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2024 Say Their Names Newsletter

2024 Say Their Names Newsletter

This is the 5th Edition of the Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget!

 SGT Joseph Andrew Matejov, USAF, MIA 2/5/1973 – Laos

SGT Joseph Matejov was born on 2 February 1952, in Fort Sill, OK to Stephen and Mary Matejov. Joe was the 3rd of ten children born to Stephen and Mary and graduated from East Meadow High School, East Meadow, NY in 1970.

SGT Matejov enlisted in the U.S. Air Force on 14 July 1970, completing basic training at Lackland AFB, TX and Morse Code technical training at Keesler AFB, MS. After technical training, SGT Matejov was assigned to Misawa AB, Japan. On 12 April 1972, he was assigned to Det 3, 6994th Security Squadron, Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand.

Sgt. Joseph Matejov celebrated his 21st birthday in Southeast Asia three days before his EC-47Q reconnaissance plane was shot down over Laos.

On February 5, 1973, about a week after the signing of the Paris Peace Agreement, an EC-47Q aircraft, call sign “Baron 52”, was shot down over Saravane Province, Laos, about 50 miles east of the city of Saravane. The crew of the aircraft consisted of the pilot, Capt. George R. Spitz; co-pilot, 2Lt. Severo J. Primm III, Capt. Arthur R. Bollinger, 1Lt. Robert E. Bernhardt, Sgt. Dale Brandenburg, Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov, all listed as crew members, and Sgt. Peter R. Cressman and SSgt. Todd M. Melton, both systems operators. The families of all aboard the aircraft were told the men were dead and advised to conduct memorial services.

It is known that Cressman and Matejov were members of Detachment 3, 6994th Security Squadron from Ubon, Thailand. The aircraft, however, was flying out of the 361st TEW Squadron (Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron) at Nakhon Phanom Airbase, Thailand. Primm, Melton, Spitz, Brandenburg and Bernhardt were assigned to the 361st TEW Squadron. Bollinger’s unit is unknown.

The men in the 6994th were highly trained and operated in the greatest of secrecy. They were not allowed to mingle with others from their respective bases, nor were the pilots of the aircraft carrying them on their missions always told what their objective was. They were cryptology experts, language experts, and knew well how to operate some of the Air Force’s most sophisticated equipment. They were the first to hear the enemy’s battle plans.

In a letter written to his brother on February 2, 1973, (after the peace treaty was signed), Joe wrote: “I’m still flying in the C-47’s over here – 134 flights as of now. I’m shooting for 150, but I don’t know if I will reach that mark or not. So much for this war that’s still going on. Peace? My Ass. Can’t wait until they release all the POW’s too – I’ll be really happy to see that.” The letter continues. “Right now I only have 52 days left.”

Over five years later, Joe Matejov’s mother, Mary Matejov, heard columnist Jack Anderson, on “Good Morning America”, describe a Pathet Lao radio communique which described the capture of four “air pirates” on the same day as the EC-47Q carrying her son was shot down. NO OTHER PLANE WAS MISSING THAT DAY. Anderson’s information indicated that reconnaissance personnel had 40 uninterrupted minutes in which to survey the crash site.

The report of the reconnaissance team, which was not provided to the families for over five years, showed that three bodies, which were thought to have been higher ranking officers because of the seating arrangement, were found strapped in seats. Four of the men aboard the aircraft were not in or around the aircraft, and the partial remains of the eighth man (Bernhardt) was recovered. No identification was brought out from the crash site, and no attempt was made to recover the three bodies from the downed aircraft. It is assumed that the reconnaissance team was most interested in recovering the sensitive equipment aboard the EC-47Q. The EC-47Q became known as the “Flying Pueblo”. Most of the “kids” in back, as some pilots called them, were young, in good health, and stood every chance of surviving captivity.

There were specific reports intercepted regarding the four missing men from the aircraft missing on February 5, 1973. Radio reports indicated that the four were transported to the North Vietnam border. None were released in the general POW release beginning the next month.

Peter Cressman enlisted in the United States Air Force in August 1969 and after two years at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska he volunteered for service in Vietnam and left for Da Nang in June 1972.

