Day 3, May 26, 2020 – Lafayette, IN, to Marseilles, IL, 191 miles
We departed Gilman and headed to Starved Rock Harley-Davidson in Ottawa, IL, for lunch. As always, the stops are more than hospitable to all of us. After the lunch break, we staged by platoons to ride the 11 miles to Marseilles and the Middle East Conflicts Wall.
The Middle East Conflicts Wall – our destination. The MECW commemorates the service men and women who have lost their lives in worldwide conflicts since 1967. Dedicated in 2004, the project was conceived by Tony Cutrano and Jerry Kuczera and built with donated material and labor. It’s the first of its kind to give honor to the fallen by name while a conflict is ongoing. Names on the wall include fallen heroes from such diverse locations as Panama, Lebanon, the Balkans, Grenada, Somalia, terrorist attacks in Italy, Greece, an Israeli attack on the USS Liberty and the current conflicts in the Middle East.
This is where we would pay our respect and honor the sacrifices of those who have fallen. Names continue to be added each year usually in June in conjunction with a motorcycle freedom run. Text at the memorial affirms all those commemorated are heroes who died for freedom and will never be forgotten.
The Middle East Conflicts Wall is a memorial you have to want to see, to go visit. It’s not in the middle of a big city; it’s actually kind of isolated. But it’s a memorial well worth visiting, and I believe all of us can agree on that.
Memorials bring many emotions to the surface. It can also be a not-so-kind reminder to those who have served. There are those who need our help in healing, and visiting these memorials and sharing friendship, a hand, or a hug may be able to help them along that road.
Because of the wars including the conflicts mentioned on the MECW, wounds are not always visible, and 22 men and women commit suicide every single day. Mission 22 is committed to lowering that number, hoping to reach the point of elimination. One of the best ways of helping is to reach out … to someone that you think might be at risk. Or if you’re at risk, please reach out to others. Every person on this Run is dedicated to helping others and wants to help. Please let them.
Be proud that you’ve been a part of the RFTW, Sandbox Route, Wall 2 Wall mission. You can stand up and say, “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.” You’ve done it, and all of us hope to see you again next year.
“Nothing is strong as the heart of a volunteer.” Col. Jimmy Doolittle
Signing off for this year,
Photos for the Sandbox Virtual SITREPS courtesy of PhotosbyJerry.smugmug.com
Day 2, May 25, 2020 – Clairsville, OH, to Lafayette, IN, 359 miles
Bright and early we were at it again, and in for a long day. Briefings started at 6:30 AM. but there is breakfast at the North Star Indian, Polaris, Slingshot dealer, where we meet up and where we depart for the day. No one should ever go hungry on this mission … breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks.
If you were on the initial Run from California, you’re probably fatigued and running on adrenaline and caffeine. Be sure to stay hydrated. It’s important to your well-being and you’ll hear it time and again from the medical staff. Be sure to stop by the hydration station at every stop to get a drink and a snack. Don’t be a casualty. It won’t be pretty.
The VFW post in Union, OH, provided lunch for the day. There are usually some other treats in store, including music, memories or just time to get to know the people that are providing for us. Always try to get to know some of these folks as it’s one of the most rewarding relationships you can form along the route. Sometimes someone you’ll be seated near and chat with will relate their story of wars past. It’s an honor to have them share with us. A memory of theirs may hold a lot of anger or bitterness, but once that is shared with you, you have helped them to heal a bit. If it happens, share their tears, thank them and maybe give them a hug before you go on your way. Remember, one of the RFTW missions is to promote healing … and you will have just done that.
It was a long day and finally we arrived about 5:42 PM at our destination for the day, Hunter’s Moon Harley-Davidson. Dinner and the recognitions program for the Sandbox Route would go until about 8 PM. It was a long day as we rode for those who couldn’t. This is what we do. This is our mission.
“It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naïve, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job.” Chris Kyle
Day 1, May 24, 2020 – Arlington, VA, to Clairsville, OH, 300 miles
Hi, and welcome to RFTW Sandbox Route – Wall 2 Wall. I’m Peppermint Patti, your sitrep writer, virtually this year. I hail from Alaska, born and raised. I’m 73 years old and still hopping on a motorcycle, hopefully for many more years. I’d be honored if you’d find me and say hi and share a few words with me. With that, let’s get started.
