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President’s Message, July 2020

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

The Board of Directors and Route Coordinators met after Midway’s All Routes Reunion making this a busy month for those who attended both events. The Midway Reunion was a great time attended by many riders. The pictures this month reflect the good attendance during the Tennessee Reunion. All three pictures were taken the first day during a lunch stop near Franklin, Tennessee.

This lunch stop was at a park where Subway sandwiches were waiting for the riders. Due to Covid-19 restrictions on limited crowds in restaurants, this picnic lunch was necessary and fun. Above Ken “Six String” Dugas is enjoying the ride. He and a team that featured Ron King, Ed Butler and Gina Cutrer, hosted a great event culminating in a presentation of donations to tornado victims of the Cookeville, Tenn. area, and a tremendous fireworks show. Check out Ken’s route coordinator message here.

While on the Tennessee Reunion ride, we learned the Angel Fire, N.M. Reunion planned for Labor Day was cancelled, due to an order from the New Mexico governor. Sad news. As of July 2, Cowboy said the Kerrville, Tex., Reunion will be a go as long as the YO (hotel/convention center) is open. Click here to read Cowboy’s updates.

Later in July the Board met and discussed how each route was doing in their planning process for RFTW 2021. Each route reported that planning was going well, and they are all contacting the businesses that support them.

As most of you know most businesses have suffered enormous losses due to the lockout this spring and the flare up seen this summer. Reports from the Small Business Administration this week indicated that 1.8 million small businesses have close or filed for bankruptcies.

We are moving forward assuring those who have served us over the years that we will be supporting them in 2021.

Merchandise Director Ray Brammer reminded the BOD that 2020 merchandise is still on sale at 50 percent off and free delivery (for orders over $50) for the rest of the year. Ray told us that the riders have participated in huge numbers since RFTW 2020 was cancelled. Ray wants you all to know how much he and the rest of the BOD appreciates your support. Check out the merchandise tab soon because some have already sold out.

Risk Management Director, Diane McKee discussed with the board dates for opening RFTW 2021 Registration. After a short discussion it was decided to open on August 1, 2020. For those folks who registered for the 2020 RFTW and chose to turn over your registration for 2021 you do not have to do anything further unless, for some reason, you cannot make the 2021 RFTW. We will need to know about any cancellations so our Route Coordinators have an accurate number of riders. If you have not registered for the Sandbox Route, there are special instructions on the Sandbox Tab of how to contact RC Billy “Bugs’ Dunlap to be placed on “waiting list”.

Our meeting ended sadly when Central Route, RC Tom Miller announced that long time riders and former Board of Director, John King passed away on July 6th.  John King and his wife, Elle have supported RFTW for a very long time and was a great friend to hundreds of riders. John was a kind and soft-spoken man who lived to help his fellow man.

His experience with RFTW was legendary and if asked for advice he would kindly give to anyone. Several years ago, this writer, while eating lunch with John, asked him several questions that I knew would help our current BOD with some history. John smiled and very softly told me we were on the right path with the issue and that he had experienced a similar problem while on the board. The conversation was enlightening in many ways and I will always count John King as a very good friend and mentor. Details of a memorial service are pending and when I get the details, I will pass it along.

The family has said that if you wish to make a donation, please send a check to Michael G. Yazzie-King Scholarship, c/o Eve’s Fund, PO Box 3592, Newport, RI 02840-0301, in memory of John and Ela’s son Michael. Their daughter Jessica has posted additional information on Facebook. Rest in peace, John.

Is It May Yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President

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President’s Message, June 2020

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

Usually in the month of June I am writing about how the four routes did on RFTW 2020! I miss the preliminary information we normally get and the great stories I enjoy sharing with you all. So, since our journey was a virtual one this year I can say by the calls and emails I have received from riders you all found a few smiles and laughs and some tears in the nostalgia of the Virtual RFTW 2020.

During the end of May I did receive calls from riders who saw the damage done to the World War II and Lincoln Memorials and feared the Vietnam Memorial Wall was damaged, too. I was at a loss to answer but must confess I had the same fear. I called John Staub, our Washington DC State Coordinator, who in turn asked his Park Service Police contacts if the “Wall” had been damaged during the riots. The Park Service Police said the “Wall” was not damaged or defaced and starting on Tuesday, June 2 National Guard troops would begin providing security for the Vietnam Wall and many others until the riots end. Moreover, we heard from the folks at Arlington National Cemetery that our wreath-laying request was granted for 2021.

