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President’s Message – October 2023

Run for the Wall

With October’s cooling temperatures, at least in the Northeast, comes the changing of the leaves, the departure of the hummingbirds, and the need to get the house and cars ready for the coming winter. While for some this time of year may bring a slight slowdown in certain areas, our dedicated volunteers are hard at work making sure RFTW 2024 will be a resounding success.

I often think of what goes into preparing for each Mission; of how the desire to serve those who served, those who are still serving, those who are no longer with us, drives and motivates us. Each and every volunteer gives of their time and treasure to ensure that we continue to “Ride for those who can’t”. I wish I could offer more than the tip of my hat, but please know that your efforts are greatly appreciated by all.

As many know by now, we will be launching from Ontario again this year, and again, we expect many of our meetings and gatherings will again be at the Elks club. We listened to your AARs and will be making some adjustments to the meeting rooms and services provided at the Elks, but they are warmly opening their facilities to us and again welcoming us with open arms. As Carol continues to finalize our plans, there will be more to follow on this topic.

Several folks have suggested we return to Rancho Cucamonga. I remember staying and launching out of Rancho, and it was a great place for our departure. Unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control dictated we find a new launch site, and Ontario and the Ontario Visitors Center (OVC) stepped up and are also welcoming us with open arms. The OVC recognizes the value and importance of our Mission and does so many things to aid and support us. The OVC is a great organization and an invaluable asset in our efforts!!

As much as I wish we could return to Arlington National Cemetery, that simply isn’t in the works again this year. However, it looks like Carol has secured our ride to Riverside National Cemetery!! Preliminary plans have us staging and departing from the Elks club on Tuesday. This is good news as the Elks are planning on having coffee and breakfast ready prior to our departure. As in the past, participants MUST be registered prior to riding in this event. The RCs were notified on route responsibilities for supporting this effort and are adjusting plans to fit this into the schedule.

As sometimes happens, good news is tempered with some not so good news. As I’m sure everyone is aware, costs are rising across the country, so please be prepared for increased hotel rates, etc., as you work on your plans. The BoD is working on several initiatives to try and alleviate the price increases, but I doubt we will have them in place for RFTW 2024. While most hotels have nationally recognized names and associations with national chains, they are privately owned, with rates set by the franchise owners.  That said, we are working with some of the corporations to try and establish a national rate for our riders.

As we’ve discussed earlier in the year, there have been several changes to the Bylaws and SOPs regarding fundraising activities, use of intellectual property, the Rider Code of Conduct, along with other areas. Your RC and ARC are your primary points of contact for these and similar issues. Please ensure you are communicating with them on any plans that affect their route activities.

As an ending note, I encourage you to support the Mission, support your Route Coordinator, take the time to engage others and talk about our Mission and if you can, volunteer to be a resource for your route as well as a rider. Attend any local RFTW rider support groups and encourage our FNG’s. We need your continued support!!

No one left behind is more than a standard we all live up to. It is a way of life. It is part of our Mission. If you or someone you know find themselves struggling with their mental health, please know you can contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

Let’s remember to keep our focus on the Mission. It is why we ride!

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2023 – CR and Sandbox Road Guard
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message – September 2023

Run for the Wall

And just like that, here it is September already. Registration is NOW OPEN! Contrary to some rumors, registration fees are the same as last year. The BoD is doing everything we can to control costs. If you think about it, on a 10-day route, with registration at $45, that is $4.50 per day. We encourage early registration so that our State Coordinators have accurate numbers to work with when contracting for hotels, planning meals, etc.

Speaking of our State Coordinators, sometimes I don’t think they are given enough credit. I know that during my time as the DC/Arlington coordinator, my work was a continuous cycle year after year. Speaking with some of our other SCs, their work is the same. During my time on the CR staging team, I once counted that we stopped 49 times on our Mission across the country. That we were able to purchase gas, eat a meal, get off our bikes and stretch, have a place to sleep, was all because of our SCs. They do a magnificent job, and we owe them a huge thanks! The SC job is not easy, but all do it so well.

The wife and I were fortunate to be able to travel to New Mexico for the Angel Fire workday/reunion over the Labor Day weekend. Since we moved east back in 2014, it has been that long since we’ve been able to attend. It was so nice to see folks from all the routes in attendance. Since the Angel Fire gathering is mainly about assisting in maintaining the Vietnam Veterans memorial and laying memorial bricks, it was heartwarming to see RFTW riders and leadership taking personal time to perform this vital mission. We laid 526 memorial bricks this year. The participation of several younger children was especially memorable, as their parents and families teach them to honor our past; to remember those who served, many of whom paid the ultimate price. This type of activity is core to the RFTW mission and goals. The team that put the workday/reunion together did a magnificent job. My hat is off to one and all.

