Posted on 1 Comment

2024 Sandbox Route SitRep Day 3

RFTW Sandbox SitRep, Day 3, May 28, 2024

Our last morning together and we joined together to sing the Anthem.
We heard from a number of people including the Road Guard Captain, Catfish, who covered our route and hand signals. We recognized the military, POW/MIA, Blue Star and Gold Star families. Then there was silence as Gump spoke. March 23, 2003. He spoke of the attack. Eleven soldiers were killed. Eight were taken POW. One died in captivity. One was executed. More died on this day. He said 35 Americans died for our country that day. This is Gump’s second time to visit the MECW. He said he feels comfort to know he’s surrounded by hundreds of his brothers and sisters. He said, “I ride for,” and he named them all. Say their names out loud. He did. Loudly.
Say their  names. Tell their stories. Never forget.
Gump said a lot know about Vietnam and we lost a lot, including civilians. He talked about a doctor named Eleanor who was there to help those with leprosy. She was captured. Never returned. No remains. He said 59 civilian women were killed in that war. American women. He said we have a tendency to remember the military but civilians were also lost so we ride for them as well. Gump is proud we go to the MECW as it’s a unique memorial.   And he hopes we continue going to it.
This is why we ride.
It’s sad and yet we’re glad to be headed to the completion of the Mission. And so we began the ride on our last day and headed to the Indiana Veterans Home in Lafayette for breakfast and to meet with the residents. The first gentleman outside in his electric wheelchair was a Marine named Kenneth who was in Vietnam in 67/68. He’s from Lafayette and has been in the Indiana home for six years. He came home to Lafayette and worked in the septic tank and sewer businesses. He did that about 40 years and finally retired in 2008. He said he goes to bed at 4 pm and gets up at 4 am. It’s a beautiful place but he said he doesn’t have anything to do. A simple man who went to war, came home and did a necessary job.
This is why we ride.
Then there was Lois, the aunt of one of our riders, Jim. She was quite spiffy. And a cousin, Laurie, was also visiting today.
This is why we ride.
Sandbox folks donated funds to give to the home. While RFTW donates, many times there’s the passing of the hat and today was no exception that showed the generosity of the riders. Top Sarge spoke about the thank you stars from properly retired flags. The stars were handed out and riders were told that this is a tradition started years ago and still continues.
Santa Ed gave a Purple Heart belt buckle to one of the residents. There were 5,000 of these made years ago but hidden away due to copyright concerns. They were found and have been passed down and now are given to Santa Ed who gives them to Purple Heart veterans.
There was a little lady named Bonnie. I didn’t get her history. She was sweet. She eyed a dog that’s with us. I took Honey over to see her and Bonnie’s eyes just lit up. I couldn’t help but hug on her. And just love her. For some reason there was a connection that you sometimes immediately get when visiting one of these facilities. She took my face in her hands. I couldn’t help but do the same. She said to me, you’re crying. So was she. And I cried even after we left. No story told. But her name is Bonnie!!!  This is why we ride.
Veterans homes are so sad. But this is why we ride.
On to fuel and then lunch and presentations in Watseka, Illinois. Go-Go had a flag he is taking to the Angel Fire Vietnam Veterans Memorial in New Mexico. He asked everyone to sign it. A Vietnam vet designed the flag and every part of it means something. Red is for the blood. Black represents mourning. The soldier crossing the battle line is retrieving a soldier. The wavy line is the battle line. The circle is hallowed ground. Below the circle represents the brave and the free because without the brave there would be no free. The final message Go-Go wants to convey is that America remembers.
Blue reminded us that the Mission is bigger than self. And then presented awards and thanked everyone for being so great to work with and she’s is grateful for everyone. Skip, the Fuel Lead, updated us and said the first Sandbox fuel stop took 15 minutes and 42 seconds. The last one was eight minutes and 47 seconds. He said that’s not bad for fueling 275 bikes. Awesome.
Squirt Gun thanked his Ambassador team and the other routes as SB didn’t really have any swag. But the other routes gave him what they had left and so the Ambassadors had plenty to give out. He’s very grateful for that.
The final leg took us to the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois. It would be the completion of the Wall to Wall Mission, the fourth route of RFTW. The bikes rolled in and parked. People got the bios they’d carried from either Ontario, CA, or Washington, DC, and began laying them at the various panels. Some made etchings of a name or names. Others knelt to pay their respects. Some needed hugs. Some needed more than one hug to be able to let go and hopefully begin healing. This is why we ride.
RC Blue made her last presentations and the RFTW plaque was laid. The Mission is COMPLETE!! As a final presentation Taz presented Blue with a flag. As a Mission still in its infancy, it was a fitting finish.
All y’all have a great ride and get home safely.
Peppermint Patti
Where we going?  Wall to Wall. Mission complete.
“These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor — and a nation who has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.”  Michael N. Castle
Posted on Leave a comment

