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Day 1, Ontario to Flagstaff

What a day this has been. It started with the alarm going off at 0430, commonly known as “0 Dark Thirty”, because it’s still dark. Get it. 0 Dark Thirty”. Ha ha. I know, don’t quit my day job. Oh wait, I don’t have a day job. I’m retired. I digress.

Run For The Wall XXXI is about to commence, but first the Mandatory Meeting. Word. Can you tell how much I love meetings? As we arrived at staging, there were several vendor tents and something else. The smell of food. The Christian Motorcycle Association was there serving food. Hot food. Yummy food. Eggs, sausage, potatoes, tortillas all the fixins for breakfasts burrito and of course there was coffee. Gotta have that. Oh and there were donuts. Lots of donuts. So many varieties I was confused for a while trying to choose one. The lady in front of me actually said “Too many to just choose one? Take two”. I settled for one finally. A cherry cake donut. So good. OJ to wash it down with. Hope you got there early enough to get some. There were tents with chapstick, sunscreen, gum, aspirin and you name it. So many nice people handing out free stuff for us all to enjoy. It was heaven.

Our BOD President Les Williams kicked off the meeting and we gathered around. Colors were provided by the Marine Corps Logistics Base Color Guard from Barstow, Ca. Then a very thoughtful, sincere prayer by our Chaplain asking for blessings for our safety and giving thanks for all we receive, then The Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem signed again by Alisa and Ashley. They have been doing this for seven years I think. During the anthem, I could hear members of the crowd singing softly. I had a sort of warm feeling in my heart and I started to sing.  Hope no one heard me.

 

 

Gunny Gregory was asked to come forward. He gave aus a few words of encouragement and started to get emotional so he handed Les back the mic. We love you Gunny. With some final words from Les, and a few from our individual Route Coordinators, Run For The Wall XXX (30) was about to begin. We barely had time to don our gear and start our motors.

 

 

 

 

We got outta Ontario without a hitch. Piece of cake really. It seemed to me we were on the interstate heading up Cajon Pass in no time. On the overpasses were patriots with flags. More than I’ve seen in California before.

 

 

 

Along the way, our fuel was sponsored at all our fuel stops but one. We have some very generous folks that care about us riders. We were in and out of Ludlow in 20 minutes or less. The hydration truck was available here. I think the M25 organization donates all the products from this truck. An awesome blessing they are to each of us. We are so appreciative of their offering, their support, and their time. We crossed over into Arizona and had a few minutes at the Lake Havasu stop. There I saw my high school friend and his misses again for a couple of minutes. They have come by to see me here for 6 years now.

This year something different, we are not going into Kingman. What a blessing. Our Arizona State Coordinator Roy Meek had made some changes. We stopped in Yucca for lunch at the local fire station. The food was great. Sandwiches, chips, cookies, drinks. It was excellent. Several presentations were made one to some folks sitting at my table. An Arizona Patriot Guard Rider. I think we have a lot of PGR members that ride with us. I mentioned I was a rider and that I would be coming back this way to visit my friends and they said to please stop by to see them. I’m looking forward to it.

 

 

Near Flagstaff, we were escorted by the Flagstaff Police Department right to the VFW. We passed many citizens lining the streets with flags welcoming us to Flagstaff. Inside the VFW, the Boy Scouts served us Sloppy Joes. Glenn Waggoner handed out awards to organizations that helped us out then a special guest was introduced by our Outreach representative Tim Hastings. She was introduced last year at the Mandatory meeting. Her name is Patty Hopper. Her husband was a member of the group that helped break ground for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.  They bought the shovel for $10.

Tomorrow comes early and it will be cold. Hope everyone has some warm gear. I’ve got my electric jacket and glove liners, but not much more than that. I’m thinking it will be warm soon after we get out of Flagstaff.

 

 

Remember tomorrow we will be going to Milan Elementary School.

Here’s the pledge again.  First the New Mexico Pledge.  Second the Milan Elementary School Pledge. I’ll have some copies to handout in the morning.  Right after we say the Pledge of Allegiance, repeat the following words:

  1. “I salute the flag of the State of New Mexico and the Zia symbol of perfect friendship among united cultures”
  2. “I pledge to be a person of character; to help others when they need it; to treat others the way I want to be treated; to be caring, respectful, responsible, be of good character; be fair and trustworthy.  I count.  You count”.

The Milan Children will love us saying this with them.

