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Sandbox Route RC Newsletter – December 2022

Welcome to the Sandbox Route RC Newsletter for December 2022.

Visit our RFTW Sandbox Route web page here.

From a warm and NOT cold and snowy Pearland, Texas. I want to wish the entire Run for the Wall family a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. This time of the year finds most of us spending time with family, friends and loved ones and is something I look forward to every year. Hopefully you have the majority of your shopping and holiday preparations completed! Also, happy Birthday to all of the other December babies like myself!

The month of December is not just one of the longest months of the year, but many years, it’s the month with the longest and coldest nights. While many of us are looking forward to a well-deserved winter break, many others are struggling with their own mental health. From holiday stress to winter-related anxieties and negative thoughts, December and the holiday season as a whole is a time many struggle the most.  There are many things we can do to help our mental health such as staying active, getting plenty of daylight, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, eating healthy, avoiding alcohol, and even volunteering!

Many of our fellow veterans and friends fall prey to their own mental health year-round, but the holiday season can amplify those issues. If you or someone you know find themselves struggling, please know “I’ve got your 6” and you can contact me at any time if you wish. You can also contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

If you know of any other mental health hotlines or contacts, please share that information in a comment for all of us to see, use, and share!

Most importantly, please stay safe and enjoy the holidays. We really do want to see you in May!

Operation Just Cause

Operation Just Cause was the name given to the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989 for the purposes of removing General Manuel Noriega from power and extraditing him to the U.S. to face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. Foreign relations between Panama and the United States had grown increasingly strained during the 1980s. Following the death of Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos in 1981, Lieut. Col. Manuel Noriega, who had participated in the military coup that paved the way for Torrijos’s rise to power, consolidated military and then civilian power in the Central American country. For decades Noriega had served as a paid informant for the Central Intelligence Agency. He also was a supporter of the contras, the counterrevolutionary force that sought to overthrow Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government. It became known, however, that, in addition to monopolizing power in Panama, Noriega had lined his pockets by smuggling illegal drugs into the United States. Moreover, in the mid-1980s, allegations grew regarding Noriega’s involvement in the brutal murder of an outspoken opponent, Hugo Spadafora. In 1988 Noriega was indicted on drug trafficking charges by a U.S. grand jury. The administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Noriega a deal: if he agreed to relinquish power and depart Panama, charges against him would be dropped. Noriega wanted no part of the bargain.

Despite the presence of international observers, Noriega annulled the results of the May 1989 Panamanian presidential election when it appeared that it had been won by a wide margin by Guillermo Endara, the opposition civilian candidate. In addition to overturning the results of the election and installing a former classmate, Francisco Rodríguez, as a puppet president, Noriega had Endara and his supporters beaten in the streets. U.S. Pres. George Bush dispatched 2,000 troops to U.S. bases in the Panama Canal Zone. In the meantime, having survived a coup attempt in October, Noriega persuaded the Panamanian National Assembly to name him “maximum leader” on December 15, 1989. At his behest the Assembly also declared that a state of war existed between Panama and the United States. Within days an unarmed U.S. Marine officer dressed in civilian clothes was ambushed and killed by Panamanian soldiers.

On December 21, 1989, President George H.W. Bush reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to Panama to protect the lives of nearly 30,000 American citizens living in Panama, protect the integrity of the Panama Canal, help establish democracy, neutralize the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF), and bring General Noriega to justice. The total number of U.S. troops, 27,000, was more than double that of the PDF, and they had the advantage of additional air support—in the first 13 hours, the Air Force dropped 422 bombs on Panama. The U.S. gained control in just five days. On December 24, the true winner of the May 1989 elections, Guillermo Endara, was officially named president and the PDF was dissolved. By February 13, 1990, all U.S. forces were officially withdrawn from Panama.

Twenty-three brave U.S. soldiers were killed; in addition, it was estimated that 200 to 300 Panamanian combatants (soldiers and members of paramilitaries) and more than 300 civilians were killed in Operation Just Cause. Hundreds on both sides were wounded.

These 23 service members lost during Operation Just Cause are engraved on the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.

Don’t let them die a second death, say their names, say them out loud. Never forget!

This is why we ride!

Remember the Run for the Wall Mission – “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call 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 all over the world.”

CURRENT SANDBOX ROUTE STATUS

The Sandbox Route Leadership team continues its monthly meetings and continues to work on updating and improving the Sandbox Route. Logistics of stops is still ongoing in an effort to improve the overall Route. Our State Coordinators continue to do excellent work on getting our stops confirmed and have done an excellent job preparing our overnight stops and hotels and camping accommodations.

HOTEL LIST

The 2023 Sandbox Route Hotel list should be posted on the RFTW.us website January 1, 2023. The list will include hotel names, date, and contact details. Please be polite and patient when you contact the hotels to make your reservations. We want to preserve the great relationships our state coordinators have developed with them.

SANDBOX LEADERSHIP

Let’s meet some more of our new Sandbox Team Leaders! Our Advance Team Leader is Anthony “Goombah” Cercone and his Asst. Advance Team lead is Mikal “No Drama” Brevig. I want to thank them both for volunteering for this challenging position and their work to keep our group safe! I’d also like to introduce our Mission Man Coordinator Ray “Cornman” Cornmesser. Ray will be working to find volunteers and eligible riders to join us in the Missing Man formation.

VOLUNTEER’s – yes, we still need you!

The Sandbox Route continues to be on the lookout for volunteers for all positions. If you have questions about any specific team, please reach out to those Team Leaders to get some insight on what each team does and how you can help! Remember, the same volunteer form is used for all the Routes, just select the Route or Routes you are volunteering for and the position(s) you are interested in! If you volunteer on one of the 3 cross country routes, please consider bringing your experience to the Sandbox Route!