2014 Sandbox Route SitRep Day 2

RFTW Sandbox SITREP Day 2
May 27, 2024

At the morning meeting we had our blessing in both English and Hebrew. What a special treat.
Then Polar Bear’s grand girls led the Pledge. Another wonderful treat.

Sandbox is a Route with many unique elements.  Some are fun. Some are solemn. We’ve had challenge coin auctions with all four RC route coins. We had a Flight 93 challenge coin auctioned off. We’ve auctioned off riding next to RC Blue during a missing man leg. People have been so generous on this Route. The RCs from other routes stepped up. It’s so heartwarming.

Skip let us know that yesterday 275 bikes were gassed up in a little more than 13 minutes. That is pretty amazing.

RFTW is so welcomed here. Breakfast was earlier provided by McDonald’s as we staged to ride to downtown.

We had a police escort to downtown and we’ll have one all the way through Ohio. (That turned out to be about 230 miles.) I joke that they just want to be sure we get out of their state. But in reality they’re so very helpful. Basically the interstate was shut down with on ramps closed off and then a few rolling road blocks.

Gold Star mom Tammy was introduced. She lost her son, Mitch, in 2010. He’s part of the 22 a day. She told a couple of funny stories about her boy. There was a lot of laughter. His name was said. Stories told. He won’t be forgotten.

Lily is also a Gold Star family member.  It’s her first year accepting the Gold Star title. Her grandfather is a Marine who was recently recovered.

We rode to downtown St. Clairsville and rode in under a huge flag hanging from a ladder truck. People lined the sidewalks waving flags.

A couple have lived around here for 50 years but always go away in the summer and camp. The lady said they come into town especially to see RFTW riders come in and share the Memorial Day celebration.

Mayor Thalman spoke.  She said something that resonated loud and clear. “The soul of our country is standing in our street.” And she gave the Irish blessing. It was beautiful.

We arrived at lunch in Union, Ohio at the VFW Post 5434. There are always presentations with certificates and plaques. Everyone treats us so well and we’re grateful for their hospitality. We’re always asked what do we say?  THANK YOU!!!

Once again our Road Guards did an awesome job of getting us through traffic to our next stop that was for fuel. And  then on to our final ride destination, Hunters Moon HD in Lafayette, Indiana.

There was slow-cooked brisket and the fixings. And home made peach cobbler. We’ve been well fed.

Our evening continued with thank yous and presentations.

However, this evening there was something different. There were several Gold Star family members in attendance.

One would speak to us about her son.

Marilyn began to speak and this is the story she told.

When does the blue star turn to gold?  That was the same question Marilyn had. The answer came 18 years ago after our son’s service she said. When they were handed the gold star flag. And became a member of a group no one wants to be a member of.

Matthew was born in 1983 at the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego. He was the middle child. He thought the Marines had the coolest uniforms so he joined up and went to boot camp at Camp Pendleton. Halfway through he injured his ACL. He recuperated and went back to boot camp where he injured his ACL again three days before Crucible. It was two or three days before 9-11.

He was not allowed to continue. So he went back to work at Best Buy again but was still hungry for the military. A couple years later he said he’d join the Army Reserves. Two weeks later he told his mom he was going active and was stationed at Fort Campbell. He was so happy to be there, pretty close to home. Then he was getting ready to go to Iraq.