In Da Nang, Peter spent his free hours at Sacred Heart Orphanage. His letters to his hometown priest in Oakland, New Jersey, resulted in the forming of “Operation Forget-Me-Not”. Community schools, churches, merchants and citizens joined the effort to help the innocent victims of war. The group eventually provided a boxcar of supplies to the orphans.

Peter was transferred to the airbase at Ubon, Thailand. He believed the secret missions being flown into Laos were illegal and had written letters to his congressman in that regard. His family has been active in efforts to locate information on Peter and the nearly 2500 others who remain unaccounted for. They founded the National Forget-Me-Not Association for POW/MIAs in St. Petersburg, Florida, the largest POW advocacy group in the country.

Joseph Matejov enlisted in the Air Force in 1970 from his home state of New York and went to Southeast Asia in April 1972. Joe’s father, Stephen, was a West Point Graduate and served in the Korean War. Stephen Matejov died in 1984 not knowing what happened to his son. Joe’s mother, Mary says, “Joe may be alive. If so, this government has a legal and moral responsibility to get him home.  The next generation of servicemen should not have to wonder if they will answer the call to defend their country only to be abandoned. We must stop this tragedy now, and never allow it to happen again.”

Joe’s older siblings are Anne – civilian and Peace Corps and Stephen – retired Navy, disabled related to Agent Orange. His younger siblings are John – retired Marine; Kate – civilian – married to a Marine who passed away in 2019 due to Agent Orange related illness; Mary – civilian; Theresa – Army veteran, married to a West Point Graduate, has a son in the Navy waiting for a command on a nuclear submarine; Jim – civilian; Judy – married to a Marine for 29 years; and Mike – civilian.

Judy and Mike have both ridden with RFTW while John, Theresa, and her husband Terry, have all participated with RFTW at Riverside Cemetery and/or at the Southern Route stop in Front Royal, VA.

SGT Matejov’s awards and decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross (Posthumously), Purple Heart (Posthumously), and the Air Medal (3rd OLC).

SGT Matejov is interred in a communal grave in section 34, site 4402, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA. His name is engraved on the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall on Panel 1W, line 115.

The Matejov Community Center on Misawa AB, Japan was named in SGT Matejov’s memory.

This is why we ride!

Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator April Newsletter

Welcome to the April newsletter; Yes, April!! We all know what that means; KSU from Ontario is less than 30 days away and for many of us, KSU from our homes is much less. Please remember to travel safely from wherever you may start your journey and STAY HYDRATED!

Why do you ride or participate in the RFTW Mission?

Our RFTW 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; This is why I RIDE!

Until they all come home, until they are all accounted for, we must continue to Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice! Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, and Never Forget! 

The preparation for the RFTW 2024 Mission continues even now and I cannot thank our State Coordinators enough for all their hard work and time spent preparing for the Southern Route. I also appreciate all the calls made to inform SR Leadership of construction etc. along our route. We will overcome these construction areas and complete our mission regardless!

If you still have not registered, please do so as soon as possible. As of the writing of this newsletter, we have a total of 371 riders and participants registered for the Southern Route. You can still register HERE. ALL registration is conducted on-line via this website link so please register prior to your arrival to make things go smoothly and quickly! If you are joining the Southern Route anywhere other than Ontario, CA, please meet us the evening we arrive in the city you are joining us and check-in with registration that night. This gives the registration team the opportunity to get everyone checked-in, assigned to a platoon, and any prepaid gas options etc. taken care of. We have a mandatory riders meeting every morning (see our Itinerary here). Mandatory means exactly that; this meeting requires the attendance of ALL riders. If you wait until arriving in the morning, you will be unable to stage until you check-in with registration and are given your registration packet, wristband, mirror ribbon, and emergency medical form. You can find the emergency medical form HERE and come prepared with it already filled out! You will need to provide a valid drivers license, license plate number, and current proof of insurance at check-in. Registration will not accept copies of driver licenses; you must present your actual license with motorcycle endorsement (if applicable based on state licensing requirements). Please make things easier for check-in by having these items ready when you see the Registration Team. All participants must register and sign a liability release online.