Volunteer Link on the RFTW web page is here

And remember, “Nothing Great is ever accomplished alone!” Let’s work together to make the Sandbox Route great! Together we will Continue the Mission safely and successfully!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

Sandbox Route Coordinator

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Sandbox Route RC Newsletter – November 2022

Sandbox Route RC Newsletter

Middle East Conflicts Wall
Welcome to the Sandbox Route RC Newsletter for November 2022.

Operation Urgent Fury

The situation in the Caribbean nation Grenada had been of concern to American officials since 1979, when the leftist Maurice Bishop seized power and began to develop close relations with Cuba. In 1983, another Marxist, Bernard Coard, had Bishop assassinated and took control of the government. Protesters clashed with the new government and violence escalated. There were approximately 1,000 Americans in Grenada at the time, many of them students at the island’s medical school. 

Citing the danger to the U.S. citizens in Grenada, Operation Urgent Fury was hastily thrown together; U.S. President Ronald Reagan ordered U.S. troops to the island, where they soon found themselves facing opposition from Grenadan armed forces and groups of Cuban military engineers, who were there to repair and expand the island’s airport. The new airport under construction in Grenada was deemed a transfer point for weapons destined for Latin American revolutionaries. Marines and paratroopers, supported by air strikes, led the invasion on October 25, 1983. Fighting was fierce, especially around the airport defended by the Cubans—and, unexpectedly for the U.S., the Grenadan militia put up a stout fight. U.S. helicopter gunships, naval gunfire, and reinforcements were deployed until, after three days, resistance ended. U.S. losses totaled 19 dead and 150 wounded out of approximately 7,000 who participated in the invasion. November 21, 1983, marked the official end of the Grenada campaign.

These 19 servicemembers lost during Operation Urgent Fury are engraved on the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.

This is why we ride! 

Remember the Run for the Wall Mission – “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call 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 all over the world.” 

 

Registration

Registration for all 2023 RFTW Routes opened on September 11, 2022. Based on current registration numbers, the Sandbox Route is already up to 147 registered riders and participants including 18 FNG’s! Remember, the Early Bird Registration time frame began September 11, 2022, and runs through January 31, 2023. Beginning February 1, 2023, through April 30, 2023, we will enter the Regular Registration time frame and the registration fee increases for all routes; so be sure to register early and save some money!!!

Register Here

After registering, even returning riders are encouraged to go to the Rider Guidelines and familiarize themselves with the RFTW rider responsibilities. These Guidelines also include a standard of conduct expected of RFTW participants as well as RFTW Fueling guidelines and a RFTW Safety Briefing.

Rider Guidelines

If you have questions after reviewing the Rider Guidelines, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions page to find the answers to many of your questions about registration and general questions about preparing for the Run for the Wall.

Frequently Asked Questions

And finally, please take the opportunity prior to departing home in May to download and complete the Emergency Information Form (in duplicate if possible). A completed Emergency Information Form is a requirement while participating in RFTW; but is also a great way to assist emergency responders in case of any emergency while traveling to and from RFTW.

Emergency Information Form

CURRENT SANDBOX ROUTE STATUS

The Sandbox Route Leadership team is meeting monthly and continues to work on updating and improving the Sandbox Route. We are still working out the logistics of changing some stops, in an effort to improve the overall Route. Our State Coordinators continue to do excellent work on getting our stops confirmed.  

SANDBOX LEADERSHIP

Let’s meet some of our new Team Leaders! Our Staging Team Leader is Steve “Depends” Berniklau and our Fuel Team Leader is Steven “Poppop” Rishel.  Both “Steve’s” are doing a great job planning out each of our stops, but they need your help! We need volunteers to join both the Staging and Fueling Teams, no experience needed! Those of you interested in assisting on the Sandbox Route by volunteering to be a member of the Staging or Fueling Teams please go to the volunteer link below and submit your volunteer form!

VOLUNTEER’s – Raise your Hands!

The Sandbox Route is continuously looking for volunteers for all positions. If you have questions about any specific team, please reach out to those Team Leaders to get some insight on what each team does and how you can help! Remember, the same volunteer form is used for all the Routes, just select the Route or Routes you are volunteering for and the position(s) you are interested in! If you volunteer on one of the 3 cross country routes, please consider bringing your experience to the Sandbox Route!

Volunteer Link

And remember, “Nothing Great is ever accomplished alone!” Let’s work together to make the Sandbox Route great! Together we will Continue the Mission safely and successfully!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

Sandbox Route Coordinator

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Sandbox Route RC Newsletter – October 2022

Sandbox Route RC Newsletter
Middle East Conflicts Wall

Greetings from Pearland, Texas and welcome to the Sandbox Route RC Newsletter for October 2022.

With most riders now safely home following the All Riders Reunion in Kerrville, Texas, I want to send out a big thank you to Sam and Cowboy and everyone who worked to make the reunion a success. A special thanks to Robin “Wildcat” Conques Perry and her annual presentation of the Quilts of Valor to RFTW Combat Veterans for their service. Overall, I think a great time was had by all and we even managed to honor at least one rider with a new road name! Congratulations Lederhosen!

Why do we Ride? Let’s remember that even after our official military withdrawal we continue to lose 22 a day! Not everyone who returns home, returns home 100%. Many of our brothers and sisters who have served, suffer from depression after leaving the service. In 2021, research found that 30,177 active-duty personnel and veterans who served in the military after 9/11 have died by suicide – compared to the 7,057 service members killed in combat in those same 20 years. That is, military suicide rates are four times higher than deaths that occurred during military operations. An even newer study in September 2022, suggests that number is nearly twice that due to uncounted drug overdose suicides. This is unacceptable and we all need to do a better job looking out for our fellow veterans after they come home. What’s the first part of our mission statement? To “promote the healing among ALL veterans and their friends and family!” This is also one of the reasons why RFTW has developed the Sandbox Route. We need to look after our military brothers and sisters, and we need to do everything we can to stop the 22!

