and cheering all the time.  Then several pretty girls wanted to hug all of the Veterans.  (They gave ME a hug, too!)  Then there were more handshakes and hugs from the staff of “Mother Road HD.”  You know, it was a pretty nice price to pay for the most excellent lunch!  Thank You all so much for your support and WONDERFUL welcome to our Riders!

Speaking of those people waving flags and cheering, I got to have some fun today.  In addition to writing the SITREPS and being the Photographer, I also am working with the Ambassadors to greet people and spread the word about RFTW.  Part of that is visiting with people that are standing on overpasses or along side streets.  These people will stand in the blazing sun for HOURS just waiting for us to roll by.  And that only takes a couple of minutes!  So the Ambassadors try to stop and visit with them if it is at all possible.  Well today, I was able to stop at four overpasses that were just COVERED in American flags.  It is such a sight to behold as we roll along, and for me to get to visit with these Patriots is an honor that I wish the other Riders could have.  Over the years, I have stopped at two of these bridges and met some fantastic people, but I didn’t know if that would happen this year, as we haven’t done this since 2019.  Guess what?  THEY WERE THERE!  They haven’t forgotten us!  I got to hug their necks and shake their hands.  I got to tell THEM how special that they are to our Riders.  I got to hand out some of our souvenir pins to add to their collection.  And I got to say a quick prayer of Thanks with one Lady that I have now seen for three years.  She has promised that they will be back next year, and wished us safe travels for the rest of our journey.

Folks, let me tell you … Patriotism is not dead in this country.  I can prove it with a few pictures.  Remember, it was 100 degrees today!  And we had people on the bridges and overpasses all along our 400+ mile route today.  They were standing along the street at the Marine Corp base in Barstow.  They were on street corners in Seligman.  Of course, dozens of overpasses had throngs of people standing on them all throughout California and Arizona.  They were parked in fields in the middle of nowhere, just waiting for us!  I wish I could have stopped and talked to each one of them, but unfortunately I can’t do that.  (The Pack is riding down the highway, remember?  Once I stop, I have to catch back up again, and that can take a while!)  But I wouldn’t give up this honor for anything.  America, we love YOU as much as you love US!

We got some more great love in Flagstaff!  As we were approaching our evening stop, we picked up a LEO Escort through town.  LEO stands for Law Enforcement Officer.  Yep, we had more “Cops” with us with lights flashing.  (It is SO nice to see them in FRONT of you instead of BEHIND you!)  The city streets were lined with hundreds of people watching us roll by.  It was an “un-scheduled” parade, and we loved it!  Well the LEO lead us directly to the VFW Post #1709.  There we were treated to a scrumptious dinner of “sloppy joe’s”, beans, and Chips.  And nothing ever tasted better!  Our Host might have been the VFW, but our “servers” were a local Boy Scout Troop.  This Troop has been helping us EVERY yeqr.  It has been great to see some of the same faces as they are growing and maturing into responsible and PATRIOTIC Young Men!  They are the future Leaders of our Country, and they give us all hope for the future!

After dinner, it was time to fuel up the bikes so that we can roll out early in the morning, and then off to the Hotel rooms for a few hours of sleep.  (Fewer for some of us because of our jobs.)   I work about 3 hours each night editing photos and writing the SITREPS, while the Staging Crew and Fuel Team have to get up at OH FOUR O’CLOCK to be ready for the day!  (I ASSUME that our Route Leaders do “some” work at night, too!)

But you know what?  A few weeks of little sleep is a small price to pay for the privilege of riding with our Heroes.  We volunteer for these positions because it is our way of saying Thank You to the Men and Women that have served our Country.  And that is the same reason why there are so many supporters waving those red, white, and blues at us.  We owe a debt of gratitude and honor to these brave people.  Today was Day One of our Mission to do just that!

If you have read any of my SITREPS from previous years, you might remember me mentioning  a book that my Father wrote about 45 years ago.  I think about it every morning as we set out on our Mission.  The title says it all:  “I wonder what today will bring?”  I’ll let you know tomorrow!

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Ontario, California. May 17, 2022 – “It Is Time”

Years, Months, Weeks, Days, Hours, Minutes.
We have waited.

Tears, sorrow, anxiety, sleepless nights.
We have endured.

Deep Breaths, the flutter of a heart-beat, a twinge of anticipation.
We have prepared.