In last month’s message I discussed some RFTW financial issues with you while laying out the problem we have with 2020 pins. Once again you all came through and responded in a big way. BOD Merchandise Director Ray Brammer’s big sales on pins was a big hit with you all. Now, as we approach the 4th of July, I think Ray may have in mind a surprise that you shoppers might find encouraging. Just keep an eye on the RFTW store in the coming days.

One more item before I close that I want to mention that most folks seldom hear about. RFTW every year receives water and food item donations from PepsiCo and Nestle’s that sustains RFTW riders all across the country—keeping everyone hydrated and snack happy every day of the run on most of our routes. The person who is responsible for securing all these donations and the one who makes sure they are distributed to the routes is our California State Coordinator Carol Olmstead. Carol also receives a big hand up from our M-25 chaplains. I’ve worked with Carol for many years and watched her help RFTW riders and supporters with the heart of a servant.

Carol Olmstead, photo by Jim “Hoofer” McCrain

I affectionally refer to Carol as the original “Energizer Bunny.” She makes important things happen for a whole bunch of people including all the events in Ontario prior to our departure.

Now, if that were not enough, she also runs the Southern Route’s merchandise trailer sales all the way. In 2021 Carol will handle the merchandise sales for the Sandbox Route, too. So, you ask, “But what happened to all the food and hydration that was donated for the 2020 RFTW?” Much of it would expire or be impractical to store until May 2021.

Given the postponement this year Carol found many folks throughout the country who are and were in need of these items. She has made sure that all the donations have been sent to folks in need. Many of these food stocks and hydration pallets were sent to our friends on the Navajo Reservations in New Mexico. COVID-19 has hit this area of the nation exceptionally hard and their needs were never in question. In fact, the city of Gallup, N.M. was entirely closed off due to an exceptionally hot outbreak. Great work, Carol, we appreciate everything you do!

Connie and I are heading to Tennessee for the All-Routes Reunion July 2-4. Ken “Six String” Dugas and his team have raised a lot of money and will make some special presentations at Cookeville for tornado relief. If you are so inclined to donate you may send a check to RFTW BOD Treasurer Ken Ward noting the donation is for “Cookeville Tornado Relief”– about 5 or 6 veteran homes have been identified as in big need.  Looking forward to seeing some RFTW family on this reunion. Hope you have plans to make it to Tennessee, Angel Fire, N.M. and/or Kerrville, Tex., and hope to see you at one or more of the reunions! Check out the route hubs on the website for more information.

Is It May Yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President

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President’s Message

President’s Message:

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

I hope as we wrap up the “Virtual Run For The Wall” you all found some comfort in all the videos and pictures. From the feedback I have received and the number of hits on the website it was welcomed in all quarters. I want to thank RFTW BOD communications director Nick Hentges, webmaster Ted Kapner, Sitrep writers Jean Gault CR, Jim McCrain MR and Patti Brogan SR/SB for an outstanding job in making the “Virtual RFTW” happen.

I suspect there are many of you who would like some info on how this all ends for RFTW 2020. As you know we have continued a legacy of placing a plaque each year at the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Obviously, this year the “Mission Completed” part did not occur, however today, May 23, at Approximately 1230 a plaque was placed at the apex of the Wall to honor this mission “…on behalf of all RFTW riders and supporters.” John Staub, our DC coordinator, and James “Gunny” Gregory, founder, were invited to conduct the final portion of RFTW 2020.

For those who would have ridden on the Sandbox look for the posts from Billie Dunlop as they head to Marseilles, Ill., via another Virtual RFTW Sandbox Route.   

It’s been awhile since I wrote about RFTW without a camera and the associated props. After the videos and the emails promoting RFTW merchandise our family responded with vigor. Thank you all for supporting RFTW in a big way. We are hoping the sales remain steady throughout the summer so I’ll be mentioning them from time to time. Right now, we are flush with pins resulting in great sales on this item.

In a normal year we would be asking routes to return pins that were left over and, in some cases, folks just showed up with bags of left-over pins. Frankly pins have always been a way for RFTW route staff to have a good will offering to our supporters on our ten-day journey to Washington and Marseilles. If we take a big loss this year it will be on these pins. I understand they are a small item but when we buy 30,000 or more it becomes a big problem. So, if I can ask our family, one more time, to purchase our heavily discounted pins we would be grateful. (https://rftw.us/run-for-the-wall-merchandise-shop/)There will plenty of opportunities this summer and fall to pass out our “good will” offerings to everyone you meet at the reunions and other summer outings. Ray has also started the 50 percent off Memorial Day sales on merchandise which should make your shopping much easier.