This is why we ride!

SAVE THE DATES!

Registration for RFTW Sandbox Route 2023 along with the 3 cross country routes officially opened on September 11, 2022. To date, the Sandbox Route has approximately 97 participants registered which puts us ahead of any other route! Let’s keep that momentum going and get registered!

https://rftw.us/rftw-registration/
Lurch Rolling

CURRENT SANDBOX ROUTE STATUS

The Sandbox Route Leadership team continues to work on updating and improving the Sandbox Route. We are working to update our itinerary and look forward to making changes that will improve and create a safer environment for all riders and participants. These changes take time, and we will announce those changes in upcoming newsletters once we have them completed.

We will still be departing DC on May 28, 2023, and arriving in Marseilles, IL on May 30, 2023, completing our Wall to Wall mission.

VOLUNTEER’s – We need you!

Interested in volunteering for a position on the Sandbox Route? Please go the RFTW.us site and fill out a Volunteer Sign-up form now and help make this Route successful.

https://rftw.us/volunteer-sign-up/

Nothing Great is ever accomplished alone! Let’s work together to make the Sandbox Route great! Together we will Continue the Mission safely and successfully!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

Sandbox Route Coordinator

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Sandbox Route RC Newsletter – September 2022

Sandbox Route RC Newsletter

Greetings Sandbox Route riders from a hot, humid, Pearland, Texas, and welcome to the Sandbox Route RC Newsletter for September 2022.

As we all know, the Sandbox Route culminates at the Middle East Conflicts Wall which is dedicated to commemorating the U.S. service men and women who have lost their lives in worldwide conflicts since the 1967 attack on the U.S.S. Liberty in the Eastern Mediterranean. The names on the wall represent our fallen heroes from 1967 to present at various locations such as Panama, Beirut, the Balkans, Grenada, Somalia, Haiti, USS Cole, USS Stark, terrorist attacks in Italy, Greece, Scotland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Fort Hood, Oklahoma City, Chattanooga, and the current conflicts in the Middle East.

This is a month that we have all come to remember, and one that changed generations similar to that infamous day in December 1944. The attacks on September 11, 2001, changed the world and the way of life for many Americans and their families. Names of those military members who lost their lives in the attack on the Pentagon are included on the Middle East Conflicts Wall. Those horrible attacks in 2001 subsequently sent our military into a war that continues to claim Sandbox Era warriors even after our official military withdrawal. We will not forget, we will not give up, and we will continue to support our brothers and sisters in and out of uniform and their families and friends. We will continue to say their names!

This is why we ride!

Middle East Conflicts Wall

Does everyone remember our Mission? – “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their  families and friends, to call 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 all over the world.” 

Why do I ask? Because National POW/MIA Recognition Day is September 16, 2022.

“National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Since then, each subsequent president has issued an annual proclamation commemorating the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. A national-level ceremony is held on every National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Traditionally held at the Pentagon, it features members from each branch of military service and participation from high-ranking officials. In addition to the national-level ceremony, observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools, and veterans’ facilities. No matter where they are held, these National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies share the common purpose of honoring those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing.

Since 1999, the POW/MIA Accounting community has created a poster commemorating National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The 2022 edition of the poster continues to honor this tradition.”

This is why we ride!

SAVE THE DATES!

Registration for all 2023 RFTW Routes is set to open on September 11, 2022. The registration process has change slightly for 2023 so be sure to give yourself a little bit of extra time while registering on-line!

https://rftw.us/rftw-registration/

The ALL RFTW Riders, past, present, and future, Reunion in Kerrville, TX is coming up at the end of the month. The Kerrville Riders Reunion is taking place from Wednesday September 21 through Sunday September 25, 2022. Go to the RFTW Facebook group or the TX Riders Reunion Facebook pages for up-to-date information, planning, rides, auctions, and more! Thank you to Roger “Cowboy” Mead and Sharann “Sam” Mead for all their hard work and dedication putting this together year after year! I hope to see many of you there!

CURRENT SANDBOX ROUTE STATUS

The Sandbox Route Leadership team continues to work on updating and improving the Sandbox Route through the evaluation of each of our stops to see where we can improve and create a safer environment for all riders and participants. This includes the possibility of combining some stops, eliminating unnecessary or extra stops, and limiting our stops and staging as much as reasonably possible. Potential changes may assist in removing some of the backroads, city, and single lane riding we endured last year.

SANDBOX LEADERSHIP

As Sandbox Route Coordinator, I am honored to announce our Road Guard Captain for 2023 will be Ken “Catfish” Ward. Ken has been associated with RFTW many years and served as the Central Route, Route Coordinator in 2014 and then served as a member of the BOD from 2014-2021. Ken is dedicated to the mission and shares in the vision of making this route great and SAFE! Safety is a primary concern for us all and everyone’s’ safety will be a strong factor in the decisions being made concerning the Route.

Most, if not all, of the primary leadership positions have been selected. Those Team Leaders will be working to identify assistants and volunteers to fill out and complete their respective teams in the coming months. Did you volunteer yet? Your Sandbox Route Leadership team can be viewed on the RFTW Sandbox Route page should you have any questions.

VOLUNTEER’s – Raise your Hands!