 

Photos provided by the Midway Route Photographer Jim “Hoofer” McCrain – jimmccrain.smugmug.com/Run-For-The-Wall – photos@mccrain.net

“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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day 0, Tuesday – Ontario

Busy day today. Many more people poured in today. It all started with the ride into Riverside National Cemetery (RNC). All the bikes were lined up along the road ready to head out. The Pledge of Allegiance was signed by Alisa and Ashley as in previous years. Prayer was offered for a safe ride and FNGs were welcomed. Jim “The Mayor” Frost described the ride into RNC and gave some tips about riding together. Ontario police led the way and departed at I-60. Traffic was not bad and most drivers avoided us giving riders plenty of room and right-of-way. We arrived safely and rode through RNC to park near the Medal of Honor Memorial. Where the memorial was described in detail to everyone. There were visits to the other memorials like POW/MIA and KIA Memorials. If you haven’t been to RNC you don’t know what you’re missing. The memorials here are unique and inspiring. You need to plan to go next year.

Peter Young, director of RNC Facilities was present to discuss some of the details of the cemetery. There are over 300,000 veterans deterred here. They average 35 burials per day. They are the busiest National Cemetery in the nation and will soon be the largest National Cemetery in the nation. Several speakers told stories of family members that were left behind as POWs and never returned. Our government has turned their back to them and forgotten them. Part of our responsibility as Run For The Wall members is to bring awareness to the public and demand government accountability for our POWs and MIAs.

Here’s some info about the POW/MIA Memorial. “The Prisoner of War/Missing in Action National Memorial was designated as a national memorial by the U.S. Congress in 2004 through Public Law 108-454. The memorial was dedicated on September 16, 2005. Vietnam veteran Lewis Lee Millett, Jr., sculpted the bronze statue which depicts an American serviceman on his knees with hands bound by his captors. The statue is surrounded by black marble pillars that evoke imprisonment.”

The Mayor did a great job pulling this mission to RNC together. Run For The Wall is all about getting accountability for all our POWs and MIAs. James “Gunny” Gregory and Bill Evans began RFTW in 1989 as a mission to bring awareness to the public and the government about our POWs that never returned and still need to be. We will continue to apply pressure to that effect for as long as it takes.

At 1330 was the Combat Bike Build. If you were there you know the level at which this bike screams amazingness. Jim “Curly” Grafner donated the bike for the build, but there was not much of the original bike left after designers and craftsman completed this work of art. John Barker told me this was going to be the biggest unveiling in history and it certainly was. Thanks John for coordinating this activity and making this happen.  I don’t even have words.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the afternoon, we were all asked to assemble in the adjacent parking lot to the host hotel for a mandatory meeting. President Williams spoke to the group as well The Commanded of the Marine Corps Logistic Center in Barstow, Ca.  We’ll be riding through the base tomorrow.   Also each of the Route Coordinators spoke to us and welcomed all FNGs and leadership.

Later all were briefed by our individual ride leadership. We are one mission, 4 Routes.  Now including the Sandbox Route.  We learned what to expect the next day and along the ride. He went over signals, safety and most every aspect of what would be our trip to Flagstaff, AZ tomorrow and beyond. Following this briefing, all were released to be briefed by perspective platoon leaders. As a platoon leader, my team and I briefed riders assigned to our platoon. We emphasised riding together as safely as possible and as a cohesive unit.  With all this out of the way, tomorrow should be easier to get on the road together and to our first stop in Ludlow. It all begins tomorrow.  Are you ready for Run For The Wall?

“We Ride For Those That Can’t”

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – 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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day –1, Monday – Ontario

Today I got to sleep in. What a luxury. It only gets worse from here. As we move east we loose an hour sleep three times. So by the time we get into Eastern Daylight Savings Time, we’ll have lost three hours. So when our alarms go off at 0500, back here in Ontario, CA it will be 0200. Enjoy getting up at your leisure while you can. Soon it all changes.

Many more people arrived today. More warm welcomes and hugs. Anyone tired of getting hugs? I didn’t think so.

A group of riders was collecting near where I stood by my bike and one rider came over to me for a welcome hug. He told me a group of them were getting ready to help escort the recipient of the Bike Build from the airport and asked me if I wanted to assist. I strapped my helmet on and started my Harley. About fifteen of us rode together to the airport, parked around the limo there to transport our hero and his family, then got off our bikes and formed a line to the limo door. Minutes later our hero walked out of the airport with his family. We were called to attention and ordered to “present arm” while our hero got into the limo. We were then given the command “order arm” and dismissed to assemble on our bikes and escort our hero to the host hotel. That was a real treat for me. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Maybe. Some may think these things happen by chance but I don’t. It believe it was a blessing to me. For me the blessings continue. How have you been blessed so far? How is RFTW a blessing in your life? More on that in a minute.

We had our Midway leadership meeting today and it was instructional, interesting and historical. First, we will be doing things a little different. Here are a few examples:

    • Last year eight of ten state coordinators departed. This year eight new state coordinators joined RFTW. Their activity coordinating the run through their states was recognized and applauded.  The amount of work these folks accomplish is monumental.
    • Timing of daily itineraries were determined to be unrealistic and adjusted accordingly
    • Stop less relevant communication on the highway
    • Stop radio checks just before leaving any venue
    • Platoon Leaders shall set better examples for platoon members at fuel and venue stops
    • Ignore panhandlers. Please donate in tip jars at venues.
    • More coordination between Platoon Leaders and Road Guards to help clear difficult areas.