Speaking of reunions, the All Riders Reunion in Kerrville, TX is rapidly approaching.  This reunion has been going on for several years and is always well attended. I encourage you to attend if you have the time.  I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.  They do know how to put on a reunion in Texas!!  Click here for more information.

Remember 2023 is the year of Back to Basics. If you are contemplating something, perhaps a fundraiser or using RFTW intellectual property in any form, please run it past your RC to ensure it meets the procedures and policies of RFTW. RFTW is about the Mission; everything else is secondary and the BoD is determined to get us Back to Basics. Yet we seem to be constantly finding misuse of our intellectual property in ways and manners inconsistent with our Mission. We intend to protect our Mission, our name, and the presentation of RFTW, but to do so, we need your help. Approvals for requests for use of our exact replica intellectual property range from the State Coordinator for items like flyers, posters, etc., advertising events that support RFTW; RCs may approve use of exact replica RFTW intellectual property on certain items. Items such as hats, shirts, etc., must be reviewed and approved by the President. Your RC has information on how to submit items for approval.

At the start of the year of Back to Basics, we incorporated mandatory procedures in the SOPs regarding the order of march for the Missing Man Formation (MMF). The MMF symbolizes the very core of our Mission, and the BoD believed it was important to ensure we present this formation consistently across all four routes.  Again, your RC has the details.

Cages that are used to support leadership teams will no longer be able to travel with the pack or with the team they support. This was a subject of considerable discussion during the July Face-to-Face meetings, and all agreed that the mix of motorcycles and cars was becoming a problem. If you are leading a team and you need support from a cage, you will need to ensure they do NOT ride near or among your team.

We are still receiving AARs from the last Run.  Thank you for taking the time to submit your thoughts and ideas.  There have been a couple of questions regarding how AARs are handled.  First, ALL AARs are read by the entire BoD, and are also presented to the RCs for their review and consideration.  Some who submit AARs are contacted, but most are not.  That doesn’t mean your voice isn’t heard.  It is.

But how about you? How are your preparations going? Are you exercising, hydrating? Is your motorcycle ready? How are your tires looking? Are you staying ready for May?

No one left behind is more than a standard we all live up to.  It is a way of life. It is part of our Mission. If you or someone you know find themselves struggling with their mental health, please know you can contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

Let’s remember to keep our focus on the Mission. It is why we ride!

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2023 – CR and Sandbox Road Guard
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message – August 2023

Run for the Wall

Before I get too far into this month’s message, I would like to take a moment to recognize the upcoming departure from the BoD of Jenny Ward. Yes, as hard as it is to believe, Jenny, while continuing to serve on the Central Route, is leaving the BoD. Jenny’s near decade of either direct or indirect service to the BoD and to all routes as our resident CPA and then Treasurer has been an immense help. She has an accountant’s mind and eye and has set up our accounting procedures that will enable us to move into the future with confidence. If you have a moment, perhaps shoot her an email at jenny.ward@rftw.us and thank her for her exceptionally dedicated service to our mission. Jenny, I know we will see you on the Run, but please take comfort in knowing you served RFTW and our veterans with the deliberate dedication they so richly deserve!

We covered a lot of territory in our Face-to-Face in Dallas. One of the prominent things we decided is that RFTW 2024 will focus on Back to Basics. Everyone in attendance agreed that current events and external requirements have drawn our focus away from the basic tasks associated with accomplishing our Mission.  Your RCs will be emphasizing that very focus as we begin planning RFTW 2024. Please take a moment to read, or reread, our Mission statement and reflect the meaning behind the words. It is a powerful statement, and your leadership believes we need to refocus our efforts towards accomplishing what we say we are going to do. You will be hearing more from your RCs on this topic.

As difficult as change is, we have irrefutable data that tells us we need to institute some changes to the way the Mission is accomplished. Midway asked for approval to do an 11-day Run again in 2024. Don presented a compelling presentation during a special Board meeting outlining how the 11-days impacts the veterans, communities, families, and friends along the Midway route. While 2023 was an “experimental” Run, the Board felt there was sufficient compelling evidence, to include comments in AARs from Midway riders, to do it again. There will be changes to our departure ceremony for Midway; however we will not “require” anyone but Midway riders to attend, and it will not detract from the Wednesday departure ceremony.  More to follow as planning continues.

As we work toward getting Back to Basics, you will hear of additional redirection of efforts. We are not taking on any additional missions this year; if someone wants to alter the fundamental accomplishment of a Route by adding or embellishing the Run, they will first have to receive the RCs approval, who then in turn will bring it to the BoD for review and discussion. Again, we were all in agreement that there were too many “side” missions and changes without RC approval that significantly detracted from accomplishing the primary mission. So, if you wish to add to or embellish the Mission on a particular route, you’ll need to run it through the RC first, and well before the Run begins.  Last minute add-ons just before KSU will not be approved. Over the past couple of years, we have seen many of our participants bringing unfavorable attitudes with them. Whether it is an attitude of entitlement or an attitude of “the rules are good for everyone else, but they don’t apply to me in this situation,” or “I can insert a mission into my route without preplanning with my RC,” this needs to stop. There will be no new missions, no new positions, no new operations without prior RC and BoD coordination.

As we look at the demographics of RFTW, it has become glaringly apparent that we need to take a hard look at expectations. There are a couple of studies going on that may alter the face of RFTW. I ask that you keep in mind that we are not looking at the Run blindly; we are consulting with riders, RCs, other leaders as well as folks outside of our organization. Change is difficult in any organization, but if we expect our Run and our Mission to survive, we need to approach adapting our operations to this ever-changing world we live in.

Finally, we are looking at and planning for RFTW 2025. As most of you know, we owe our very existence to a dedicated, determined group of Vietnam Vets who, some 34 years ago, decided to march on Washington DC to participate in a peaceful protest over the treatment of our POWs and MIAs, along with multiple other issues. Recognizing that 2025 will be the 50th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, and the 35th anniversary of RFTW, Run 2025 will be the “Year of the Vietnam Vet”. We will not be dismissing the contributions of our other vets, but instead focusing on those that started what we are today. Again, more to follow. We are hoping that many of our Vietnam Vets will come back in 2025, even if only as Day Riders, so that we can recognize and thank them. RFTW is today what it is due to the care and concern of the “89ers”.

Back to Basics. Back to the RFTW Mission.

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2023 – CR and Sandbox Road Guard
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message – July 2023

Run for the Wall

It seems like yesterday that I was writing about how winter had settled in in south PA.  Now with summer upon us, there are so many outdoor activities to choose from; car shows, fly fishing, festivals supporting our volunteer fire departments, and soon it will be time for the apple harvest festivals.  Hunters are already lining up for their annual deer and elk tags.  Like so much of the country, we are seeing unsettled weather with daily air quality alerts from the wildfires burning in Canada.  We remain busy though, getting plans moving along for next year and beyond.  I hope summer brings peace and happiness to you and yours. July is the month dedicated to celebrating our nation’s independence and freedom.  July 4th, like so many other dates, has a very special meaning for our nation.  I hope you were able to spend some time celebrating our nation’s independence.  The clock continues to countdown; as I write this, we are 310 days out from KSU for Run 2024.

Congratulations to our 2024 RCs, ARCs and RGCs!!  We know you will do your best throughout the year as you plan for RFTW 2024.

All our leaders, including members of the BoD, are non-compensated volunteers.  That sounds simple, but reality shows us it is quite complex.    I guess I am trying to share with you that RFTW, and accomplishing all that goes into an RFTW mission, is quite complex.  That said, the BoD and your volunteer leadership is dedicated to the Mission; we hope you continue to remain so.  We are always looking for better ways of doing business; if you have suggestions, please submit them to one of the board members.

Thank you to all who have and are submitting AARs.  They make a difference.  Each AAR is reviewed by both the BoD and the route leadership.  In reading many of the AAR’s, especially those from FNGs, I’m glad we received so many responses.  While we received a lot of good feedback from many riders, reading the FNG AARs was enlightening.  One thing many FNGs expressed was an appreciation to experience and learn the mission and focus on riding the RFTW way.    FNGs need to experience the camaraderie, the healing, the meeting and making of new friends that go along with riding in the pack.  They need to develop an understanding of “We Ride For Those Who Can’t”.  FNGs, like all riders, need to experience the care and concern our PLs demonstrate, they need to feel the warm embrace of RFTW.  They need to learn the RFTW way.  And we need to continue to ensure that each FNG experiences the Run as they are supposed to do.  That is one of the reasons FNGs are not allowed to participate on special teams.  They need time to learn the RFTW mission and truly experience the healing we bring.

As we review RFTW 2023 and prepare for 2024, we are also looking at RFTW 2025.  We plan on making 2025 a special year; it’s too early to release any details but suffice it to say part of our 2024 Back to Basics planning is in preparation for RFTW 2025.  Stand by for more info.

One aspect we can all assist with is helping our chase trucks.  They perform a great job of helping our riders in the event of a breakdown.  One thing I learned recently is that different brands, and even models, of motorcycles should be strapped to a trailer differently.  If you were to strap a Honda Goldwing in the same way you might strap a Harley, you could cause significant damage to the Goldwing.  It is important for each rider to know and understand how to strap down their bike or trike.  If your bike requires a special strap, please don’t expect our chase trucks to carry that strap.  For example, many models of pre-2018 Goldwing’s require the use of a loop-strap that wraps around the triple-tree.  These loop straps are then connected to the rachet straps.  If you use rachet straps across the handlebars of a Wing, you could break the handlebars.  And it is nearly impossible correctly wrap a rachet strap around the triple tree.  Same issue with the using rachet straps on the crash guards on a Wing.  The crash guards are attached to the Wing using standard bolts instead of hardened bolts.  While this hasn’t been an issue on the Run, there are many reports from Honda owners of the bolts breaking when using rachet straps on the crash guards.  Bottom line:  it is the bike owner’s responsibility to know how to properly strap their bike to the trailer, and if special straps are required, you should have them with you.  Help our chase truck drivers help you!!

Kriss Ross is looking for some assistance.  She was part of the 13 flags carried across the US mission and is missing a piece of luggage and a flag.  In her emails, she stated that she has been in contact with several RFTW riders that say they know the whereabouts of her missing items but have not offered any specific information.  If you happen to have information on the whereabouts of her missing items, please contact her via email at mookiki2@gmail.com.

The announcements for both the Kerrville reunion and the Angel Fire reunion and work weekend are out.  I hope you can participate in one or the other, or perhaps both.

No one left behind is more than a standard we all live up to.  It is a way of life. It is part of our Mission. If you or someone you know find themselves struggling with their mental health, please know you can contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

Let’s remember to keep our focus on the Mission.  It is why we ride!

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2023 – CR and Sandbox Road Guard
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message – June 2023

Run for the Wall

One more night in a hotel and I’ll be home. It is hard to believe that Run 2023 is over. The work of so many people culminating in KSU on Tuesday for Midway, and Wednesday for Central and Southern routes followed by Sandbox route enabled us to carry our mission across the country; to reach out to the thousands of patriots who come out to greet us, those who help feed us and sustain our desire to complete the mission. It lends a whole new meaning to the motto “We Ride For Those Who Can’t”. According to my day counter, there are 347 days until KSU Run 2024. The cycle continues. The After-Action Reports are already coming in; click here if you would like to submit one. Your input matters and will help us make Run 2024 even better.

I had the opportunity to ride both Central and Sandbox this year, working on both routes as a Road Guard. I would like to extend a personal thanks to the RGs who took me under their wing and began what I am sure will be a forever learning session. My mentor (Smoke) was patient and understanding. I learned so much from observing the experienced RGs and asking questions. All the RGs took the time to patiently answer my many questions. It is a fast-paced job that demands attention and quick decision making. Our RGs on all the routes work so hard to ensure the pack moves safely across this great nation of ours. Again, to all who worked with me to start my journey to becoming a good RG, I thank you!! To all the RGs on all the Routes, I thank you. RG is a tough job, and you perform it so well!!

To say that communication and leadership are the glue that binds is an understatement. I had the opportunity each morning to work with a different platoon, to speak with the riders and their leadership, to hear their concerns and to help them understand the subtle nuances of the upcoming day. While the RC is the overall leader of the route, a significant amount of responsibility lies on the shoulders of our platoon leadership. From where I sit, you all did a great job.

I fear that sometimes we get so involved in working our responsibilities that we lose sight of our mission. Each time we passed the Missing Man formation while working our way back up front, the RGs would render a salute. I understand the other route RGs did the same. For that short moment, everything stopped, and we recognized the sacrifice of the missing. We took that moment to pay our respects. I urge you to consider taking part in the Missing Man formation as we prepare for Run 2024. If you stop for a moment and reflect on why RFTW was started, that one formation, that one element, is the reason we ride. It is greater than anyone’s ego; the MMF symbolizes why we ride and should continue to be recognized as such. It is entirely proper that the MMF be a leading element so the public sees the importance we place on its significance within our Mission.

As we begin preparations for Run 2024, think about how you might reach out and encourage more younger riders to come on the Run, even if just for a day. At first glance, our Day Rider program was a success, and I’m hopeful the BoD will continue the program in some form. But we need new riders, we need younger riders. Just think, if 1/4 of our riders this year could bring a new rider to the Run, we would gain almost 250 new riders!

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2023 – CR and Sandbox Road Guard
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message – May 2023

Its MAY!!!!

My countdown clock tells me we are 16 days from KSU.  16 days until we again begin this Mission across our country to remind friends and families of those lost that they and their sacrifice are not forgotten.  16 days until we again begin to reach out to those who cannot ride to remind them that they are not forgotten.  16 days until the plans and scheduling and hard work of thousands of volunteers come to fruition.  We currently have 1181 registered riders on 900 bikes.  Without the support of the thousands of volunteers, completing a Mission of this size would be nearly impossible.  Remember to thank them as we visit their town.  If there is a donation jar at one of the eating locations, remember the hard work they put into providing us with the sustenance we need to complete this journey.  Donations go a long way to ensuring that they support us in years to come.