I encourage anyone who would like to volunteer to serve in any leadership or volunteer position on the Sandbox Route to go the RFTW.us site and fill out a Volunteer Sign-up form. Even if the position you are interested in volunteering for appears to be filled already, please fill out a volunteer form anyway. Our goal is to fill as many Sandbox Route positions with Sandbox era veterans and volunteers and to provide them with adequate training by experienced volunteers in those positions. The same volunteer form is used for all the Routes, just select the Route or Routes you are volunteering for and the position(s) you are interested in!

https://rftw.us/volunteer-sign-up/

And remember, “Nothing Great is ever accomplished alone!” Let’s work together to make the Sandbox Route great! Together we will Continue the Mission safely and successfully!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

Sandbox Route Coordinator

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Sandbox Route RC Newsletter – August 2022

Sandbox Route RC Newsletter

Welcome to the Sandbox Route and my first Route Coordinator’s Newsletter.

I am Darin “Lurch” Koch, and I am honored to have been selected as the next Route Coordinator (RC) for the Sandbox Route in 2023. I am an Air Force Veteran who proudly served during Desert Storm/Desert Shield and during the Kosovo conflict. My wife and passenger, Tina “Hand-Off” Koch is also a Desert Storm/Desert Shield Army Veteran. I have served as a Tail Gunner, Asst. Platoon Leader, and as a Platoon Leader on both the Southern Route and on the Sandbox Inaugural Run. Focus on the Mission and safety of the riders is and always will be my priority.

The BOD has approved and appointed Cornell “Thumper” Penn as the SB Assistant Route Coordinator and together we share the same commitment to focus on the Mission of Run for the Wall – “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call 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 all over the world.”

I originally learned about the run from a co-worker and Marine Veteran Jim Wright in 2008. He was a prior run participant and easily convinced me to ride with him and Jeff “Breeze” Starks, all the way (ATW) as an FNG in 2008. I never knew how much this “ride” would change my life. Sadly, we lost Jeff in 2021, and we recently lost Jim in late July 2022.

We all have our own reasons for riding and participating in the mission. My wife and I have returned every year since her FNG year in 2016 and we both have our own personal reasons for riding. My reason for riding extends generations, all the way back to multiple great uncles serving in WWII with one, US Army PFC 1st Class Bernard F. Thalken of the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, paying the ultimate sacrifice on July 31, 1943, while serving in Europe fighting for the liberation of Sicily. Uncle “Benny” never returned home to his family in Nebraska and is buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy. Never have truer words been spoken, than when one states – FREEDOM ISN’T FREE!

Even today, our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, family and friends still serving in the military continue the fight for freedom around the world and many in hostile environments. Our mission is to remember ALL those veterans, families and friends who have lost their loved ones while they served in the military or that lost their lives battling from PTSD or other medical conditions derived from their service. This is why I ride!

The Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marceilles, IL is dedicated to those who have lost their lives while fighting in wars and battles across the Middle East from 1979 – the present. As of 2014, there were approximately 6,900 names on the panels. Today, there are more than 8,000 names on those panels and in August 2022, 13 additional fallen heroes were added to the panels. This is why I ride!

The review of the 2022 Sandbox Route and AAR’s has already begun as well as the planning and coordination for 2023. We are looking for volunteers to step up into leadership roles in all positions. If you have any interest in volunteering for any position or job, please go to the RFTW.us site and fill out a Volunteer Sign-up form. The same form is used for all the Routes, just select the Route or Routes you are volunteering for!

Remember, “Nothing Great is ever accomplished alone!” Let’s work together to make the Sandbox Route great! Together we will Continue the Mission safely and successfully!

I would like to personally acknowledge and thank a few individuals for their friendship, support, guidance, and mentoring throughout my years as a leadership volunteer on RFTW. Thank you, Billie “Bugs” Dunlap, Robert “Old School” Reavis, Roger “Cowboy” Mead, Kristine “EYES” Wood, Vic “Big Vic” Killion, and Bob “Captain America” Nelson, and Mike “Bonehead” Kyzer.

Darin “Lurch” Koch
Sandbox Route Coordinator

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RFTW SandBox RC Newsletter – RFTW SandBox RC Newsletter – JUNE 2022 – Bugs’ Last RC Newsletter

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Greetings from Weatherford, Texas!

I would not have believed on 01 JUL 2018 when I became a Route Coordinator the first time that my last Newsletter wouldn’t be published for another 4 years – yet here we are.  It’s one of life’s mysteries.  But as the Admiral said, “The end is inevitable.”  But not till tomorrow.  So, I’ll spend my last night as an RC here at the keyboard, speaking to my RFTW and SandBox Route family one more time. 

Some notes about the Route…

Country Roads – Please raise your hand if you read or heard me say many times over the past three years that we’d be traversing some Pennsylvania country roads on this route.  Although some didn’t get the message, everyone did a great job on the crossing as we completed not only those segments, but every segment with no accidents and no major incidents.  That is a testament to your ability to adapt and to safely and carefully control yourselves and your bikes through challenging conditions.  I am very proud of all our riders who made that happen.

Flight 93 National Memorial – Some folks who talked to the Park Rangers were told they didn’t know we were coming.  What they didn’t tell you (because apparently, they didn’t know) was that your SandBox Planning Team had months earlier attained a coordinated and fully approved Special Use Permit with the National Park Service for staging in front of the Visitor Center and a formal Ceremony at the Memorial Plaza at the south end.  The NPS never coordinated that permit with the on-site Rangers, which resulted in our dismal parking situation.  Now you know.

Long Days – As advertised!  I know that many folks were too spent to attend the after-dinner events on days 1 & 2, and I certainly don’t blame you.  However, those that still had the energy were treated to some of the most memorable ceremonies of the Route.  From the Morning Ceremony in St Clairsville that started our day to the Gold Star Family Memorial Ceremony in Lafayette, this will stand out as one of the most meaningful Memorial Days I have ever experienced.  But the thing that made it really special was experiencing those events with you, my RFTW Family.