A Pledge, a Prayer, a folded flag.  TAPS.
We are ready.

It is Here.  It is Time.  A Promise is about to be fulfilled.

The Run For The Wall Mission commences now.

Early in the morning, on May 18, 2022, America will be greeted with the roar of 1500 motorcycles as Veterans and Patriots embark on an annual Mission to honor a promise made over 30 years ago.  The promise was made to a small group of missing Men by a grieving comrade.  The promise was to remember them, and to honor them.  To demand a full accounting of their fate.  To bring them Home if possible.  The promise was made, and kept.

But it grew to include more and more comrades.  It became a rallying point for Heroes that needed to fulfill their OWN promises to their OWN Men.  It became a ritual.

As time marched on, it became even more than that.  As more and more Brothers and Sisters learned of this event, it became a Pledge.  A pledge to not only remember those troops, but to honor their families.  To pay tribute to THEIR sacrifices, and to let them know that they are not alone.

And it continues to grow.  This Mission is about to encompass a new generation.  It will no longer be just for those “old guys” but will formally welcome and include our current young Military Heroes, and will pay honor to the sacrifices that THEY have and are making.  Those Young Men and Women from the “Sandbox” that are experiencing the very same horrors, traumas, and griefs that their older compatriots have experienced, now have their OWN Promise to keep.

But they will not walk that path alone.  They will be able to look behind them and see hundreds of thousands of supporters, friends, families, and patriots walking with them, all ready to lend a helping hand, an attentive ear, a shoulder to cry on, or just a simple word to say “Thank You.  Welcome Home.”  They will not have to endure the shame of a Nation that wanted to forget them.  They will have the legacy of their forebears to lean on and to learn from.

They will survive.  They will carry on.  They will fulfill their promise.

Just as that original Marine did more than 30 years ago.

As you wake on the morning of May 18, please walk outside.  Look around.  Breathe the fresh air.  Take a moment and think about all of the wonderful things that you could do today.  And then think about the current state of World affairs.  Right now, as you are taking that breath of fresh air, someone in another country is breathing their last.  Someone is fighting for the right to do those same wonderful things that you take for granted.  Someone is willing to stand up to a tyrant and say “No More!” even if it costs them everything that they have, including their life, for Freedom.

Remember that someone has paid a very high price so that you COULD do all of these things.  In fact, they were willing to die to give you that gift.  They spilled their own blood upon the ground so that you did not have too.  They gave up everything, forever, so that you could enjoy today.

The Riders of Run For The Wall are going to spend the next two weeks honoring one Mans Promise, but as a Pledge to ALL Americans that we will not forget, and that we will give ALL of our Military Personnel the honor and respect that they deserve.  To do any less would be a disgrace and dishonor.  The riders of RFTW are better than that!

To the Lord God in Heaven above, I ask that you put your hand of comfort and safety on the shoulder of each of our Riders, and guide them across our Country.  I ask that you enhance their skills and abilities past their own comprehension.  I ask that you Bless them with compassion and healing for their wounds, both seen and unseen.  I ask you to bring upon them the Honor and Respect that they so richly deserve for their actions defending our Nation.  And I ask that you bring them Home.  Bring them ALL Home!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Ontario, California. May 16, 2022 – “Getting Our Minds Set”

There is so much that I want to tell you about Run For The wall.  But if I told you EVERYTHING that I know about it, you would never be able to stop reading about it, because I couldn’t stop writing about it.  And I don’t know all there is too know!  There are just so many facets to this organization that I am not sure that ANYONE knows it all!

But whether or not we understand all that goes into organizing this Mission, what we Do know is what that Mission IS!  Our official Mission Statement is: To promote healing among ALL Veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of ALL Prisoners of War and those Missing In Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed In Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.

You are probably saying “So, Hoofer, what does that mean?  How are you going to do any of that?”  My answer lies in just a few of the events that occurred today.  And remember, our Mission doesn’t officially start until Wednesday!

This afternoon, two of our American Service Men, that had been wounded in Battle, were presented with new, specially developed and outfitted motorcycles!  Both of these heroes lost their legs while serving our Country.  Their normal life was shattered in an instant.  They would never resume their passion for riding free in the wind on two wheels again.  … …  Until the “Combat Heroes Bike Build” organization stepped in.