In other business the board met last week and elected John Staub, our Washington DC coordinator, to the Board of Directors. John lives in central Pennsylvania and recently retired as assistant fire chief of the Army. John will be taking over responsibilities of operations director and will begin his new position July 1 as operations director Doug Lyvere completes his final term of office. Doug has faithfully served RFTW for six years as a member of the board and a long-time road guard for the Southern Route. Doug will continue his road guard duties and we wish him the very best as he moves forward.

Now, that the COVID-19 virus seems to be waning we all must look ahead to the hidden consequences of this virus. As you all know we are all supported by our state coordinators who arrange stops at both commercial entities as well as schools/service-related organizations. The consequences of a national shutdown can and will cause RFTW to be vigilant of who is still in business and those who did not survive the draconian shut down. Good intelligence from our riders will be important in the coming days to keep your route leadership briefed on these closures so adjustments can be made for 2021. If you find one our wonderful vendors struggling, please make an effort to support them once they open up. This matters both for our friends and Run For Wall 2021.

On behalf of the Board of Directors and route coordinators we want you all to know how grateful we are for your support. Stand fast – this hidden enemy will be gone soon as we all work to get America on her feet again.

Is it May 2021 yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
President Run For The Wall, Inc

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FROM THE PRESIDENT, RUN FOR THE WALL, INC.

March 20, 2020

On behalf of the Board of Directors, it is my sad task to announce that we are cancelling RFTW XXXII scheduled for May 2020, because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  This action reflects the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, with the concurrence of all four Route Coordinators.  We felt it necessary to make this decision now so that riders will have sufficient time to take whatever actions may be needed, such as cancelling reservations, without incurring any penalties.  We also felt it was necessary so that our state coordinators could begin notifying the communities and organizations who support us as soon as possible.

The Board of Directors did not reach this decision lightly.  Each of us agonized over it and came to this conclusion with the utmost reluctance. We ask for your understanding and support.  Rest assured, our next regular Board meeting on April 9th will mark the beginning of our planning to resume THE MISSION in 2021.

From each of us on the Board, and from your Route Coordinators, thank you!

Les Williams
President, RFTW Board of Directors

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Statement Regarding COVID-19

For Immediate Release:

Statement of the Board of Directors Re: Corona Virus (COVID-19)

We are still two months out from the start of RFTW XXXII. All of us have many questions about the COVID-19 virus, and precious few answers. This is a very fluid situation. By the time we’re ready to go Kick Stands Up the virus may well have run its course, much like the normal flu viruses we’ve dealt with every year. At the other end of the spectrum, it’s possible we could be confined in quarantine zones throughout the country and subject to severe travel restrictions. Most likely, we’ll find ourselves somewhere in between. As of now, we simply have no way of knowing.

The Board of Directors is following the situation closely. At this time, we are still planning to conduct the Run as we always have. As a precaution, we have asked the Route Coordinators to develop contingency plans in the event any of our normal visits (schools, VA hospitals, community gatherings, etc.) are closed to us. We will continue to monitor events and make decisions as circumstances dictate. These will be announced to our ridership in a timely manner. In the meantime, we ask each of you to…

  • Be patient and remain calm.
  • Avoid speculating on social media… unsubstantiated rumors are not helpful.
  • Plan for the Run to be conducted as usual, unless you hear otherwise from the Board of Directors or your Route Coordinators.
  • Keep your plans flexible and be prepared for the unexpected.

For the Board of Directors,

Les Williams, President

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President’s Message – March 2020

Run for the Wall - We Ride For Those Who Can't

President’s Message:

Included in this message:

  • Itinerary Wrap-up
  • Website pre-registration closing soon
  • Keep animals on Run leashed
  • Volunteers needed for DC Korean War Memorial washing
  • Rolling to Remember info

March is finally upon us but not in the sense of “the Ides of March are upon you” quote that is so often used at this time of the year. This reference is from the Roman calendar specifically March 15 when the Romans were known to “settle debts.” Julius Caesar became a victim that day when a large group of Roman politicians used swords and not words to quiet the Roman Emperor. Soon thereafter Shakespeare penned the play, “Julius Caesar” in 1599 when a soothsayer warned the Emperor of danger. March is also the beginning of spring and host of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.