He went to Kuwait in September. Then Iraq. He called and said he was coming home for Christmas. The day after Christmas his mom made him his favorite meal and they took photos. She’s so glad they did.

About 20 days later she got home from work and there’s a bang, bang, bang at the door. She answered it. Matthew had told her if something bad happened the army would come and ask for her. So she knew when she opened up the door something bad had happened and she said their lives were never the same.

As a special story Marilyn talked about a dog they had named Baxter. Matthew always told the dog that when he died the dog wasn’t good enough for a Walmart bag. It was a running joke.

Three or four years it was time to let the dog Baxter go. Marilyn told Baxter Matthew has a tennis ball waiting for you. Go and have fun. Baxter was cremated. She got a new Walmart bag, put some of Baxter’s ashes in it and took them to the cemetery. It was a very special day as it was Matt’s Angel day. She said Matthew be careful the words you say. Now he’s your dog. You take care of him. She said doing that that got me through that day.

It was so emotional and tears were falling all around. Marilyn was presented a shadow box with her son’s photo, a flag and other mementoes. This was a very special moment for everyone there.

There was a flag-folding ceremony and the Taz handed out candles for  a candlelight vigil for the many Gold Star families that were there.

This evening was unlike others we’ve had and a lot of memories were made. And hopefully some healing happened for everyone.

Where are we going?  Wall to Wall.

Peppermint Patti

Only our individual faith in freedom can keep us free. Dwight D. Eisenhower

Posted on Leave a comment

2024 Sandbox Route SitRep Day 1

RFTW Sandbox SITREP Day 1

May 26, 2024
There was lots of loud thunder and lightning last night. Wow.
Sandbox staging opened and bikes started rolling in.
The luggage truck was open and for $15 you could put two bags on the truck and have them pack it for you until we get to Marseilles. What a great idea. A load off your bike AND your belongings won’t get wet.
This years Route Coordinator, Blue opened the meeting. There was a prayer, the Pledge and the Anthem. Blue called up an FNG to lead the Pledge. Nice.
Military, Blue Star and Gold Star families were present … all are recognized each day.
Gump, a POW for 22 days during Operation Iraqi Freedom, was asked to say a few words. He said those 22 days were hell but he’s  living his best life now. Nine in his unit were killed. They’re forever in his heart. He can’t wait to be surrounded by 200 brothers and sisters when he visits that wall.
There were Road Guard reminders and hand signal prompts. Taz read the bio and handed it off to an FNG to carry to the Middle East Conflicts Wall. The FNG today has a special connection to the bio read. That’s why we ride.
Taz introduced a Gold Star mom, and who said she wasn’t going to go all the way. But she had to honor her son, Dylan Morola. As I watched, Taz helped her down the incline from the stage. There’s so much honor and chivalry.
The FNGs were called up  and we showered them with hugs and “Welcome homes!!!”
It was time to get on the road. Our Road Guards are doing a great job of getting us on the Interstate. It must be precise and we follow the signals. Our RC is in the lead, with the platoon of Road Guards ahead of her to stop traffic at crossroads and on-ramps if necessary. When moving onto the Interstate the RC starts slow allowing more and more bikes to move onto the highway. As the platoons enter the road the RC speeds up in small increments until we reach just around highway speed.
Even more intense is getting the group onto a two-lane road and keeping us together as we travel. But it happened. And seemed to go smoothly. Kudos to the Road Guards.
We stopped at VFW Post 257 for lunch and thanked them vigorously. It’s a cool stop with a helicopter and a tank.
Gnome was standing in the lunch line. He’s from Riverside, CA, and wears dog tags with name, rank and serial numbers. He carries their tags (22 of them). There’s a variety of veterans who’ve passed.  There are some who had Agent Orange, POWs, the 22, KIA. These are wounded warriors and fallen heroes who he’s helped escort to their final resting place. He said he has probably escorted 60 of them, some of which he doesn’t have a tag for
The group went to the Flight 93 Memorial. The Park Ranger gave a presentation and spoke of some of the people on the flight, including a flight attendant and a COO of a company that produces heart pumps.
He went through that last morning of 9-11 nearly minute-by-minute from the time the flight left the ground. He made those people come to life. And he talked about their phone calls home, or to other loved ones. As it turned out there were 40 people on that flight who lost their lives. Forty people whose friends and families had their lives changed forever. Forty heroes. They diverted that flight by making a plan to fight back against the hijackers. And that plan happened when they said, “Let’s roll.”
The plane hit the ground at a speed of 553 mph. The passengers and crew stopped that plane 121 miles away from hitting its intended target of the White House.
Riding with us is Bob Weaver. He was the first police officer to arrive at the scene. He described what he saw. It was horrific.
One platoon did an outreach to a small museum in Belmont, Ohio, the Tri-State Military Veterans Museum. Just prior to arriving the rain started and then poured while everyone visited. The museum is dedicated to the history of military veterans in the Belmont County and Ohio Valley. It’s small but has so much … photos, uniforms, challenge coins, to name a few.
The group made it to a fine dinner at the Ohio Valley Mall. There were many contributors to provide a meal of fried chicken, potatoes, green beans, salad and dessert.
After dinner a Flight 93 challenge coin was auctioned off. It went for a lot of money. Way to go, Taz.
Where are we going?  Wall to Wall …
Peppermint Patti
“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave.” – Elmer Davis.
Posted on Leave a comment