This group takes donated motorcycles and adapts them to the specific needs of our Combat Wounded Men, and presents them free-of-charge.  They give these Heroes a little bit of their own freedom back, along with some pride, dignity, and some simple old-fashioned FUN again!  These bikes bring back a small sense of “normalcy” to their lives.  When they see the bikes for the first time, hear them fire up the engine and roar, and then get back into the saddle and ride off into the sunset, they are no longer “just a guy in a chair.”  They are a guy doing what they used to do.  They are back to their old way of life.  It is an amazing transformation to witness.  I cannot fathom what it feels like to them to regain this little bit of freedom and independence.  And that is ONE way that we fulfill our Mission statement.

Another way though, is to just be there to listen when one of our Veterans, or the FAMILY of one of our KIA needs to talk.  That happened today, completely unscripted or planned, and it has affected everyone that was present.

A gentleman rode in on a really cool looking WWII vintage-style bike.  And I mean this thing is COOL!  Yes, it is a new bike that has been made to look like an old bike, but it looks great.  As we started to look closer, we could see some inscriptions and insignia painted onto some very conspicuous places.  On the front of the bike we could see a Purple Heart, a Bronze Star, a service ribbon, and multiple campaign badges.  But what really caught our eye was the big black banner that read “Combat Medic Cody Towse Memorial Motorcycle.”

The Gentleman that brought the bike started to tell us the story about Cody Towse, a combat Medic that was killed in Action on May 14, 2013.  (Almost exactly nine years ago.)  Cody was a Medic, and was supposed to be in a relatively safe area.  His unit was constantly living with the threats found in Afghanistan, such as snipers, ambushes, and Improvised Explosive Devices.  (IED)  One afternoon, four Men from his unit were killed because of an IED.  Cody wrote home to his father and said “Today we lost four Men.  It is sad that no one knows or cares, or will remember them.”

Two days later, there was an explosion as a soldier stepped on an IED.  Cody ran to this wounded soldiers side, knelt down beside him, and began administering critical life-saving first aid.  Other Corpsman showed up, lifted the soldier onto a stretcher, and carried him away.   And that is when all Hell broke loose.  As Cody stood up, his knee touched the pressure plate on another IED.  The resulting explosion shattered his Families world.

One minute he was there, and then in the blink of an eye, he disappeared.  He simply vanished in that instant of pure carnage.  Cody was listed as Missing In Action because there just wasn’t anything left of him.   It took five days before they could conclusively prove that he had been utterly and completely destroyed.  We had lost a Hero.

And then the REAL story came out.  The Gentleman with the bike is Cody’s Father.

He showed up to the exact right place today, at the exact right time, to learn that we DO care, and we WILL remember Cody, AND his four Brothers in Arms!  We were able to help each other simply by listening and assuring this grieving Father that his Son did not die in vain.  In fact, his son died saving the life of a fellow soldier.  The bible reads, in John 13:15 “Greater love hath no Man than this, that a Man lay down his life for his friends.”  Cody died a Hero!

I was privileged to be part of a small group that heard this story first-hand.  One of our group is the Father of a Soldier that had been in Afghanistan and who’s Son had very narrowly escaped a similar fate.  These two Men were able to share a special moment, a special bond, even though the outcome was so vastly different.  Both Men understand the fear, anxiety, and stress that comes from having a child in a war zone.  And while one Man lost everything, the other could help him understand why, and how sacred and honorable his Sons sacrifice was.

Jim NEEDED to tell this story.  We NEEDED to hear it.  YOU need to know it, too.

We are Run For The Wall.  This is what we do.

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

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Midway Route – May 11, 2022. – PREPARATION!

It is early in the morning on May 11, 2022.  REAL early.  About 4 o’clock in the morning early.  And I can’t sleep.

Why?

Because I have been planning and preparing for the 2022 ‘Run For The Wall’ for several years now, and I am just too excited to sleep!  Or maybe, I am too worried that I have forgotten something for my bike, or that I didn’t pack everything, or didn’t sign all of my paperwork, or check my credit cards, or … … Well, you get the idea.

But here it is, early in the morning and my mind is racing over a hundred little details.  Not only am I planning to participate again with Run For The Wall as the Midway Route Photographer and SITREP Author, but I am also one of two Photographers for the new Sandbox Route.  Additionally, I am honored to once again to be leading a group of RFTW Riders from Dallas to Ontario, known as ‘Hoofer’s Hooligans.”  So I have a lot of plans to check and recheck.