I recommend printing a copy of the daily itinerary to bring with you or at the very least save an accessible version on your cell phone. Read it, then read it again! Read it or refer to it every morning, every night, and at every stop.  Please refer to it before you ask questions where the answer is already in the Itinerary (do not ask, for example, when we are leaving? Or how long do we have at this stop?)! If you do have a question, find a member of your Platoon Leadership team, and start by asking them!

Preparation and Safety

Time is running out to get your bikes in tip top shape! Get them serviced, get them inspected, and make sure your state registration and insurance are all up to date and valid through the end of May 2024. If you haven’t already done so, pack up your bike with everything you are taking and get out on the highway or interstate on a test ride. Make sure you’re familiar with how your bike is going to handle with the added gear. Make sure you can safely control your bike, stop, start, and tight turns while loaded! Be sure that everything is safely secured and will not become a hazard to other riders.

As you prepare your bikes or other modes of transportation, you also need to prepare yourselves, mind, and body too! This is NOT a weekend ride. Be sure you have your Emergency Information Form filled out – completely! It will be checked daily by your Team Leaders and/or Platoon Leaders. It is MANDATORY and you cannot ride without it. If you take medication, be sure that you listed it on your EIF and that you have enough of your prescribed medications with you for your entire trip.

It’s time for everyone to start hydrating! It is much easier to hydrate than it is to re-hydrate! Generally, it is recommended to drink a liter of water a day to stay hydrated. However, this can depend on your age, body, underlying medical conditions, and what physical exercise you are doing on that day. Being extremely thirsty, dry mouth, fast breathing, fast heart rate, and low blood pressure are all significant signs of dehydration, however, what many of us will likely feel first is fatigue – both mentally and physically! Be aware and stay HYDRATED!

You will hear this mantra from now until we reach DCHydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! 

If you have been reading my monthly Newsletters, you may be thinking that the previous paragraphs look familiar. Well, that’s because they are! On RFTW we repeat many phrases and directions. WHY? Because they are important! You will continue to hear many of the same phrases and directions until we are safely in DC or Marseilles. Again, it’s not because we don’t think you aren’t listening. It’s about safety!

Arlington Escort

We are still working out the total number of Motorcycles and people we can send into Arlington and who will get to go. I know everyone is excited about this opportunity, but please be patient and wait until we have it sorted and announce the details.

Pre-Paid Fuel

Pre-Paid fuel has been established to assist our Fuel Team and riders alike. Pre-Paid Fuel allows our fuel stops to flow more quickly and efficiently allowing riders to get through the fuel line, staged, and off their bikes so they can make the most of the limited time we have available at our fuel stops. The pre-paid fuel option will be available at registration in Ontario at a cost of $150 and at each subsequent night stop. Beginning on Day 5, the cost will be prorated as follows:

Day 5 beginning in Grand Prairie – $100;
Day 6 beginning in Monroe – $80;
Day 7 beginning in Meridian – $60;
Day 8 beginning in Chattanooga – $40;
The pre-paid fuel option will not be available for those joining us on days 9 and 10. Those will be cash at the pump the same as any riders choosing not to pre-pay.

We encourage everyone to participate in Pre-Paid fuel. If you choose to take part in the Pre-Paid fuel option you will be given a wristband and sticker for your windshield (if you don’t have a windshield, see your Platoon Leader to determine the best location). The sticker should be placed at the center-bottom of the windshield. This allows our Fuel Team members to easily see the sticker from their usual location between bikes. The wristband acts as a secondary verification.

Riders must fill their motorcycles up each evening/morning on their own before arriving at Staging in the morning. Random spot checks will be occurring and may be done by your Staging Team or anyone on your Platoon Leadership Team.

NON-PRE-PAID Fuel will be required to pay cash at the pump to the fuel team (NO CHANGE GIVEN). Each stop will be a minimum of $10. A determination will be made in Ontario if that cost will increase to $15 at some stops based on current gas prices.

Please remember that any excess fuel funds go to provide the fuel for the Chase Trucks, Hydration Truck, and Medical Team vehicle. I do not know 1 rider who has not taken advantage of at least 1 of these support Teams daily; not to mention just the comfort they provide knowing they are there for you should you need them!