2024 “Wall to Wall” – The Sandbox Route

Howdy Folks!  My name is Jim McCrain, better known as “Hoofer” with Run For The Wall.  For several years, I have been the Photographer and SITREP Author for the Midway Route.  This year, I have the extreme honor of being your SITREP Author.  It is a duty that I do not take lightly.  I will do my best to accurately and completely tell the stories that you share with me, and to relate the experiences that you have during our Mission.  I will do my best to represent you honestly and faithfully.

Our Media Team consists of myself as SITREP Author, Jerry Lanier “F-Stop” as your Photographer, and Patti Bogan “Peppermint Patti” as your Social Media Reporter.  We are dedicated to documenting your Run, and telling all of our readers just what it is that you are doing every day.  We will do this to the best of our abilities.

For those of you that do not know me, I think there are some things that you should know.  I am NOT a Veteran.  This is important to remember, because I may see and experience things a little differently than you do.  So I may ask you some “strange” questions, or I might do things that you aren’t expecting.  But my promise to you is that I will do it all with an air of respect.  As a civilian, I can offer our Veterans no less than that.  You deserve the respect of every American citizen, because you stepped up and signed your name on a line.  You swore to defend our Country and our People: something that most Americans would or could never do.  On behalf of the American Patriot, I honor your courage, dedication, and sacrifices.

Riding with you on the Sandbox Route will be a new experience for me, as it will be for many of you.  Although I have been participating with RFTW for over a decade, I have not “seen it all.”  Each Route is unique, and the experiences change with each new year.  For those of you that have ridden the Sandbox Route before, you “think” you know what to expect.  (I do the same thing on the Midway Route.)  But every year, I am surprised at how much things change, even though we may be going back to the same places as last year.  You see, it is the PEOPLE and the RIDERS that make the difference.

You are not the same person that you were last year.  Neither am I.  The people that we will ride with are not the same.  Some have never ridden with us before.  In fact, some of them may have never ridden in a large group before!  Each of us will have different things in our minds.  Some (like myself) simply want to be here as a resource for you and to say “Thank You” for what you have done.  Others, many others, are riding because they need to either clear their minds of bad memories, or they may want to fill the minds with new, good memories.  Some will be here to reconnect with their fellow service Men/Women.  Others will be here to pay their respects to fallen comrades.  The Mission of Run For The Wall is to give you all the peace that you need and deserve, and to bring closure to those that need it.

During our Mission, I hope to get to know as many of you as I can.  I want to shake your hand, thank you for your service, and remind you that America has your six!  We will not forget what you have been through, and we will help you every step along the way.

So please, come find me.  Tell me your stories.  Tell me what it was like to serve during our troubled times.  Tell me about your Friends.  Tell me about their sacrifices.  And then, when we get to the Middle East Conflicts Wall, please introduce me to them.  I promise, I will listen, and together we will …

Say Their Names … They not forgotten.


Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
Sandbox Route SITREP Author