Les Williams, RFTW BOD Chairman informed us about the new Sandbox Run. This new route is being considered to help enlist the younger audience. RFTW is being extended to allow riders to visit memorials dedicated to veterans of Middle Eastern conflicts. This year the “Recon” run will determine the route and establish ties to state resources necessary to make this route function just like our other three routes. Just as the Midway Route was set up by the Midway Route Recon Team back in 2013, the Sandbox route will be set up for future rides to visit memorials of more recent conflicts. The Sandbox Route will be a historical run and those able to attend will be in on a game-changing ride that will cement together riders from multiple conflicts extending the mission of Run For The Wall for generations to come. Les also mentioned it was possible that memorial walls for more recent conflicts are being considered for development in Washington DC. If this idea becomes reality, it may be possible Run For the Wall may become Run For The Walls.

Many new leaders have stepped up and all were recognized. After many had introduced themselves Sgt Rock stood and was recognized. He said that he’d been a participant of Run For The Wall for 18 years (I hope I got the number right). Rock said that Run For The Wall had saved his life. The room got quiet. He said it had given him reason for living. He spoke about being an orphan, having no family and being alone until he entered the military. After that he didn’t know where his life was headed until someone introduced him to Run For The Wall. A few years ago, he was the recipient of the Bike Build and received a custom motorcycle he could operate much easier than what he was used to. Since receiving that bike, he has put more than 100,000 miles on it and loves participating in the Outreach Program. Sgt Rock was asked how far he was going this year and said only to Amarillo. I said “ALL THE WAY to Amarillo” followed by a few chuckles.  As, Sgt Rock continued to talk about how he felt RFTW riders were his family and would do anything to help him, he started to get a little emotional. We stood, applauded and moved toward Rock to offer hugs. Rock said he was going to be okay.  We all said, we will all by okay.  How has Run For The Wall blessed the life of Sgt Rock? How has it not? Rock is an amazing veteran, an amazing man, an amazing brother. God bless Sgt Rock.

After the meeting, my team and I collected our gear and talked about how we would brief our platoon. I think we covered most of the bases, but you never know.   We have instructions to review that have been established and updated through the years to help lead our platoon effectively. Like checklists, instructions help us remember what needs to be said and what doesn’t.  There are probably more things that don’t need to be said than do.

Tomorrow we have several significant events happening. Check the Pre-run itinerary. I’ll just mention a couple. First Jim “The Mayor” Frost is leading the traditional run to Riverside National Cemetery. Although this event is primarily for FNGs, all are welcome. I have spent many hours traveling in escort with the Patriot Guard Riders to RNC. It is a marvelous place. If you have not been, you need to go. According to the itinerary, staging begins at 0700. The riders meeting is at 0800 and KSU is 0840. Line up at the east curb of the hotel. There will be Law Enforcement Officer escort. Second, the Bike Build presentation is at 1300. I heard this will be the biggest presentation do date. You don’t want to miss this.

“We Ride For Those That Can’t”

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – 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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day -2, Sunday – Ontario

Well May is here and I am in here in Ontario, CA. Riders are poring in. The line at the host hotel is moving in slow motion, but thankfully I’m not staying here. I got here early enough to get registered and met up with my roommate for a short ride to Outback for dinner. Now I’m back at the hotel looking for a relaxful evening, right after I complete this update.

I’ve been watching posts on the RFTW FB page and seen some funny stuff and some not so funny. Like important things that got left behind of lost along the way.   I’ve had pretty good luck getting everything together I need to bring along, but I have an edge.  I keep everything on a checklist.  I even have a checklist on my checklist.  The T-CLOCS checklist.  Do you know what that is?  You should.  It’s put out by the Motorcycle Safety Foundation.  You can find it on their website.

https://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/T-CLOCS_Inspection_Checklist.pdf

Some things I have on my checklist include passport (what if you decide to go home by way of Canada?), hot and cold weather gloves, hydrator vest, electronic jump start kit, extra key and/or fob (I give this to a friend, so he’ll have it in case I lose mine or get locked out).  You can always bypass your HD security and start your bike by entering a code if you remember the code or have it written down, but it’s a pain to do everytime you turn your bike on if you don’t have the fob.  Lose your fob or have a fob with a run down battery and maybe you’ll be making out a checklist to remember these items in the future.  Why do you need to remove the battery from your extra fob?  Think about it.  An up-to-date checklist could be a valuable thing.   A week before heading out, I print out my checklist and start to assemble my items.   I never have to try to remember whether I have everything.  When it goes on the bike, I check it off the list and if it ain’t on my checklist, I don’t need it.