Gold Star Family Recognition – We made the honor and recognition of Gold Star Families along the SandBox Route one of our highest Mission priorities.  Although I would like to have done more, and I had a few personal missteps along the way, I believe we as a Route were very successful in that regard.  “Say their names!” was a resounding chant each day as we stood to honor their memory by saying and hearing the names of those who made that ultimate sacrifice.  Those were some of the most special and heart-rending moments along the way.

Now for some Admin…

Leadership Rocker Patches – If you are due one and didn’t get it, please contact your Team Leader to see if they have yours.  If your Team Lead doesn’t have it, they’ll collect your name, and we will ensure you get one.

After Action Reports – Please keep them coming!  I have seen some very insightful comments with constructive ideas for improving our Route.  Those are the ones that your 2023 Leadership team will find the most valuable for their planning and preparation activities next year.

Now for some Recognition…

I spoke at length on the Route of how our Team Leads worked hard over the past three years to make this Route possible.  Then on the Road, they and their teams took all that Planning and Preparation and turned it into Performance to create this epic event.  I won’t try to list them all here (see the complete list at https://rftw.us/sandbox-contacts/) but there is one group that I failed to recognize on the Route, but would like to highlight now as they usually work in the background, and no one knows.  Those are our State Coordinators!

Our State Coordinators are AWESOME!!!  Gail Dippel (DC), Sam Warner (MD), Tom Schultz (PA), David Cain (WV), Brandon McCray (OH), Bryan Courtney (IN), & Ed Samuel (IL).  These folks and their assistants are responsible for coordination of all our stops and the support along the way and you all know we had some fantastic stops.  Thank you all for the hard work, the extra meetings, taking my occasional urgent calls, and for generally creating the framework for our successful Run.  Y’ALL ARE THE BEST!!!

The Mission…

The RFTW Mission Statement provides the base framework for what we do on all the 4 Routes.  The various Routes have their own ways of doing things in serving the Mission and one of our challenges on this melded Route was to bring the best of them all together to bear the load of our Mission.  As we go forward, I challenge all SandBox Route participants to keep in mind that all of us serve the same Mission with “All The Heart”, even if you’re used to seeing things done differently on another route.  Whether it’s Promoting Healing, Calling for an Accounting, Honoring the Memory, or Supporting our Military, all four tenets of that Mission Statement are important and will remain the focus and the binding tie between all our Routes.

Four Years Before the Mast

About an hour to midnight here in Texas now and time to wrap this up.  Whether across 9 years in command in the Navy, several years in civilian management or 4 years as an RC, my intended role has always been that of a Servant Leader promoting a Covenant of Trust with folks on my teams to know that my primary task is to support their efforts in making our organization successful and meaningful.  Another of my goals as a leader is to continually search for my replacement.  Despite the circumstances that led to his selection, I have full faith and confidence that Darin “Lurch” Koch will take up that mantle of leadership and be the SandBox Route Coordinator that this Route and that this Mission needs to be successful as we continue into the next 30 years.

It has been one of the greatest honors of my military and motorcycling experiences to have served with the great Patriots and Veterans of Run For The Wall as a Route Coordinator – I’m doubly honored to have served there twice on two separate Routes.  Tomorrow I step into a new role with new responsibilities but the same goal – to sustain our Run, support our Riders and most importantly, CONTINUE THE MISSION!

I look forward to seeing you all next May! Until then…

Remember, all roads lead to all roads so wherever you go, TOGETHER WE RIDE!

WALL 2 WALL!

Bugs out!

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RFTW XXXII Sand Box Route Coordinator
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RFTW SandBox RC Newsletter – JUNE 2022 – New RC Edition

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Greetings from Weatherford, Texas!

I would guess that most SandBox Route riders have been home about 3 weeks, but I know several are still on the road living their best life! I understand that! Even now, I’m looking forward to my next Run and spending those days with my RFTW family to experience the great revival and reunion as we kick off the Mission next May. But there is much to do before that day arrives. I’ll be writing one last RC Newsletter before I am officially relieved on 01 JUL, but the news of the next selected SandBox Route RC cannot wait until then…

Newly Confirmed SandBox Route RC for RFTW XXXIII

I am very honored to announce to you the selection and Board confirmation of Darin “Lurch” Koch as your next SandBox Route Coordinator. Lurch was a 2008 RFTW FNG and a steadfast All The Way Rider and Leadership Team member for the past 6 Runs.  He is a USAF SandBox Era Veteran who is all in for this Mission and fully ready to lead our Run to greater success. Lurch’s wife Tina, aka “Hand Off” is a US Army SandBox Era Combat Veteran and is all in for support to our Run and its Mission.

As I’ve said many times in Newsletters, Zoom meetings and in person, the SandBox Recon made introductions and the SandBox Route Inaugural Run built relationships. Now those relationships must be nurtured to grow by those who will tend to them in the years to come. Lurch has already started building his Leadership Team and is looking for Mission oriented RFTW Riders who put that Mission before route identity and share his dedication to see Run For The Wall and the SandBox Route take the next steps into the next 30 years of WALL 2 WALL support for the Mission. If that is you, watch for his call for volunteers in the next few weeks and then answer that call to support this new and growing Route.

Counting Down the Days

So let me be the first to note that we are only 340 days and a wake up away from KSU out of DC on 28 MAY 2023 – it’s never too early to start getting ready!

Remember, all roads lead to all roads so wherever you go, TOGETHER WE RIDE!

WALL 2 WALL!

Bugs out!

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RFTW XXXII Sand Box Route Coordinator
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RFTW SandBox RC Newsletter – MAY 2022 – IT’S MAY Edition

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Greetings from Weatherford, Texas!

It’s finally MAY!!!  It feels like it hasn’t been May in three years, but it’s finally here!  We’ve all shared a long journey of triumph and frustration as many of us have enjoyed reunions and gatherings that were always enjoyable but never quite made up for the Mission as we execute it on the Run in May.  But the long dry spell is over, and we’ll soon be gathering in Ontario and then again in DC to kick off the long-awaited Routes. 

SandBox Route Leadership Team

I cannot possibly bring enough praise and gratitude to the Leadership Team that has been in constant contact with me and their respective counterparts for almost three years now preparing for this Mission.  Early on we spoke about the 3 P’s that formed the basic steps to success – Plan, Prepare, Perform.  What this team naturally did to further that success was apply 2 more P’s – Patience & Perseverance.  For the last 3 years, this team has faithfully sought and developed new and innovative ways to improve on the Plan that was ready the year before and pursued original and more effective ways to Prepare for its execution.  Now that it’s May, we are all locked and loaded to Perform.  I have asked a lot of this Team and they have always answered the call.  When we kick off this mission, from Arlington on 29 MAY, you’ll see for yourself!

SandBox Registration

SandBox Registration is closed (for now).  Our current registration stands at 271 Bikes (4 spots left to fill), 9 Trucks and Autos (including Support Vehicles) and 325 People.  Over the past seven months since registration started on 11 SEP 2021, I have processed 144 people through StandBy List, all of whom were provided opportunity to register.  Surprisingly 34 did not follow through to do so.  For those who may still wish to join the SandBox Route, I will resume registration after arriving in Ontario and we have a better understanding of where we stand with actual checked-in participants.

StandBy List… All that being said – IT IS STILL NOT TOO LATE!  Unfortunately, there will inevitably be no-shows as folks have last minute conflicts that may prevent them from joining us.  I will still be filling open spots later this month drawing from e-mails sent to me at sb-registration@rftw.us.  To get on that list, send an e-mail there telling me two things – 1) Your full name, and 2) Whether you are registering as a motorcycle rider, motorcycle passenger, or if you will be in a 4-wheeler.  That’s all I need to get you on the StandBy Registration list – the rest will come when you actually register.

Unregistered Pop-in at the Stops… As a reminder, some folks have told me that since they didn’t register, they plan to just follow along and pop-in at the lunch or dinner stops.  Please don’t plan on doing that.  The registration limitation is not about how many bikes we can lead down the road.  That limitation is based on the capacity of our supporters to provide accommodations for meals, seating, staging, etc.  Even if you are not registered and not wearing a SandBox Wristband, you are no less a part of the RFTW Family – but your role this year will be to support from a distance.  If we ALL do it right this year, there will be many more opportunities to join the Route!

SandBox Route Pre-Run Meetings Schedule

  • Monday, 16MAY2022  (Ontario, California Host Hotel)
    • 0800-0900:  ALL SandBox Route Leadership meeting with RC & ARC – Ponderosa Meeting Room
    • 1000-1100:  ALL SandBox and Southern Route Platoon Leadership (PL, APL & TG) – Ponderosa Meeting Room
  • Saturday, 28MAY2022  (Arlington, Virginia Host Hotel)
    • 0830:  All Hands – Lincoln Memorial – RFTW All Hands Assembly
    • 0900:  All Hands – Lincoln Memorial – RFTW Group Photo
    • Immediately following Photo – Mission Accomplished Plaque Presentation at Vietnam Memorial Wall
    • 1200-1500:  Holiday Inn Lobby – SandBox Route Participant Check In
    • 1200-1500:  Holiday Inn Lobby – SandBox Route QuarterMaster Gear Checkout
    • 1500-1530:  Holiday Inn Conference Room – All SandBox Road Guard Meeting
    • 1530-1600:  Holiday Inn Conference Room – SandBox Team Leader Meeting with RC (Regular Tuesday Night Monthly Meeting Group – you know who you are!)
    • 1600-1700:  Holiday Inn Conference Room – MANDATORY ALL SandBox Route Leadership
    • 1700-1800:  Holiday Inn Conference Room – MANDATORY ALL SandBox Route Leadership & Participants
    • 1800-On:  Enjoy your evening!
  • Sunday, 29MAY2022 (Arlington, Virginia Host Hotel)
    • 0545:  Team and Platoon Leadership Staging at Holiday Inn Lower Parking area – Don’t be late!
    • 0600:  Staging for All Riders at Holiday Inn Lower Parking Area – Please DO NOT show up early!
    • 0700:  All RFTW Leadership & Riders Assembly – MANDATORY
    • 0740:  Platoon Meetings for all Riders – Mandatory
    • 0800:  KSU – The Inaugural Run of the SandBox Route gets underway!

Remainder of the schedule may be found in your Itinerary Book – READ IT!!!

Biographies

What’s your story?  If you’ve ever sat and talked with very many of our RFTW Family, then you’ve surely heard some interesting stories about how people were drawn to the Run and likely even more amazing stories about what they found here that made them keep coming back.  Magic of the Run?  You bet it’s a real thing!  Shirley “Top Sarge” Scott and Carol Olmstead are our California State Coordinators and they have put out a call for Biographical Stories from our Riders – who you are, where you are from, what’s your background and what’s your story of the Run?  Anything that you’d like to share.  Put it into a page form and e-mail to them and they’ll compile into a binder that will be available in the Ontario host hotel lobby to give a little better insight on the wonderful people and amazing stories that make our family special.  As we get back together after a 2 year break, there’s bound to be some good ones.  So…  What’s your story?    Send to:  carollolmstead@ymail.com or angelluvers@att.net

Counting Down the Days

We are now 28 days and a wake up away from KSU out of DC. Y’all stay safe, stay well, and… I hope you’re ready – MAY IS HERE!

Remember, all roads lead to all roads so wherever you go, TOGETHER WE RIDE!

WALL 2 WALL!

Bugs out!

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RFTW XXXII Sand Box Route Coordinator
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RFTW SandBox RC Newsletter – APR 2022 – Counting Down the Days Edition

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Greetings from Weatherford, Texas!

Last night’s All Hands Virtual Briefing was awesome!  To be clear, I’m referring to the way YOU made it!  We had 83 folks online, spirits were high, and participation was positive and encouraging.  It was a great 90 minutes spent with the family and a beautiful preview of the reunion to come in just a few short weeks.  There were a lot of interesting discussions and some excellent questions – perfect engagement for our last Virtual Briefing leading up to the Run.  Sorry this is a long newsletter, but I’d like to highlight a few points from last night’s Briefing…

Rider’s Role on this Mission

I’ve written at length about the Mission and how each of us plays a part in accomplishing it along our Run.  On this Inaugural Run of our new Route, I am challenging each of you to be true Ambassadors for the Mission, an Advocate for our Veteran Community and to visualize yourself as a positive Patriotic envoy for all the things we hold dear as Freedom loving Americans.  Here’s why…  This Mission and our efforts are all about Relationships.  It’s those personal connections we make with other like-minded folks that tightly binds our family together.  Your task on the SandBox Route is to build on the critical introductions established by the SandBox Recon in 2019 and help turn them into lasting relationships.  This year, on this Run, YOU are laying the foundation planks on which future Runs will tread.  Let’s make sure that foundation is solid and built to last.

SandBox Registration – Several issues to unpack here…

Registration vs No-Show – We mentioned last night that I had sent out instructions to fill the last two spots.  It was also emphasized that if anyone already registered knows ahead of time that you will unfortunately not be able to participate, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that you let me know so your spot may be filled by folks waiting on StandBy.  You may be surprised to know that each of the other routes has a significant number of No-Shows each year from folks who are fully registered and just don’t join the routes.  We cannot let that happen on SandBox.  PLEASE write me at sb-registration@rftw.us to let me know if you plan to release your spot on the Route.  There will be someone waiting and grateful to fill it.

StandBy List – All that being said – IT IS NOT TOO LATE!  Just since last night, I’ve had 3 spots open up and I sent out registration instruction to fill them already.  If you aren’t registered and still want a spot write me at sb-registration@rftw.us and tell me two things – 1) Your full name, and 2) whether you are registering as a motorcycle rider, motorcycle passenger, or if you will be in a 4-wheeler.  That’s all that’s I need to get you on the StandBy Registration list – the rest will come when you actually register.

Unregistered Pop-in at the Stops – Some folks have told me that since they didn’t register, they plan to just follow along and pop-in at the lunch or dinner stops.  Please don’t plan on doing that.  The registration limitation is not about how many bikes we can lead down the road.  That limitation is based on the capacity of our supporters to provide accommodations for meals, seating, staging, etc.  Even if you are not registered and not wearing a SandBox Wristband, you are no less a part of the RFTW Family – but your role this year will be to support from a distance.  If we ALL do it right this year, there will be many more opportunities to join the Route!

Itinerary Book

The Itinerary Book is 99.9% complete and in first pass review at our publisher.  The draft print will come back to me for final review in a few days.  When I send it back as complete, it will be published as a pdf under a link on the SandBox Route tab on rftw.us.  In fact, the placeholder link text is already there.  We are about a week away from publishing.

COVID Mitigation Measure and Procedures

As we will be visiting Veterans’ Homes and other organizations along the way across multiple states, you might imagine that there are a variety of COVID related considerations for which we must plan.  The basics of all these procedures is the standard for social distancing, hand washing, hand sanitizer, temperature taking, building capacities, and possibly masking in some areas.  I have had no requirements for vaccines communicated to me.  I understand that some folks may have strong feelings about certain restrictions – I understand and may even share them.  However, some aspects of our Mission are solely focused on the Veterans and Family members we may visit.  My expectation is that we will all set aside our personal predispositions and comply with the guidelines necessary to show support along the way.  If those requirements at a planned stop are more restrictive than you like (temperature taking and masking are the strongest so far), you will be welcome to bypass and join us at the next stop.

Daily Itinerary

Not the book – the schedule itself.  I’m going to be honest with you… We have a couple of long days planned and I know that I will be asking a lot from each of you to support this Mission.  I assure you that each of these activities is thoroughly planned, coordinated and ready for your participation.  To ensure the successful completion of the activities planned along this route, you will each play a key role in accomplishing them.  The first part of that role is to READ your itinerary book and know the timeline expected for each event.  Your Platoon Leaders will be on time (won’t you!?!) and they will be your best source for guidance – just follow their example.  Bottom line is – read the book!  Use it up, wear it out.  It will still be a keepsake if you like, but a dog-eared copy will say that you were there and involved along the way.  I’ll be sure to save a nice clean copy for the museum so you won’t have to.

Biographies

What’s your story?  If you’ve ever sat and talked with very many of our RFTW Family, then you’ve surely heard some interesting stories about how people were drawn to the Run and likely even more amazing stories about what they found here that made them keep coming back.  Magic of the Run?  You bet it’s a real thing!  Shirley “Top Sarge” Scott and Carol Olmstead are our California State Coordinators and they have put out a call for Biographical Stories from our Riders – who you are, where you are from, what’s your background and what’s your story of the Run?  Anything that you’d like to share.  Put it into a page form and e-mail to them and they’ll compile into a binder that will be available in the Ontario host hotel lobby to give a little better insight on the wonderful people and amazing stories that make our family special.  As we get back together after a 2 year break, there’s bound to be some good ones.  So…  What’s your story?    Send to:  carollolmstead@ymail.com or angelluvers@att.net

Are you ready?