March is also great time to get back on the road where you hone your skills because we are only 70-ish days to KSU. I hope those of you who have recruited FNGs take the time to explain how we ride and invite them to ride with you for an early experience. If you are an FNG, I encourage you to seek out as much information as you can concerning how we ride on this mission. Once again please check out our “New Participant” tab on the website and read the article, “10 Days in May” – you will find it a wonderful way to learn about our mission and how it is done. Moreover, our FNG briefing this year will be held at 1300-1430 on Tuesday, May 12 outside at Lot D which is next door to the Gateway, the host hotel. This is a mandatory meeting for FNGs and a great time to learn how we ride. This FNG briefing will be route specific so look for your route’s signage when you enter Lot D. At 1500 we will roll into an “All Routes Safety Briefing” in Lot D which is mandatory for everyone riding RFTW 2020. (You can find this information on the Ontario 2020 Itinerary—check back often for updates.)

Just a few words now on our BOD face-to- face meeting conducted last month – a meeting that is mandated by our bylaws and arguably one of our most important meetings of the year.

This meeting included all of the board members, the route coordinators and assistant RCs.

We firmed up the planning process for the 2020 Run For the Wall, along with other BOD business.

A few topics discussed:

  • Route itineraries were to be submitted by the RCs before Mar. 1 so proof copies can be printed. Once the proof copies are ready, they will be reviewed for accuracy and then sent back for printing. Those now posted on the website are preliminary and subject to change. The RCs hustle to get them out so riders can plot their trips, but last-minute changes always occur. Check back often for updates.
  • Pre-registration on the website will end at midnight April 30. If you are planning on going with us, pre- register. The more accurate our numbers, the better the leaders’ planning. After April 30th riders can register in Ontario or other overnight stops noted on route itineraries.
  • A large number of animals are showing up on all four routes. Last year there many complaints of dogs that were seen without a leash and in some cases seen running into a crowd of children. After a lengthy period of debate, the board determined that the liability associated with unleashed animals on RFTW was too high and needed to be stopped. The board voted that all animals on the RFTW must be on leash and controlled by someone holding the leash at all times. RCs will have the authority to enforce this policy up to and including removing the owner from the mission. The policy will be included in the itinerary booklet for all routes for your review should you have an animal with you.

As recently as two days ago we received a mission from the National Park Service approving RFTW to wash the Korean War Memorial on Sunday morning. To complete this mission we will need 30 volunteers. The Southern Route raised 10 volunteers on Monday. Now, I would like to get 10 volunteers each from the Central and Midway Routes to complete our work force. If you are riding on these two routes and want to join us cleaning up the Korean War Memorial please email your Route Coordinators. We will take the first 10 who contact their Route Coordinator from each route and maybe a few more. We will stage in front of the Holiday Inn host hotel, Sunday at 0530 and KSU at 0600. Work will begin at 0630 and expect to achieve mission success around 0800. We will have Road Guard support to escort the platoon to the Korean War Memorial and I’m hoping they will join us in the entire mission.

Speaking of the Korean War Memorial, many of you may remember our RFTW 2019 guest of honor, Captain Royce Williams USN (ret) who visited with many of our riders at the Gateway Hotel. Ross was a highly decorated Naval Aviator during the Korean war and was credited with shooting down 4 Russian MIG’s in one mission. I think this would be a great way to honor Royce by having a big turnout for this mission. Royce is fine and doing well and I think this will bring a smile to his face,  Google: https://homelandmagazine.com/?p=1994 for more information.

Moreover, we have received the details from the AMVETs regarding the demonstration “Rolling to Remember” also on Sunday. If you have signed up for this event the staging is set at 0600 with KSU at 0630 in the underground area of the Holiday Inn. The riders will be escorted to the Rolling to Remember staging area by RFTW Road Guards. Run For the Wall will have priority parking at the Pentagon parking area starting at approximately 0700. If you are on Facebook and plan to participate, please  go to our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/RunForTheWall/?view_public_for=280980122905 and participate in the Poll so we can get a good headcount for AMVETS for their planning purposes.

Is it May yet? Respectfully submitted,

Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD
President

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President’s Message – January 2020

While thinking about the time frame between now and kickstands up on May 13, I am astonished how fast time has gone by since our mission complete in May 2019.

January is normally the time we all begin thinking about getting our bikes in good running order. Most do this in January or February to beat the spring rush at dealerships or repair shops. Tires are an item you want take a good look at, as well as any curious noises you hear after starting up from a winter rest.  Last year I left town with a very curious electrical problem that seemingly was causing the oil pressure gauge to go lower than normal. I put a new sending unit on it and it increased but not to where it needed to be, while other electrical anomalies popped up.

My Harley did fine from Colorado to California holding an okay pressure so, patting myself on the back for doing a good job, I promptly stopped worrying. Later, on the Midway Route in Forrest City, Ark., the battery went dead and all the checks were not good! I missed two days of the Run riding around in a chase vehicle looking for a dealer who could install a new stator. (Thanks, Chase and Chaplain Corps! You went way above and beyond!) I guess the phrase from former President Ronald Reagan, “Trust but verify,” applies to this Harley.

We finally drove into Boswell’s Country Road Harley Davidson in Cookeville, Tenn., in front of the pack. This dealership—like most along all our routes—made our bike (and a few others) a priority. That afternoon and night we actually brought them eight bikes. Amazingly it was a Monday but the service manager called in extra help, allowing eight riders to continue the mission.

The next thing that needs attention is our own health. Run For The Wall is a grueling 10-day mission that takes a lot of stamina both physically and mentally. Starting to get in shape now will pay great dividends in May. If you are on any medications, it is prudent to discuss with your physician whether these meds could interfere with your driving skills in any way.

After the holidays is a great time to start walking off those extra pounds you put on. I already have started to peel off the five pounds I put on over Christmas and hope to reach my goal by end of February.

Walking 4-5 miles daily or swimming is a great way to improve your physical and mental strength. Here in Colorado I walk a lot and often have to dress like Nanook of the North to accomplish these goals but it seems to help make the RFTW mission a better experience for me and those around me.

These are just a few of the things that help you prepare for the mission of your life. Next month I’ll discuss a few of the other things you can do to help your planning process. Meanwhile, for those new to RFTW and those who want a refresher, check our New Participants tab on the website for many good tips on preparing for this mission.

If you have not seen the new RFTW updated website please go to rftw.us and check it out. There are many improvements and I am sure you will find it easier to use while enjoying the new videos. I would like to thank Central Route road guard Ted Kapner for the update and many donated hours to RFTW. Also, thanks to BOD Communications Director Nick Hentges for his help in the transition process.

One more thing…

Many have asked about the AMVETs Rolling To Remember Run event that will take place on Sunday, May 24. We have not received any details yet but we are prepared to provide RFTW escorts early Sunday morning for those who would like to participate. After talking to their executive director, it appears this will be a very well managed event. I encourage RFTW riders to consider participating in the first Rolling To Remember Run. If you would like to read more about this and see the new patch check out https://amvets.org/rolling-to-remember-demonstration-ride/.

Is it May yet?

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President

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President’s Message – December 2019

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone this holiday season.

Connie and I, and the Board of Directors wish you all the very best during this holiday season and a very happy New Year.

We are looking forward to the 2020 Run For The Wall and working hard to make the 32nd RFTW the safest and most memorable mission for all our riders.

The planning process has produced several changes on all the routes including the first operational mission of our new Sandbox Route. Once again, I urge all riders to stay current by reading the monthly messages your Route Coordinators post on the website and RFTW Facebook. Moreover, I suggest that our new riders read the article “Ten Days in May” in the New Participant website hub. This day-by-day story of what happens on our 10-day mission will answer many, if not all, of your questions.It is this time of the year that we start getting inquiries about when the hotel list will be available. These lists much be checked for accuracy and other details before we publish them. Most of that has been completed and the Hotel Lists will be published at midnight January 1, 2020 on the website under each route hub. All the routes have three or more hotels at each overnight stop while four hotels will be available in Ontario and Arlington. So, there’s ample room for everyone who wants to use these hotels. We only ask you be polite and patient with the clerks who are trying to help you. Typically, we hear only a few complaints from hotels when some of our folks choose to lose their tempers which lets us know that the vast majority of folks are civil. Please help us on this issue because hotels who are confronted with bad attitudes respond by refusing to block rooms for us the following year or raise prices so high we have to go elsewhere. Remember: You always have the freedom to use other hotels at the overnight stops.

We are keeping an open line of communications with the American Veterans, better known as AMVETS, and their planning process for a new demonstration in Washington. They have secured a permit from the National Park Service for a rally from May 22-24, 2020. The AMVET demonstration will be known as “Rolling to Remember.” AMVET Executive Director Joe Chenelly told me the 2020 events will be held “to make the nation, especially our voters, aware of what is happening , what isn’t happening and what needs to happen to address our POWs, our MIAs, and our veterans and active-duty service members who are dying by suicide.”

Joe also told me that this will be a mission and not a party. RFTW has pledged to participate in the demonstration on Sunday and help where we can. I will continue to inform our riders of the details in these messages over the next few months.

Once again thank you all for making our mission – your mission.

148 days until May 1

Respectfully submitted,
Les “Easy” Williams, President
Run for the Wall Board of Directors