“Hoofer’s Hooligans” is the longest continually running “Run To The Run” for RFTW.  This ‘run’ began many years ago as Dutch’s Demented Desperado’s, or the “DDD”.  “Dutch” created this ride, this group of like-minded Riders all headed towards a common goal, to help get the Riders safely across the country and to the start of RFTW.  He ran this for several years before gaining the help of Roger “Cowboy” Mead.  Cowboy took over this ride, now known as the “CDR” or “Cowboys Desert Renegades.”  He added a little more refinement to the ride, by taking the group off of the interstates for a while so that they could safely practice group formation riding.  What a brilliant idea!  (Yes, Cowboy had a good idea!)  But after several years, it was time for him to retire from this ride.  I saw a lot of value in this “pre-conditioning” ride, so when I asked him who was going to take it over, he “volun-told” me that I would be organizing it from now on.  He then dubbed the ride “Hoofer’s Hooligans” and I have been leading it ever since.  I continue the traditions of Dutch and Cowboy by leading the group safely, and doing a little “group riding practice.”  But I wanted to put my own “spin” on it so I started including a few stops at various memorials along our route to start getting our minds set for our RFTW Mission.  I have been doing this now for about 6 years, and we have developed a few of our own traditions.  (I like to find good places to eat and fun things to do!)

So why am I telling you about all of this?  Well, it is that word “TRADITION.”  The DDD, CDR, and HH all have our own traditions that we are known for.  And to a large extent, that is what Run For The Wall is all about.  We (RFTW) have traditions.  We say the Pledge of Allegiance each morning.  We tell our Veterans “Welcome Home” every day.  We visit Memorials, VA Hospitals, VFW and American Legion Posts, schools, and Veterans Cemeteries.  We ride a “Missing Man Formation” everywhere that we go.  (We don’t move an inch without this position of honor!). We follow traditions.

For two years now, those traditions have stood silent.  Covid restrictions have kept us from doing all of these things as a group, although most of us have continued to do them on our own.  As time has passed, things have had to change.  We have new stops along our route.  We have new places to visit, new things to do.  Some of our previous contacts have been lost, others that were just being developed have changed hands.  For the Midway Route, the youngest of the three cross-country routes, we were just getting our traditions established.  In a way, this year, we are starting over.  Yes, we will go to some of our “old” favorite places.  But we will find “new” favorite places.  We will find a new place for ice-cream; a new place for lunch stops; maybe a new place to cool off in a fountain or pool; new places to gather together to offer a healing hug or just to reflect on our past.

Whatever changes though, we will still be following our traditions of paying Honor to our Veterans and of supporting our Active Duty Personnel.  We will still demand a full accounting of our Missing In Action from ALL wars, and we will honor the sacrifices paid by the Families of those STILL Missing.  Things may change, but our core traditions will remain unscathed and be stronger for our time apart.  We Ride For Those That Can’t.  We Ride for Honor, Duty, Sacrifice, and Patriotism.  We RIde to Remember our Fallen.  And We Ride To Heal our hearts, our minds, and our Country from our storied past.

Whichever Route you choose to participate with, Central, Midway, Southern, or the Sandbox, YOU will be a part of our NEW Traditions.  YOU will be the one to carry our traditions and legacy into the future.  YOU will be the one that ignites the spark of Patriotism in the hearts of our children, and pass the flame of freedom to the next generation.  YOU will be “Run For The Wall.”

I am honored to have the opportunity to serve you once again.  It never ceases to amaze me how YOU, those that have served our great nation, have welcomed me, a non-veteran, into your Family.  When you call me “Brother” and stand shoulder to shoulder with me as an equal, I am humbled.  I can do no less than my utmost best to try and represent the values that you have stood for, that you have put your life on the line for, that you cherish so deeply in your heart.  My promise to you is that I WILL try my best, and that I will try to faithfully record YOUR experiences with Run For The Wall.  I Thank You for your trust and for this Honor.

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

Please visit www.jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall to see pictures from our journey across this great country.  I will post a few every day, and then hundreds more once I get home and can go through them all.  All of these photos are free to download.  Enjoy!  “Hoofer”