A few days ago a buddy of mine you might know as Gump showed up at my place in Utah and we had a couple days to get caught up and ride over to the Biker Blessing put on by the Christian Motorcycle Association and then had a nice barbeque. The blessing we both received from their chaplain was heartfelt.  Motorcycle riders know that blessings for a safe ride are always welcome.

After picking up my wife from home we road out to Vayo for pie. Where’s Vayo? Come for a visit and we’ll ride out there together. Sunday morning after bacon and waffles Gump and I were making last minute checks before departing. The final thing before getting on my bike was a nice hug and kiss from my beautiful wife. It will be almost a month before I see her again. She asked me if I would miss her. I snickered and said you know it. She said something like “no, you’ll be too busy”. I said I’m always thinking about you when I ride, so I always miss you and I do already.

 

 

 

Our bikes are packed and we’re ready to head out. What a beautiful day for a ride. Just out of St George is the Virgin River Gorge of which I-15 cuts through.  It’s a sweet set of sweepers you’d like to take at 70mph but watch for Arizona State Troopers because this corner of Arizona is patrolled by them. I was feeling a little guilty that the weather was so perfect for us after hearing all the trouble people were having heading west to start the Run. Sorry to all those that had nasty weather, but we missed it. We had no delays in Vegas but there were plenty heading into Victorville and then Cajon Pass. We got off I-15 at Cleghorn and headed down old I-15 with a couple other cars for a few miles. We probably made up 20 minutes with this little shortcut. As we were heading south, the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe was heading north. I raised my arm up with my palm open and the engineer saw me and gave us a couple blasts. I love that. Got to love train engineers.

So Gump and I made it to the host hotel in one piece and hugged after we got off our bikes. It was great riding with him. Several times he commented about traffic ahead I couldn’t always see and when I signalled for a lane change to the right, he gave me a ping on his CB “one ping only” to let me know he saw my signal and was moving. He was always in my side mirror and moved with me whenever I changed lanes or changed speed. It is a pleasure riding with such an experienced rider.

Like last year, my roommate had already checked into our room and had an ice cold Diet Coke ready for me. Last year I commented in the SitRep “Run For the wall is an event that gets under your skin and it feels good”. The feelings have been coming back for several days now but especially today.

Again all the route vendor trucks were set up outside and open for business. Everyone is there to help anyone interested in anything commemorating Run For The Wall. Stop by and check out the all the stuff.

Here’s the Pre-Run Itinerary if you haven’t seen it already.

Download the PDF file .

Please check out what’s going on. Some stuff is mandatory. Monday is a big day. There will be hundreds of bikers riding in and there is a lot of coordinating that needs to happen. All the activity in preparing for the Run kicks into high gear tomorrow. We have been waiting and saying “Is it May yet”, for a long time.  Like I said in the beginning, May is here.  Are you ready for Run For The Wall?

“We Ride For Those That Can’t”
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Midway Route SitRep Writer
I’d appreciate your comments. lystruptf@gmail.com
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Midway Route SitReps – It’s May

Hey Twotone here,

The month we’ve all been waiting for is here…finally. It seems like forever doesn’t it or does it. I guess for those that have been anticipating The Run it’s been a long time. For those that haven’t and are not quite ready for this to all come down (like me) it has been a short time.

I used to attend monthly luncheons I set up many years ago in California so all the area RFTW participants could get together, share lunch and a story or two and remake acquaintances. Our group called the Southwestern Regional Lunch Group consisted of Southern California, Nevada and Arizona areas. When last I counted we had about 150 members on the email contact list and we’d usually got about 30 or more RFTW participants to show up at one of our two locations in Southern California. We met each first Saturday of the month. Jim Frost heads up the group since I moved to Utah in early 2018. I miss meeting with all my RFTW friends. I guess I really mean RFTW family cause that’s how they feel to me. Each year we’d add a dozen or more FNGs to our email list and we all looked forward to riding in to our lunch site and spending a couple hours there. I see emails from other lunch groups around the nation and I hope this activity grows to cover as much of the US as possible. I think it’s too hard to wait an entire year to see folks you’ve met on The Run again. If there isn’t a lunch group in your area, make one. Nothing to it.

Here a picture from a group luncheon back in 2014. Some members move on. Others join in. Somehow it keeps getting bigger. It’s a wonderful way to keep the spirit of Run For The Wall alive.

I see several requests on the RFTW FB site for FNGs that want to know how to prepare. A good source is the RFWT.US website, Forum and FNG Stories. Maybe the best location for this information is in the FAQs area. There’s a packing list that much thought has gone into. It’s certainly not a conclusive list however. There’s a whole lot of info y’all need to know for making RFTW a comfortable and enjoyable ride. Excuse me, I meant to say a wonderful and enjoyable mission. It’s not a ride. It’s a mission.