As always there’s excitement in the air when a group of motorcyclists get together. It’s even more exciting when you know that the ride you’ll be participating in is in its inaugural year. Welcome all to the Run For The Wall XXXII, Sandbox Route.
If you’ve done a RFTW you know what it’s about … The POW/MIAs, and keeping the awareness high, and supporting past and present service members, family and friends from all wars. However, this route focuses more on the service, sacrifice and contributions for the Sandbox era warriors. The Sandbox Route is special as it’s to raise awareness for the Middle East Conflicts Wall. This wall honors those Sandbox era warriors who have served and fallen.
Usually the rides start early, and this one is no exception. Pre-registration check in starts at 6 AM as well as registration if there are any spots available as the RFTW Sandbox route has only a limited number of spots. That’s a difference from the 10-day RFTW that runs from California to DC and gains and loses riders each day. There are always mandatory briefings, and for those who are new to the Run (FNGs/Friendly New Guys/Gals??), this one is no exception. That briefing starts at 6:30 AM.
From briefings we go to the all riders meeting and we have a prayer for the safety of everyone, the Pledge of Allegiance and announcements. Sometimes we may have a speaker with an experience to share. Sometimes we have 50/50 and raffle rousers selling tickets as we raise funds for the Run or a charitable organization. Whatever is going on here, the enthusiasm, the eagerness to get started continues to build until we break off into our platoons, get our platoon briefing that includes safety tips – including stay off the brakes and the zipper – and then we saddle up. Get those engines started.
Watching the platoons ride out, led by the leadership and us following, Platoon 1, 2, 3 for however many we have, is thrilling. This Run, this mission, is the best of the best … the Inaugural Run for the Sandbox Route and those of us on it have received a huge honor to be a part of it.
As the Sandbox riders file out, there will be people cheering, people on overpasses flying flags, shouting encouragement, giving the thumb’s up. It’s chilling and emotional, but it doesn’t get any better than this. The miles today total 300, with two fuel stops … words to the wise? Get your road pegs up, follow instructions from the fuelers, get in and get out and back into your platoon lineup. Sometimes our fuel is donated to us as people want to show their support for what we do.
Lunch today will be at the Pleasantville Post 9219 in Schellsburg, PA. Everyone treats us so well … food, and sometimes handing out little souvenir patches or pins, maybe sunscreen or hand sanitizer. You never know until you do the mission.
At precisely 12:56 PM the Run is scheduled to roll out and head to Stoystown, PA, the location of the Flight 93 National Memorial where there will be a wreath-laying ceremony by the RFTW Honor Guard. If you have an opportunity to be a part of the honor guard, take it. It’s truly an honor to march in step with others, to salute or put your hand over your heart, and lay a wreath honoring those who have passed by giving their lives to save others.
We have time to wander around the memorial. Inside there are phones where you can listen to some of the last calls made by those on the flight to their loved ones. As I write this I have chills going up and down my spine. When I visited, I could only listen to a couple of them. It was too heart-wrenching, too emotional, and tears fall even now as I think about it.
There is so much memorabilia to see from the aircraft and those heroes who gave up their lives, and a beautiful path to walk around the crash site with a wall containing their names. It inspires awe for those who sacrifice themselves.
Too soon it’s time to take our lives in our hands and venture onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike and head to our next fuel stop and then today’s destination in St. Clairsville, OH., where we’ll enjoy dinner courtesy of North Start Indian, Polaris, Slingshot. We thank all of those who support us, knowing their hearts and minds are with us as we ride for those who can’t. We also need to thank those in our leadership who have put this mission together, along with our fuelers, stagers, road guards, and so many others.
As you reflect upon the day’s journey, you’ll most likely find it quite intense and very different from any other run you’ve done. It’s emotional, but so rewarding. Enjoy your evening, and tomorrow – same time, so get some rest.
I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast; for I intend to go in harm’s way. Capt. John Paul Jones