Day 0 Tuesday, May 16, 2017
What a great start today with the trip to Riverside National Cemetery led by Jim “The Mayor” Frost, a detachment of RFTW Road Guards and many Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) of the Ontario Police Department. We all lined up on the east side of the host hotel. After a technical and somewhat tongue-in-cheek brief from The Mayor and Pledge of Allegiance, we mounted up and followed our escort to I-60. LEO blocking intersections as we went.
We arrived at RNC and headed to the Medal of Honor Memorial area where Pete Young the Director of Riverside National Cemetery spoke to us briefly. He mentioned that when several planned sections of the cemetery are completed, RNC will be the largest National Cemetery exceeding Arlington. Currently RNC is the busiest National Cemetery in the United States with an average of 35 internments per day. Last year there were more than 8500 internments. Gene introduced Louis Lee Millett Jr who spoke briefly about the memorial upon which his father’s name appears. Next Gene Goldware spoke in detail about the Medal of Honor Memorial design and told many stories of the heroes whose names line the walls of the Memorial. Next we headed to the Veteran’s Memorial and the POW/MIA. First I walked through the Killed in Action Memorial depicting a fallen hero with his face covered by his rain poncho and his helmet at his feet, one arm hanging down; a touching and moving image. I think this memorial gets overlooked a lot, but should be recognized and respected. Next time you are at RNC pause to remember our fallen. RNC is a beautiful cemetery and it is run efficiently; sometimes managing as many as 80 or more burials per day. The cost of freedom is high. I wonder if we realize the tremendous price paid for the liberty we enjoy.
I talked with Louis Millett Jr a moment. I’ve described the memorial in detail before, best to see it for yourselves. Plan to be in the group that visits RNC next year. You’ll be glad you didn’t miss it. Louis mentioned some ways his design of the POW Monument was changed to make the wording of the monument a little more politically correct. Ask him about this sometime. He has some interesting stories for sure.
I talked with my friend Joe “Gump” Hudson for a while at the POW monument. Being a POW himself he connects with this monument like no one I know. I’ve heard several stories he told me about being a POW. He is a great guy with a load he carries that few know of. Ask him sometime about his connection to Lori Piestewa and Jessica Lynch. Gump, Jerry (photographer on the Southern Route) and I rode back together, with them following me. I did okay until getting off I-15 onto I-10 when I nearly missed the interchange. Sorry guys.
Around 1530 the 3rd Marine Air Wing Band played for us. I thought they were great; very precise. Directions from their conductor were followed perfectly. If I listened carefully I could pick out individual players, but they all played in harmony and did a magnificent job. When the anthem of our service was played we stood and saluted. I’m a Navy guy, but I think the band played the Marine Corps anthem the best.
The meet and greet dinner was typical burgers and dogs like previous years. Hey, what do you want for free? I thought it was great, especially the cookies. The lines moved fast enough and tables were prepared for all of us to sit and enjoy a dinner together. Well most of us. Some had to hold up the walls. Following dinner, Harry “Attitude” Steelman spoke to us and presented many plaques to contributors that make RFTW possible. Mike Cash was honored for his many contributions to Run For The wall and to the Combat Bike Build. Since today is his birthday, we sang Happy Birthday to Mike. Les “Easy” Williams spoke to us about Harry leaving RFTW after many years of dedicated service and indicated he would be stepping up to take on the responsibility for RFTW operations as President of the BOD. Thanks Les. You get my vote Easy. A song was sung with guitar accompaniment for Vietnam Veterans that never received a welcome home; a great song. I think the words are on the Forum if you’re interested in looking them up. John “Hard Charger” Barker presented several plaques for those that donated to help with the Combat Heroes Bike Build. This year Ken Kraft, an injured Iraq soldier was honored with the completed custom Harley Road Glide and trailer. The Harley was made into a “one off” trike completed by a couple of different designers and fabricators working together to complete this radical ride for Ken. Ken indicated he would be going on the Run next year with us. Pick the Midway Route Ken!
Day 0 is in the books. Tomorrow The Run begins. We’ve been waiting a long time.
Please email me with your comments or with anything you think needs correction or that needs inclusion.
“We Ride For Those That Can’t” and like Hard Charger says sometimes “We help those that can’t ride, ride for themselves”.
**** Number of names on The Wall for California (5575) for Ontario, CA (14) ****
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / Midway Route SitRep Writer / firstname.lastname@example.org