I’ll just give one piece of advice. Said it before. Bring nothing new. If it ain’t tried and tested, you will not be happy with it. Tires, brakes, helmets, clothing, raingear, gloves, etc. I hope you’re comfortable with all of it. One thing to definitely leave behind is your attitude unless it’s a positive, uplifting and friendly one. No one knows what demons others battle. Yours are not worse than others. Part of the four part mission of Run For The Wall, the most important part if you ask me is healing for all veterans their families and their friends. To find healing, everyone needs to feel part of the RFTW happening. Help them feel that way. Hugs are usually always welcome but you might want to ask first.

I have a checklist I’ve been developing over the years. It keeps me organized. Somethings are off the list somethings I’ve added, but starting out with everything you need is certainly not necessary. Although we won’t be making regular stops to Walmart, you’ll have plenty of time to get what you need if you forget something. There are all kinds of opinions on how many pairs of underwear to bring. Not kidding. Bring more than you think you might need. Socks too. Shirts and pants bring less. If you end up wanting to do laundry in the host hotel in Amarillo or Shawnee, standby for lines into the wee morning hours. Just saying. We’ll be stopping at a few Harley dealerships. We don’t stop at any other motorcycle dealerships. Sorry. Maybe it’s because we need to stop at Harley dealerships more than others. Not sure. I’m a Harley guy and I like to stop there. Whatever the reason (fill in the blank______), the places we stop they feed anyone that has a Harley for free. All others pay exorbitant prices. Aww …well, that ain’t exactly true. Everyone regardless of transportation eats for free, even the cagers.

So y’all know there are three routes. Each route has a Hydration Trailer provided by M25 Ministries. Please use this every time it’s available. Every route has Emergency Medical Services staff as well as emergency towing vehicles and a Chaplains Corps. The RFTW Board of Directors has tried to anticipate everything possible for your part in the RFTW mission to be a memorable one for good reason.

Run For The Wall would be impossible without all the volunteers that are enlisted to help with everything from staging, fuel, leadership, BOD, state coordinators, ambassadors, etc., and all those at the venues where we stop. Please be kind, courteous and friendly to everyone all the time. No volunteer should have to take anyone’s bad attitude for something that didn’t work out perfect. Make the best of everything you can. Thank everyone continually.

Please follow your leadership instructions. Please follow Road Guard instructions. Please check your gear. Whatever falls off your bike becomes a hazard for all others behind you. I can’t begin to explain to FNGs what to expect. Keep an open mind. If you are going All The Way (ATW), make sure to get your “magic zip-tie” at the appropriate time. Ask anyone about this. By all means have fun, but keep your head and eyes glues on the riders ahead of you. What they do you will be doing very quickly. Best have great reflexes.

Welcome FNGs (Friendly New Guy or Gal). On your inaugural mission, you will be treated with love and respect. If you feel you are not. See your Platoon leader. He’ll fix it.

“We Ride For Those That Can’t”
Ride Like You’re Invisible

Tom “Twotone” Lystrup
RFTW Midway Route
Platoon 5 Leader
SitRep Writer
USN, LST-1183 USS Peoria ’72-’75
American Legion Post 90
American Legion Riders Chapter 100
Southern Utah Patriot Guard Riders
Southern Utah HOG Riders

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Day 10, Ashland – Arlington

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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day 9, Fayetteville – Ashland

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 forcing you to go back down the elevator carrying all your gear, and cut back in line to get new ones.  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.

I stay at some non-host hotels.  There are a few host hotels I will never stay at again.  Last night I stayed at a non-host hotel in Fayetteville.  It’s a great place to stay.  I’m not telling which one it is.  One thing about staying at a non-host hotel that I never thought would be a factor is the ability to receive the most current and vital information from leadership, like when the morning meeting staging location is changed at the last minute.

I left my hotel and arrived at the staging location noted in the book only to find it vacant.  A call to one of my platoon leadership and I had the new location, several miles away and several minutes away from my current location.  My faithful GPS got me there quickly, but not quick enough.  I missed the meeting and the departure time.  Thankfully the schedule/itinerary has the address of the next stop and I plugged that into my GPS and was instructed how to get there with relative ease.  All was fine and I enjoyed a little time riding at my leisure.

Falcon’s Children’s Home 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 wards 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 the very special teachers that work with these very special children are key.  All children are valuable and need an opportunity or maybe a second one to prove what they can do.  With the right teachers, children can learn things they can’t in public school systems. 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.  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.  Run For The Wall presented the graduating class with a cake.  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?  Folks 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 expect us to be.  We surely love these children.  We will be back again next year for a fact.

