Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 11 Arlington/Washington D.C.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
DAY 11 – Saturday, May 23, 2020
It is quiet. Four Hundred FNGs stand near their bikes, ready to mount up and ride onto hallowed ground. We are headed to Arlington National Cemetery.
Run For The Wall is the only motorcycle group allowed to ride into Arlington. It is an honor that we do not take lightly, and we do this with the utmost reverence for the Heroes that are buried here. As our group makes their solemn trek, you can see pride and honor on every face. We all experience a sense of awe and respect as we walk among the carved granite stones. At each turn you will hear a murmured “Wow! A Medal of Honor recipient” or “A-Four Star General!” or “The Shuttle Astronauts!” We are in the final resting place for great American Heroes, and we are all moved by our visit here.
As we gather on the steps of the Tomb of the Unknowns, a reverent hush falls upon us all. There are signs that ask people to be silent here, but our Riders don’t need them: we ARE silent! We wait and watch the Changing of the Guards. We listen to the booming silence as they carefully inspect their uniforms and weapons. We gaze through misty eyes as the Guard who walks exactly 21 steps, turns, shoulders his weapon, waits 21 heart-beats, then continues his walk.
And then from a doorway behind us, another of “The Old Guard” appears, followed by four weary members of RFTW. These representatives from all three routes have the distinct honor of stepping towards the Tomb and laying a wreath in memory of the Unknowns sacrifice. Gone are the pains and stresses of the journey. The eyes of our Brothers are as bright as the sun, as they pay OUR respects. Our Veterans will deliver a salute while we Civilians will hold our hands over our hearts. We stand tall and silent as we listen to the sound of TAPS being played. As the last echoes of the bugle drift into the distance, we return to our bikes in silence.
With barely a whisper of our motors, we now make our way to the National Mall where we will join the rest of our RFTW Family on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It is finally time for our Family Portrait! It may seem like it takes forever, but just sit back and enjoy seeing several thousand Riders filling up every single step and even hanging onto the side staunches! There are a BUNCH of us! (I “almost” feel sorry for the non-riders/general public that are visiting today!) The three Route Photographers will be around to take any “last minute” photos of your new friends and riding partners, so don’t worry if you forgot your camera!
But now the time has come: the driving force behind our Mission. It is time to make a final walk to “The Wall.” Shoulder-to-shoulder, arm-in-arm, side-by-side, we shuffle towards that deep, dark wall of black granite. We will gather together, two thousand-strong, and watch as our three Route Coordinators place a plaque at the apex, commemorating all that we have experienced for the past ten days.
You won’t hear a word, but you might hear someone cry or gasp. You will see grown Men that have endured combat shrink away from the Wall, not being able to face the names of their comrades. But you will also see each one of those individuals disappear into a huddle of Brothers and Sisters that are going to support them, physically and emotionally, during this trying ordeal. They will also shield them from prying eyes and tourists with cameras. We will be a safe haven for those that need it.
Some of us will walk confidently up to the Wall only to breakdown as an unexpected name appears. Some will look tirelessly for a specific name, searching one panel to the next until they find their boy. Others know exactly where they are headed and make no hesitations. Some are looking for a friend, some for the Men that they commanded, some for the Soldier that saved their life. Some will be looking for a Family member. Some will look for the name of a Man they never knew, but have learned about during the Run. But ALL OF US will stand here together, to pay honor to their memory, to hold close the sacrifices made, and to dedicate ourselves to Loyalty, Integrity, Duty, and Honor.
There is one last act for our FNGs, those Fine New Guys and Gals. Over the course of the past 10 days, they have formed bonds of friendship and Brotherhood that will stay with them for the rest of their days. For each of them, there has been ONE particular person that has stood out from all the rest. One person that has been a mentor or confidant. One person that seems to embody the very essence of Run For The Wall. The FNG will seek out this person and bestow upon them the honor of turning their FNG badge upside down, signifying that they have completed the Mission and are now one of the “veteran Riders” of our Run For The Wall Family. This simple “right of passage” takes place at the end of our Mission, right HERE at The Wall. There can be no other more fitting place.
We are Run For The Wall, and this is what we do.
It has been my honor to write these few words for you, in the hopes that you can get a little idea of what our Riders go through each year. I want you to know that although this has been a “virtual” Run, each and every story that I have related has actually happened. I have tried to capture the spirit of the Run, but most importantly, to capture the spirit of our Riders. I owe these Men and Women my respect for what they have done, for their dedication to our cause, and for their trust and Friendship. They deserve far-better words than I could ever pen. I thank them all for allowing me to try.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
Midway Route SITREP Author (2020)
If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: