Say Their Name! TELL THEIR STORIES! Never forget!
Welcome Riders to the XXXIV-2024 Run For The Wall Sandbox Route. My name is Cornell “THUMPER” Penn. It will be my honor to serve as this year’s Route Coordinator (RC). I’m an Air Force Veteran, that has been privileged to serve RFTW in multiple ways since my “FNG” year in 2019 as the Sandbox Assistant Route Coordinator (ARC), a Central Route Platoon Leader (PL) and Assistant PL (APL), to include the monthly Colorado RFTW Meeting Leader.
Someone once asked me, “Why do you ride?” I can only answer, “I/We ride for those who can’t.” I carry the names of 3 Global War on Terror Veterans, Friends & Brothers on my vest everywhere I ride, especially on RFTW. My focus has always been that “We must NEVER forget!” One of my greatest accomplishments was completing the renaming of my American Legion Post (Post-38 in Fountain, CO) to recognize the designer of the Prisoners of War (POW) Missing in Action (MIA) Flag, Newt Heisley (a WWII war hero and member of our Post). That phrase is not only important to me but engrained in me by the credo that is emblazoned on the POW/MIA Flag (“You Are Not Forgotten”) which I’ve found as a central focus of the RUN. More importantly, I’ve found healing for our Veterans come in many forms, but one can see the tangible benefits manifested during the Run…not just talk or theory. Over the years, I’ve talked with many “at-risk” Veterans that have been able to avoid tragic pitfalls and/or have found rehabilitation because of their RFTW experiences. I look forward to a very successful year building upon both the Inaugural Run and the First-annual Run of the Sandbox Route.
IS IT MAY YET?
Not yet, unfortunately. As we prepare to navigate the long road to May 2024, it is my proud honor and distinct pleasure to introduce the final pieces of the Sandbox Executive Team approved by the Board of Directors (BOD).
First, our Assistant Route Coordinator (ARC) this year will be Heidi “BLUE” Hansing. BLUE is an Army Veteran and possesses the key ingredients of passion, knowledge and expertise to excel as not only this year’s ARC, but more importantly next year as the Sandbox RC. She has “served” the Run since 2018 (even during COVID by going ATW on “unofficial” Runs) as a Southern Route APL before being promoted in the field to PL due to incapacitation of her PL, Sandbox Recon Advance Team member, Sandbox Road Guard (RG) twice, and a Midway RG.
Secondly, I would also like to announce and additionally thank Ken “CATFISH” Ward for returning as our Sandbox Road Guard Captain (RGC). Ken is a Navy Veteran and brings a wealth of experience to the Sandbox Route. Since starting the Run in 2008, CATFISH served in many leadership positions including serving on the Executive BOD for 2 terms, Central RC & ARC, Central & Sandbox Road Guard Captain (RGC) & Assistant (ARGC), Central PL, and Central & Sandbox Road Guard (RG). He will synthesize his combined experience to help grow the Sandbox RGs into a premier protection unit.
Lastly, I cannot forget to acknowledge this year’s Mentor and last year’s RC, Darin “LURCH” Koch. LURCH will assist our Leadership Team navigate all the hurdles and details required to provide a successful Sandbox mission experience. He served the Sandbox Route with honor & distinction as the RC and thus was recognized by the BOD to serve as this year’s Southern RC.
BLUE, CATFISH, LURCH and I all think very much alike and work well with each other, but more importantly have the same interest/goals for Sandbox Route success in mind. We are NOT in this for our own glory, but seek success for both the Sandbox Route and the greater RFTW organization! As an overarching goal, we are pursuing the unification of this Route amongst all the other cross-country routes by cherry picking “best practices” and ideas to garner enhanced mission success. We will strive to provide a seamless commonality and consistency the Riders should feel/experience from the coast-to-coast routes. RFTW is 1 Mission via 4 Routes.
We have begun meeting with different Route Leadership to start planning for 2024. The RFTW Executive BoD has decided to make a focused effort to get “Back to the Basics” regarding our Mission in 2024. This reemphasis is to ensure we don’t lose focus on the fact that RFTW is primarily a motorcycle event in support of the Mission. Leadership within the Routes should be participating as motorcycle riders to set that tone by example. Changes may be made to Platoon sizes and configuration based on rider registration. We will be looking at all of our stops to maximize our time on station and safety of the Riders. In addition, as we work on getting “Back to the Basics” I will be encouraging all riders to get to know each other better, not just on your coast-to-coast Route, nor in just your platoons, but also get to know your Stagers, Fuelers, Road Guards, Ambassadors etc.
The Run For The Wall mission is “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.”
This is why we ride! Please take the time to visit the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial page here and become more familiar with the history of this memorial and the names included on this Wall.
Sandbox Riders, we are rapidly approaching two (2) ALL RFTW Riders Reunions in Angel Fire, NM (1-3 Sep) and Kerrville, TX (27 Sep-1 Oct)! Please refer to the Central Route Newsletter for details for the Angel Fire Reunion & Brick Laying mission; and refer to the Southern Newsletter for details for the Kerrville Reunion.
We are still in need of Volunteers (non-FNG’s) for a few positions. Please remember, Platoon Leadership positions require CB communications. If you are interested in any of these positions, please fill out a Volunteer form. Even if you have previously served on any given team, if you plan to do so again, please complete the volunteer form. If you have any Medical Training and would like to be a part of our Medical Team please complete the volunteer form.
If you have not submitted an After Action Report (AAR) for the 2023 run, please do so by clicking HERE. There’s the old adage, “Help me, help you!” The Sandbox leadership reads these AARs to help improve this third (3rd) year of the Route in an effort to make the Run the best it can possibly be!
LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND DOES NOT END ON THE BATTLEFIELD!
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/chat with a qualified responder.
Sandbox Route Coordinator (RC)