This year, Midway will be leaving Lot D at 0800 on Tuesday.  While we’ve asked route leadership to attend the send-off, everyone is welcome to attend.  This would be a great opportunity for FNGs to stage, to see what Southern and Central routes will be dealing with Wednesday morning.

We’ve been speaking of getting ourselves and our motorcycles ready for the Run.  Ensuring you have enough meds, hydrating regularly even if you don’t think you need it.  As much as I like my morning coffee, I make sure I always have water with me when I ride.

Speaking of riding, I ask that each and everyone take care on the way to wherever it is you will join the Run.  We are a big family and each of us has friends that reach across all the routes.  Please be careful getting to the starting point, wherever that may be.  We cannot complete this Mission without you.  We need you; our veterans, veteran families and friends need you.  Together, we can make a difference.

The weather across the country has been a bit challenging this year.  Please maintain your situational awareness.  If it looks chancy, it probably is.

Be Safe!!!  I hope to see and meet each and every one of you either in Ontario, D.C., or Marseilles.

Oh, and by the way, yes, it is MAY!!!

Always remember, We Ride For Those Who Can’t.

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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Ontario, CA and Washington DC Update

As we get closer to our arrival in Ontario, we wanted to provide you an update on conditions, expectations, and perhaps even a bit of rumor control regarding the host hotel in D.C.

As you know by now, our intrepid Carol has been working so many different opportunities in Ontario.  Her dedicated efforts led us to a new host hotel, use of the Elks club for a variety of purposes, and of course, the familiar Lot D.

One of the issues we seem to face each year as far back as I remember is construction on the highways and interstates.  Carol and Alan, our Merchandise Director, just last weekend made a trip in and around the area we will be traveling daily.  They asked that I provide a few notes to temper expectations.

Construction on I-10 continues.  While you can use I-10 to travel to and from the host hotel to the Elks Club, Bob Nelson, our Director of Operations, added a map to the Pre-Run Ontario itinerary available on our website by clicking here, that should aid in avoiding the construction on I-10.  However, even that route presents some challenges:

  • Patience rules. Anticipate heavy traffic between the host hotel and the Elks club.
  • As you prepare to make the left turn into the Elks club, there is a very short “landing strip” for vehicles to line up waiting to make the turn.
  • Be especially aware of dips in the road. They may not be much for a cage but could cause some problems if you are not riding aware.
  • Allow some extra time.
  • Elks Club members will be directing traffic and parking at the Club. There will be limited parking for cars and trucks, and NO trailers are allowed in the club parking lot.  Carol is working to secure on-street parking.
  • There should be sufficient parking for motorcycles in the Elks Club parking lot. Please follow the directions of the volunteers directing traffic and parking.
  • The merchandise and hydration trailers will be positioned at the host hotel.

And now for rumor control.

I am sure many of you have heard the rumor that the host hotel in D.C. is being torn down.  That is nothing more than a rumor at this point.  There is a move afoot to rezone the area in and around the host hotel, but the Arlington County zoning commission has delayed the meeting on more than one occasion and doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to meet.  There are numerous infrastructure issues to be addressed regarding rezoning that area.  IF, and right now that is a big if, the rezoning is approved, then the host hotel might be affected and IHG and the franchise owner will have to decide what lies in their future.  Could the property be sold?  Of course, but for now, there are no plans to do so.  Gail, our intrepid D.C./Arlington Coordinator is all over this topic.  Please help us stop the rumor.  Gail will provide us with updates as things occur, and we will of course notify you.

Bad weather seems to be playing out across many of the areas of our country.  Please take a moment to review your route out to CA, and ensure you are aware of necessary actions should you encounter bad weather enroute.  Our RCs are reviewing their plans; please review yours.  We want to see you arrive safely in Ontario!!!

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message April 2023

As I sit down to write this, we are 47 days from KSU.  The planning and preparations never stop. RFTW is like a perpetual motion machine.  I know our state coordinators and all our route leadership are working hard to complete plans. The work of the thousands of supporting volunteers is nearly complete.  Your BoD is still at it, focusing not only on this year’s Run, but already in the planning stages for Run XXXIV.

I often hear that things were simpler back in the day.  I remember back in my childhood when life was so much easier, and things just weren’t so complicated.  But then I grew up and took on new responsibilities, careers, being held accountable.  It made me wonder if RFTW was simpler, easier, better able to keep focus on the Mission in the days of its origins.  So, I called Gunny Gregory and asked how he viewed the changes over the years.  One thing that came out of our conversation was that in May 1988, he and the other founders had the foresight to incorporate Run For The Wall, and it still is a corporation to this day.  They realized the potential for the Run to get bigger, more complex, perhaps though never thinking we would have four routes with over 1000 riders.  But they did realize the complexity, the personal liability, the need to protect the integrity of the Mission that comes with organizing something like the Run.  As we talked, he shared how complex things were even on the first Run.  If nothing else, it has become more complex.