 

 

 

 

 

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 salad and 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.  However they did not sing the song that made them an internet sensation.  A song they recorded years ago.  It’s quite popular on YouTube still.  You can find it at this this URL. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pfBUUZNbFM I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the place, because I couldn’t see myself.  Afterward, we stood and applauded.  We were all touched, just like each of the years before this.

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 a 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 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 like yesterday all over.  I think my dad would be proud I participate in Run For The Wall.  I’m not sure he would be happy I ride a motorcycle to do it however.  Anyway, I love you dad.  RIP Gunner’s Mate, USS Colorado BB-45, February 1937 to March 1941.

Some ladies next entertained us with a form of tap dancing to some familiar tunes.  They were great and mostly available I think.  Not sure about that last part.

An ensemble of bagpipes, bass drum and snare drum entertained us next with some favorite bag pipe songs including an excellent rendition of Amazing grace that brought tears again.

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.  All FNGs got a zip tie this time.  In another couple years, some may get turned away.  We had almost 200 FNGs with us this time on the Midway Route.  We hope to get many more in years to come.

Bandit and Wombat handed out awards to leadership members and to all the team members.  Bandit told a short humorous story about each one called up and mentioned how much he loved “each and every one of us because we are family”.  I was surprised when he called my name up to receive a plaque for doing the SitReps.  I hadn’t received one before.  Just shows you how thoughtful Bandit really is.

As we headed out the door, we shared thanks and hugs with all that served us here at the Moose Lodge in Hopewell.  We headed for our hotels in Ashland.  Tomorrow we ride together a total of 94 miles and then we are on our own.  Remember to stop at signals and stop lights.  No more road guards to block them for you.  Shucks.

“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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day 8, Asheville – Fayetteville

Today is a short ride like yesterday, tomorrow the same, only a half day on Friday and then it’s over.  Some can’t wait to be there, others like me can’t stand that it’s almost over.  My wife is one that wishes it was over and I was home.  Of course I want to be home and I miss my darling wife immensely, but I also love Run For The Wall.  The fact that it’s almost over is weighing on me seriously.  I have found new friends to add to my already long list of Run For The Wall friends.  These new friends have ridden more than a couple thousand miles with me.  They have counted on me as their platoon leader to get them through the day safely and I have tried.  I love these people.  I don’t want it to be over.  I had some serious anxiety over this today.  It hit me hard in Siler City.

Our meeting this morning at Asheville HD was actually very good and very efficiently conducted.  My leadership briefed our platoon members and we left Asheville under LEO escort in some light fog, but it evaporated quickly. The radar report looked like we would hit some rain somewhere along the way and we did.  We were pretty much happy we did.  It was hot.

First to our next donated gas stop, then to Siler City.  I love being there.  This is our Chaplain’s home, and he is the pastor of the Sunrise Pentecostal Holiness Church (I hope I got that right).  This man we know as Good Wrench is most loveable.  His concern for us all is deeply sincere.  His prayers are heart-felt, gracious and eloquent.  I honestly believe God hears and answers his prayers and when he prays for God’s traveling mercies, I truly believe we will receive them and we have.

After fueling we made our way to the church.  Members of our Chaplain’s congregation were there to serve us lunch, if you call grilled rib-eye steak, potatoes, green beans, homemade peach cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream lunch.  We look forward to arriving in this wonderful town to share this wonderful meal, with these wonderful people. As we approached the church we were received by a large group welcoming us.  A giant American flag was draped over the entrance. We parked and made our way to the chow lines and were greeted by many happy-to-see–you faces including some members of the Buffalo Motorcycle Club.

While sitting under a large tent, eating my excellent steak, I was thinking of the peach cobbler waiting for me.  A lady sitting next to me was telling someone else that the lady coming to our table made all the peach cobbler. I had to thank her.  When I did, she gave me a hug.  After finishing my meal I was taking my plate to the trash and one of my sister riders from Las Vegas asked me how I was feeling.  She could tell something was bothering me.  I shared with her I was sad that soon Run For The Wall would be over and I wasn’t very happy about that.  She gave me a hug and we held each other for a while.  Maybe it was a long while.  I was seriously upset and she could tell.  She told me she would always have a shoulder for me.  I knew she would, she always has and I felt a little better, but not quite all.

 

I am also saddened that I am carrying with me a small portion of a dear friend’s ashes.  He wanted to go on Run For The Wall one last time, but his illness late last year got worse and then by accident he fell and broke his hip.  He was hospitalized but died later that January night.  Now my friend, Jim “Paladin” Lenz is gone.  He was a long time Run For The Wall rider and had been on the Midway Route a couple times.  He was one I could talk with and did many times for hours.  He knew me and I him.  I frequently told him he was my hero for the things he did and he would argue with me that he is not a hero but others are.  He would say to me as we ended our calls “I love you brother” and I would same the same in reply.  Jim knew he might not make it to the Wall this year.  He asked me one day that if it came down to it, would I take him to the Wall one last time.  It wasn’t easy to say because I didn’t want anything to happen to him, but I told him I would.  He mentioned to me that after visiting the wall, somewhere on the way home I would find a place I felt appropriate to lay his ashes to rest.  I know I will.  His memories live on.  I love you brother.  I’m riding to the Wall for you Paladin.  Another friend is riding for him as well on another route.