I’m going to close with this call for deliberate readiness once again.  There are so many things to prepare for a 6,000(+) mile motorcycle Run but the most important thing is YOU!   Mechanical, Physical and Mental Conditions all point back to a safe and healthy body getting back home when it’s over, fully recharged and ready to CONTINUE THE MISSION from there until we get together again.  See my NOV 2021 RC Newsletter for a little more detail.

If you are Counting Down the Days like I am, we are 52 days and a wake up to KSU out of DC. Y’all stay safe, stay well, and get ready – May is almost here!

Remember, all roads lead to all roads so wherever you go, TOGETHER WE RIDE!

WALL 2 WALL!

Bugs out!

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RFTW XXXII Sand Box Route Coordinator
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RFTW SandBox RC Newsletter – MAR 2022 – Rider Reunion Edition

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Greetings from Weatherford, Texas!

Spring is here along with riding weather in north Texas!  Just last weekend I rode up to visit Mark “Mazz” Masman (our SandBox Road Guard Scout) and a handful of other RFTW Family for a Midway Route Fund Raiser in further north Texas.  It was a great day to visit with family and put about 225 miles on the new bike – I finally passed the 500 mile break-in mark!  Knowing that RFTW XXXII is quickly approaching made the visit just a small taste of what’s to come – we could all feel it! 

Route Update – Rider Reunion

The SandBox Route is ready and it’s going to be an epic Run!  Your leadership teams are putting the final touches on the Preparations and your State Coordinators are working at full speed to coordinate all aspects of our imminent arrival.  Throughout the past 3 years, your leadership team and I have enjoyed hosting the quarterly All Hands Virtual Briefings to keep you all informed on the progress of our Planning and Preparation.  But the more important part was to give you, the Rider and Loyal Supporter the opportunity to be more involved in the process along the way.  Since my selection as Chad “Slacker” O’Dell’s ARC in June 2017, I have been deeply immersed in supporting the Mission and preparation for the Run.  Through these almost 5 years now, the connections made with my Veteran and Patriotic family have become very strong – even stronger over these past couple years of delay.  The bottom line is that the strength of our Run is dependent on the strength of the relationships that bind us and our Run is STRONG!.  In a couple months, we’ll all experience the annual refresh and reunion that we’ve all been waiting for.  Yeah, it’s going to be an epic Run!

All Hands Virtual Briefing

As for the briefing, next Tuesday (one week from tonight) we’ll have the last All Hands Virtual Briefing before we get together in May.  Following the very successful FNG Town Hall meeting hosted last week by the Southern Route Leadership, this will be your final opportunity for a live update on plans and preparations as well as a preview of some of the activities, ceremonies, and locations that will be a part of the SandBox Route.  Following are the details you’ll need to sign in…

05 APR 2022 at 7:00pm Central

Join the Zoom Meeting at:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86059662994?pwd=cmQrbDUxQnNIQjZMSDhnQ2JFL1FOZz09

Meeting ID: 860 5966 2994

Passcode: RFTW2022

Leadership Team Highlight

On the last few Southern Route Runs, many of you may remember a Chaplain and Jr. Chaplain on the Route.  That Chaplain and his son Tyler (13 at the time) rode as a part of the M25 Chaplain Corps and instantly became an integral part of the RFTW Family.  Chaplain Brandon “Five-O” McCray is also a 22-year veteran Police Officer and avid Biker who until joining RFTW, had never stayed in a hotel while on a motorcycle trip, preferring to camp off the motorcycle or simply sleeping on a picnic table or on the ground by the bike.  Brandon is also an outstanding advocate of Veterans and Veterans’ causes. Just over a month ago, he testified before the Ohio House, advocating for the dedication of the Specialist Ronald Gene Johnson Memorial Overpass – you can watch video of that testimony here (starts at 17:15).  Five-O has for several years been a faithful and dedicated member of the SandBox Leadership team as your Senior Chaplain – he and our entire Chaplain Corp, Chase Team, and Hydration Team through M25 and Honor Bound are thoughtful, caring folks without whose support much of our Run would not be possible.  Be sure and tell him Howdy when you see him.  Thanks Five-O!

Standby Registration Update

The March Standby Group registration will close on Thursday night 31 MAR 2022.  If you are in that group with a link and password and have not registered, your password will expire late Thursday night.  On 01 APR, the next StandBy Registration Group will be sent registration instructions with a link and new password.  If you are not registered for the SandBox Route and have not signed up for the StandBy Registration List, it is NOT too late.  Please write to me at sb-registration@rftw.us to sign up.  In that message, please tell me two things – 1) Your full name, and 2) whether you are registering as a motorcycle rider, motorcycle passenger, or if you will be in a 4-wheeler.  That’s all that’s I need to get you listed – the rest will come when you actually register. 

I closely monitor current registration and will make every effort to include everyone who wants to join the Route.  Following that thought… If you are registered and know that you unfortunately won’t be able to participate, please let me know as soon as possible.  I will ensure that your spot is filled by another rider who is anxious to join the Route.

Are You Ready?

I know that we are all emotionally ready for the great reunion in a few months, but there are many other aspects of preparation to complete.  I’ve written several times about Mechanical, Physical and Mental Condition and refer you back to the NOV 2021 RC Newsletter if you’d care to read them again.  For a safe and meaningful journey on this or any Run, your preparation before KSU is vitally important and the best way to ensure success!

Y’all stay safe, stay well, and get ready – May is closer than you think!

Remember, all roads lead to all roads so wherever you go, TOGETHER WE RIDE!

WALL 2 WALL!

Bugs out!

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RFTW XXXII Sand Box Route Coordinator