Even as we find ourselves facing complex issues, we work hard to find a way to meet the demands of today and still retain Mission focus. One of those complex issues is using electronic funds transfers during fund raising activities. One would think that the use of PayPal, Venmo, Zelle, and other similar apps would be straightforward.  Unfortunately, that is not quite so.  Some of these apps do not allow transfers to corporate banking accounts; they are designed for person-to-person transfers. And of course, RFTW accounts are by necessity corporate accounts. Then we throw in the IRS rules for funds accountability along with the fact that, as a corporation, we cannot allow use of personal bank accounts, and now we have an even bigger issue to get our arms around.  Zelle is beginning to allow funds transfers from your personal account to a corporate account (if your bank is a Zelle-affiliated bank), but even then, there are some limitations.  So, our Treasurer and Communications directors worked in concert with our bank, (Bank of America) to set up a means for allowing RFTW fund raisers to take money electronically.  And using the Donate button on our website is still an option!!  Guidance was sent out to all RCs and ARCs, so if you have any questions, please contact your RC/ARC.  Please know that this is not the last time you will be hearing of this.  The use of electronic banking for fund raising activities involving corporations continues to evolve.  Our Treasurer is pursuing other electronic avenues as they too enter the corporate environment.

Our Bylaws require that the BoD protect RFTW intellectual property, our Brand.  The current bylaws require permission from the BoD for use of our trademark(s) by other businesses and organizations.  Many of the earlier permissions are outdated.  So we released further interim guidance to our RC/ARCs with the request they forward it to their team members as necessary.  We have no intention of interfering with anyone wishing to use our Brand when doing so is in the best interests of RFTW.  But at the same time, we intend to protect our Brand, and we need your assistance.  If you know of someone (or an organization) using the RFTW Brand, be it on a t-shirt or other item sold to support the Run, even if it is seemingly innocuous, please ask that they reach out to me via email at President@rftw.us.  We want to encourage use of the RFTW Brand while still keeping control over how it is used and presented.  Your RC/ARCs have the full details.

In February, we sent out a standardized message for use when contacting news media, civic organizations, etc., announcing our arrival.  Below is that message.  I encourage you to copy and paste it into an email and get it out.  Let’s work together to notify the nation that we are coming to your community and that We Ride For Those Who Can’t.

CUT LINE

Run For The Wall (RFTW), a veteran’s support organization, will be coming through ENTER LOCATION HERE on ENTER DATE/TIME HERE on our way to ENTER EITHER WASHINGTON D.C. OR MARSEILLES, IL. This is the 33rd year RFTW has conducted its mission of promoting healing among all veterans and their families and friends, calling for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel around the world. This mission is supported by thousands of citizens from communities like yours who come out to greet us, who provide donated gas and oftentimes food, and, most importantly, to demonstrate their patriotism and support.

As we work our way across America, whether from California to D.C or D.C. to Marseilles, IL., we visit towns and communities, veteran organizations like the VFW and American Legion, VA Centers and hospitals, schools, Gold Star families, and civic organizations to help spread the word. We need your help to promote the healing of those who have answered our nations call; to help remind our legislators that we need the accountability that was promised; and most importantly, we need to NEVER FORGET those who sacrificed all for us.

We cannot continue this mission without your support and assistance in getting the word out! Our motto is “We Ride For Those Who Can’t”. That all-encompassing motto includes Veterans and Patriots from all walks of life – with your help, we can reach more people who may need a personal connection or who wish to show their support.

We’d love to have you come out to meet or join us on ENTER DATE AND TIME HERE. We would love to see you as we work our way across this great country of ours.  If you cannot make it, please visit our website at RFTW.US.

We look forward to seeing you!

CUT LINE

Day Rider Registration – The new online Day Rider Registration process is working well with over 20 people so far taking advantage of the reduced fee for short term participation.  Keep in mind that the Day Rider may participate in all RFTW activities at and between up to three consecutive overnight locations (which includes endpoint cities Ontario, DC, and Marseilles) with up to 2 full days on the road with the pack.  If after those 2 days you’d like to continue on with the Run, (be aware – the urge will be strong!) your check-in team on the route will be able to help you extend to a full registration.  Either way, you’ll still be joining the RFTW family and will be welcome to be a part of the Mission.

But how about you? How are your preparations going? Are you exercising, hydrating? Have you checked your meds list to ensure you have a sufficient supply for the duration of the Run?  Is your motorcycle ready? How are your tires looking?  Have you taken a few longer rides to get your mind and body prepped?  Have you made all your overnight reservations?

No one left behind is more than a standard we all live up to.  It is a way of life. It is part of our Mission. If you or someone you know find themselves struggling with their mental health, please know you can contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

Let’s remember to keep our focus on the Mission.  It is why we ride!