Jim’s wife sent me a link of a video.  She appears in a short clip being interviewed by a reporter asking why she was there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze181OfgQD4.  If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste it to your browser.

Some children from an elementary school in Siler City came by with cards they had made for us.  I grabbed a few.  One says, “Thank you for your service”.  Inside is an outline of America colored red, white and blue like an American Flag. Another, “You are our hero.  Thank you”.   Another says, “We wanted to thank you for all your hard work and service and we hope God blessed you because you saved thousands or millions of lives maybe even more.  But we hope that you take care and keep on fighting for our rights”.  Some very nice sentiments from some very small children.  I will leave all of these at the wall.

I’d like to share again a card I received last year.  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 –

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 children.

After lunch we departed the church and paraded through downtown Siler City.  Then we rode to Chatums Middle School where a program was prepared for us.  As we approached, children lined the driveway and cheered.  We parked and went into the gymnasium and sat.  There many children were waiting for us. The program began and children played bells, some sang, the band played songs.  All were excellent.  All brought emotions to us.  All were cheered.  All of us clapped to the music and all applauded their entertainment so beautifully offered to us. As I was leaving, I started tossing up RFTW pins to the children sitting on the floor.  I didn’t have many, but gave them all I had left.  They screamed with each one I tossed until they were all gone.  I’ll bring a lot more next year.  I’ll definitely be back to Siler City 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 Siler City 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 Operations 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.  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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were a few former POWs being honored.  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. Some of them have now passed, but their wives were present to honor their husband’s memory.  We paid them each tribute and honor.

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 provided a meal outside behind the museum.  Then we were excused for the night.

Day 8 is in the books.  It won’t be long now.  Dang.

“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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day 7, Cookeville to Asheville

(I wrote these words last year, but they seem completely appropriate this year as well). 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 in Arlington, VA.  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.  Yes it’s not a ride it’s a mission.  Okay correction noted.  We had very little rain and what we had came in the last 10 minutes of our ride to Asheville.  Some people dawned their rain gear after the Morning meeting, but it came off at the next stop.  It was hot.  The next few legs were cooler and quite pleasant I thought. That said, everyone knows that if you wear raingear it won’t rain, and it basically didn’t.  We all made it to Asheville in one piece and had a great time doing it.

At our morning meeting, Mr. Patriot 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.  There was also a grade school of children there to meet us veterans and patriots.

Our final venue today is Asheville Harley Davidson for dinner.  As we entered the interstate, the beautiful country called to us and there were several comments on the CB about this being God’s country.  I cannot argue with that.  The greenery everywhere, the hills, the canyons we rode through, all were wonderful to see.  The problem with all this beauty is that we really can’t see much of it.  We got to keep focused on the backside of the rider in front of us.  On the way, I commented that I’d been looking at the same rider’s backside for 5 years and almost 15,000 miles.  He replied, “but it’s a pretty backside”.  I laughed.  Then someone commented, “You guys need to get a room”.  It was so funny.  Anyway, the ride today had many sweeping, ascending and descending turns and a few tunnels and lots of traffic all in beautiful hills, covered with a forest of trees.  What a rush.

We headed to our first stop which was Knoxville for lunch and the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial for lunch.  Although the route into the memorial did not go quite as planned, we all got there safely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several of us took advantage of the large water feature to make fools of ourselves again.  A couple of our seasoned riders have been making fools of themselves walking fully clothed through the water feature since our first visit.  We know who you are.  I joined in this time as well as a couple others.  Some children were playing there and wanted to be included in the pictures being taken of all the participants.

Later at the memorial, there was a prayer from our chaplain corps and the Pledge of Allegiance.   Afterward, a Wreath Laying ceremony commenced by our riders which was performed with military precision and dignity, 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.  New coins were available 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 a docent at the Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery and you can bet he knows).

 

Our next stop was the Citgo station where our North Carolina State Coordinator would be waiting and he was.  He is a dedicated guy to Run For The Wall and to our country.  This Citgo station has the best ice cream, thee best.  Many agree.  They all rush inside to get in line.  Our North Carolina State Coordinator 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 barbeque in the air.  What a great event.  Dinner was excellent and the band was great.  They played a couple of my favorites.  There was also singing of the National Anthem. 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.  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 97 years old.  He had few words to say, and they were dignified and patriotic.  Previously here at the same event, 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.