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message March 2023

We have several Run family members that are facing life-changing events; I ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers.  Let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are FAMILY. That we care. NO ONE LEFT BEHIND.

RFTW teams are working hard to put the final touches on Run XXXIII.  May is just around the corner, and we are already working on next year.  While we are reaching out to several nationwide hotel chains to see if we can negotiate a room rate across the country for next year, our SCs are scrambling to tie up last minute details for this year’s Run.  Many riders are working on prepping themselves for the Run.  Riding this mission takes a lot out of you and requires attention and pre-ride preparation so one can safely complete the mission.  WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO GET READY FOR MAY???

We are reaching out to other veteran-centric organizations to spread the word about the Run.  We are working diligently to attract riders of all wars and conflicts so that our MISSION and goals continue to resonate across our landscape.  As our rider demographics adjust to the ages of our older warriors, we need to ensure our younger warriors know and understand that we look forward to them joining us and carrying on the MISSION.

February was quite the month.  It seemed like we were facing something new each day.  And it wasn’t only us; nearly everyone I spoke with was experiencing a full spectrum of challenges.  Perseverance, determination, communication, teamwork, focus on the goal – yep it works.  It is a bit like what we face each year on the Run.  Day 1 we’re charged up, ready to face the road, ready to face those challenges that may be lying in wait, heat, rain, snow, tornadoes.  By Day 3, we may be getting a bit weary.  But we work through it.  Our family composition changes as we welcome day-riders nearly every day.  The dynamics of the Run changes, often by the hour.  But we work through it as a team, as a family, to complete the MISSIONNO ONE LEFT BEHIND.

As we worked our way through having to shut down the store, one of our major sources of income; as we worked through not having a merchandise lead for Midway, as we received feedback from deservedly frustrated customers, we on the BoD communicated.  We communicated inside and outside the BoD.  We wanted to communicate the truth and stop rumors.  Rumors are hurtful and do nothing to improve a situation.  They only create and cause tension, and we can all do with less tension.  The BoD is working to communicate across all boundaries.  A decision made in merchandise affects our marketing team. That same decision impacts our finances, so we bring in our treasurer.  We were posting updates on social media, so it affected our communications team.  It most certainly affected our customers, so we communicated with each affected customer individually.  But we did not make these decisions or moves in the dark or without input from our other team members.  When I was assigned to headquarters positions, we often spoke about “vertical columns of excellence”.  We would experience the challenges caused by another directorate or division that affected our area, our AOR (area of responsibility) if you will; issues we were never consulted on or brought in so we could have input.  It caused frustration, delays, and our bosses we sometimes caught off-guard.  Vertical columns of excellence.  Yeah, a team may produce good work in a vacuum, but if they don’t consider the impacts across the spectrum, they become a “vertical column of excellence”.  The RFTW team is committed to avoiding vertical columns of excellence.

Fortunately, our RCs and team leaders understand the need to communicate effectively.  Each RC is conducting planning meetings that involve team leads across their AOR.  The RC depends on each team leader to communicate effectively with their team, and across to other teams.  We are getting down to the wire.  As I write this, my calendar says 79 days to KSU.  I know the RCs are feeling the crunch, the reality of May and all it brings.  Yet they are making the critical decisions RCs must make; they are receiving input from their teams; the team leads are listening to input from leadership and team members across their AOR.  To use an Army term, the route teams are “prepping the battlefield”.  They are making plans to conduct their part of this MISSION, respecting our goals, our mission statement, our priorities.  Run XXXIII is shaping up and it is happening!!!

As we go through the year, there are dates that carry significant meaning to our riders and our MISSION.  March 20th, 2023 (some will say March 19th) is the 20th anniversary of the start of Iraqi Freedom, as the US and coalition forces began the move to oust Saddam Hussein and take down the Iraqi government.  20 years.  March 29th, 2023 is the 48th anniversary of the day the last combat troops left Vietnam.  May 12th – 15th, 2023 is the 48th anniversary of Battle of Koh Tang.  48 years.  Anniversary’s that are 28 years apart, yet both eras impacted RFTW and many of our participants.  Different generations, different circumstances forever linked by commonality of purpose; to answer the call of our country.

RFTW recently partnered with the 50th Anniversary of the Vietnam War, a special commission dedicated to recognizing the contributions of our Vietnam vets.  In recognition of this commemoration and anniversaries, we are working on something special for our Vietnam Vets this year, and while this year’s ceremony in D.C. occurs while we are prepping to leave Ontario (May 11-13), we believe it important that we partner with this extraordinary event and commission.  To learn more, click here.