Many riders took advantage of the Asheville HD service center.  Services were quickly managed.  My bike had a minor part issue and it was corrected quickly.  Sort of.  I think they closed the service shop doors after my bike was fixed.  Seriously, this is a great HD Shop and their staff and their techs are all pros.  You wish you had a shop this great close to your house if you own a Harley.

I see a lot of healing going on during this mission.  It is wonderful to see.  People helping people with issues they really know nothing about but issues we all know how to deal with because we have been there and our issues are managed the same way.  Kindness, caring, love and blessings through our helping hands and from God.  We all need these things to help us get through our own difficulties, our own demons, whatever they may be and these things are reality to those that suffer with them.  Most of us know how to help someone that needs it.  If you see a need, be there for them.  Help in any way you can.  Just show you care.  It pays dividends to your soul many times over.  In Galatians 6: 2 it says  “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ”.  The Law of Christ is to love one another.  It’s easy to do.  Everyone that looks like they need help, please try to lift.  Help everyone you can to find healing anyway you can.  Help us get everyone to the wall.  The wall that heals.  We only have a few days left.

Another day completed.  Another day closer to arriving in Arlington, but also another day closer to the Run For The Wall being over.  I wish it could continue.  Many others feel the same way.  Traveling mercies to you all, I ask a loving, caring God to provide.  Blessings to each of you.

“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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

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Day 6, Shawnee – Cookeville

Day 6, Forrest City – Cookville

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, prayers, instructions, drawings, bio reading, etc.  Today we will be heading to Cookville, TN where last year I met up with “Mr Patriot”.  It began when he’d read one of my sitreps and knew we were coming through Cookeville where he lives and wanted to meet me, so we set something up and something big started (check Day 7 2017 sitrep for more details).  If you were there then you remember Talking Hands teaching everyone how to sign ”Hi” so we could all greet Mr. Patriot.  Anyway, he remembers and he continues to track RFTW progress and post patriotic stuff on Facebook frequently.  Today in Cookeville I saw him in the middle of the street and road straight toward him.  He knew it was me immediately and was excited to see me; more about Cookeville and Michael later.

(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 (this friend was disappointed he could not make the run this year but plans to next year). For my friend, 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.

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.  They also had many deserts.  I kept looking until I found the cobbler, apple this year.  It was wonderful.   Just as I felt I was starting to cool down, it was announced it was time to go.

Getting through Nashville was a real nightmare, but again a Road Guard was our savior and he got my platoon safely though it all (five different interstate transitions with heavy moving traffic).   With us separated, platoons in the rear were separated as well.  It took several miles for all of us to catch up again, going ridiculous speeds.  (I’d recommend we take an alternate route and avoid downtown Nashville).  When we got to our fuel stop several of us were rattled but we had made it.

We made our way to our final stop and then on to Cookeville.  On the way into town, I heard a rider say “I love coming into this town”.  I said “me too”.  I said, “remember a few years ago coming in here in the pouring rain and all the people were still out here to welcome us. Another rider said “and we were an hour late”.  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.  The people of Cookeville are phenomenal.

As we were riding to the Leslie Town Center, I saw Michael (Mr. Patriot) in the middle of the street waving a flag.  I rode right up to him.  He knew it was me and gave me a big hug right there in the middle of the street.  When we made it to our dinner stop, 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 their chaplain giving thanks to God for our safe travels of the day and the meal we were about to enjoy.  After the awards were passed out, an area MIA family member talked to us about his experiences growing up not knowing what happened to his father.  It was touching.  Then a local singer sang a few great songs we all enjoyed. Later I saw Mr. Patriot and presented him with this year’s pin and another challenge coin and we got a picture together.

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.

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

“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.

lystruptf@gmail.com

 

A friend of mine shared this poem with me and wanted me to share it with you.

At 0815, on a Sunday morning,

The kickstands went up and the sound of thunder began to roar,

With two in front of me riding abreast,

And two behind me, that will follow side by side,

And beside me was the very honor

Of this here soldier that rode beside me

For he was the missing man that we all knew

With hundreds of bikes that road staggered

Through the town of Shawnee, on a route to Sallisaw, on the way to DC,

From a journey that started out in California

To honor those that never came home

As we ride for them on this here ride

From the POWs to the MIAs

They are never forgotten in a journey of our ride

So as I ride in a formation of the missing man

I will honor those of the very names that never came home

And as we part from the ranks someone else will take my place

And I’ll hold today the memories of our ride

From the sound of thunder that will carry their names

In the Oklahoma winds where we will meet once again

Where all gave some and some gave all

In a foreign land where we lost them all

But as we part we part as brothers and sisters

A family forever in a journey called Run For The Wall .

Written by SSGT Ralph Lee Butler Jr

May 19, 2016

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