On Vietnam Veterans Day, Wednesday, March 29, 2023, Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum will offer free admission for Vietnam Veterans and their immediate families. Museum staff will also welcome each veteran home throughout the day by pinning them with a Department of Defense Vietnam War Veteran lapel pin.  Visit www.patriotspoint.org for more information about Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum and its Vietnam Veterans Day events.  Perhaps, if you are close, you might be able to attend.

Before there was “Maverick” there was a real Top Gun.  Capt. Williams came to RFTW Ontario prior to KSU in 2019. Royce helped us with the Naval ceremony honoring the new Sand Box route.  There has been a long-time push to give this man official recognition for his Korean War combat accomplishments. Many thought the Medal of Honor was in the bag for him, but it recently happened that the Navy Cross was ultimately (and officially) awarded.  The MOH needs two witnesses, but by the time the fight began all his wingman were heading back to the ship with mechanical issues. Only one wingman was left to see his heroic efforts.  Read about Capt. Williams heroic actions here:  Former US Pilot Royce Williams receives Navy Cross (nypost.com)

RTM!!

Is it May yet?

TurkeyJohn “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member

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President’s Message February 2023

February in South Central PA is not a real good time to be riding a motorcycle but is a great time to be indoors getting ready for May.  I am now two months into my Run exercise routine, I’ve been working on prepping my motorcycle, and of course, with home ownership comes all the indoor things to do that I put off last year.  Speaking of getting ready, what are you doing to prepare?  As I write this, we are 104 days to KSU. May is getting close!!  I urge you to take the time to go over the myriad of details associated with riding this year’s Mission. Don’t forget to look at your prescription meds and ensure you will have a sufficient supply to get you through the Run!!

On Monday May 15th @ 1900 hrs., we have a unique opportunity to see the movie Courage, a 1-hour movie about POWs in WWII and Vietnam. I had the opportunity to preview the movie and it is quite moving. The Elks are supplying an evening meal at a modest price.  Drinks, but no food, will be allowed in the room.  There will only be 300 seats available, so you might want to get there early.

For those Midway riders – do you remember these folks?

Their documentary covering Run for the Wall is scheduled to be released on February 4th @ 6 p.m. EST.  Filmed by Joffrey & Michele Mason, professional filmmakers from Atlanta, GA, it helps us tell a very compelling story.

In addition to the documentary, the couple graciously consented to providing RFTW footage we can use for promotional purposes.  They are thinking of coming back next year to do more filming for RFTW, perhaps a documentary that covers all 4 routes.  More to follow.

Bugs, our Chairman and Acting Risk Management/Registration Director, recently announced a special initiative targeting Day Riders registration fees for Run XXXIII.  In his announcement, Bugs explained how those that are only going to participate for up to two days can register at special rates and still experience all the aspects of the Run.  Day Riders will still need to register at evening or morning sites to ensure they attend the required briefings and so the PLs can integrate them into the platoon.  As we all understand so well, it is about the Mission, and if we can include some that may not have been able to participate, then we are truly opening our doors to all we can.  The Day Rider fee idea was recently brought to us by a rider, and we weren’t sure we could institute the change for registration this year.  But Bugs and Boots were able to make the necessary adjustments to the registration process and here we go!!

HOT ITEM!!  Jerry Wilkins, RC for Midway Route, is looking for a merchandise lead.  We thought we might have one, and then life reared its ugly head.  If you are looking for a way to contribute, especially if you were thinking about doing the Run in a truck, contact Jerry at jerry.wilkins@rftw.us and see if you might be a good fit.  You will need a minimum ½-ton truck with a 13,400 lb. max capacity hitch designed for weight distribution, 2×2 hitch receiver, 7-pin light plug, brake controller mounted in truck, valid driver’s license, truck registration, and vehicle insurance good throughout the Run period.  You will also need towing insurance. You pick up the trailer in Ontario, follow the Midway route to DC, serve as merchandise team lead (sell RFTW merchandise) along the way, and return the trailer to CA. All fuel expenses during the Run are paid by the BOD, and you will have use of debit card to pay for fuel along the way.

If you are interested in serving, we recently announced two Board openings.  We are developing a 5-year strategic plan and we need folks that can take a hard look at how we do business and suggest new ways where appropriate.  We have plans to conduct a study covering our merchandise processes, as well as the challenging job of risk management and registration coordination. Board members do NOT receive any form of wage compensation – we too are all volunteers.  We do, however, reimburse travel expenses associated with attending our Face-to-face meetings.  If you are interested, please review the open position descriptions, and submit a resume outlining your qualifications.  Send your resume to todd.taylor@rftw.us.

IS IT MAY YET??

John “Turkey” Staub
President, RFTW, Inc.
2011- CR FNG
2012 – CR Participant
2013 – CR Staging Team
2014 – 2015 – CR Staging Team Ass’t. Lead
2016-2017 – CR Staging Team Lead
2022 – CR Platoon Coordinator
2020 – Present – RFTW BoD member