The Pre-Paid fuel option is $150.00. You can take advantage of the Pre-Paid fuel option early by using the Zelle payment app and sending $150.00 to Southern.Route@rftw.us If you use the Zelle app, please add “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” in the Memo line. We will receive the notification of the payment and will have a list of those who have Pre-Paid at Registration in Ontario, CA.

You can pay Cash in Ontario, CA or

You can send a check to:
Run For The Wall Inc.
50 Fourth Ave #1445
Dayton, NV 89403

If you send a check you need to add a note about what Route you are on and what the check is for i.e. “Southern Route Pre-paid Fuel” and/or “Southern Route Luggage Fundraiser.” Also make sure you mail it with plenty of time to ARRIVE at it’s destination by MAY 1, 2024.

Pre-Run Ontario Schedule

The Pre-Run Ontario Schedule is almost done. We will make sure to let you know when it is done, or you can go to the Southern Route Hub and check to see if it has been posted yet.

We do have a few things that are already set for Ontario listed below (Subject to change based on external Factors/Check the Ontario Schedule in the SR Hub once it is published).

The Merchandise and Hydration Trailers will be available at the Host Hotel, Ontario Holiday Inn located at 2155 E. Convention Center Way, Ontario, CA 91764.

Registration and Check-in will be available at the Elks Lodge, 1150 W. 4th Street, Ontario, CA 91762. The Elks Lodge opened their doors to us and has welcomed RFTW with open arms. The Elks Lodge will have many volunteers assisting inside the building and in the parking lot. Please thank them for their generosity and be respectful. Disrespect of any kind will not be tolerated.

The Elks Lodge will also have Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner available for purchase on Monday and Tuesday (Taco Tuesday?). A Steak Dinner is also planned again with advanced tickets available on site.

Hydration will also be available at the Elks Lodge.

This year we will have a Shuttle Bus running continuous loops between the Ontario Convention Center, the Holiday Inn Ontario Airport Host Hotel, and the Elks Lodge. The shuttle will run from noon-8 pm on Sunday, May 12th; and from 7 am through 9 pm on Monday, May 13th and Tuesday, May 14th.

 

Ride into Riverside National Cemetery in California

(Copied from the President’s Message).  “As you may have seen in a FB post, Carol is working on the possibility of riders going to the March AFB museum following the ride the Riverside National Cemetery. This is a Tuesday event, with KSU tentatively scheduled for 0815 from the Elks Club. The Elks will be serving breakfast so our riders can stage, eat, and leave from the same location. Right now, the cost of entrance to the museum is $10, but Blaze is trying to get that lifted. If you are interested in going to the museum, please email Carol at carollolmstead@ymail.com so she can provide a head count. Rumor has it that the museum is planning to rope off a parking area for us.”

You must be registered and CHECKED IN to go on this ride, so get to Ontario and get Checked in on Monday the 13th.

Fundraising

The Southern Route is offering a fundraising opportunity that may benefit all riders’ safety! Our newest fundraiser is the Luggage Fundraiser. The SR will have a dedicated enclosed trailer to transport luggage.  This will allow riders to remove bags normally strapped onto their bikes and have them securely transported for them from our morning starting location to our nightly dinner stop. This adds to the safety of all riders by removing bags that could obstruct other riders’ view of bikes in front of them; preventing a rider from focusing on a loose item on another bike around them; removes the added weight allowing for better control of your bike while riding in formation. Riders will be required to drop off their bag(s) at the morning staging/breakfast location. Bags will not be available until our final night/dinner stop. Riders will be restricted to 2 bags per bike. A check-in/check-out procedure will be followed ensuring no-one absconds with a bag that is not their own. The cost will be $7 per day or $50.00 for all 10 days. A prorated rate may be available depending on your starting location. Ask at check-in!  If you wish to take advantage of this new fundraiser, you can also prepay by using the Zelle app and Southern.Route@rftw.us  Please add “Luggage Fundraiser” to the memo section when submitting your payment.

If you plan to purchase the Pre-Paid Fuel and the Luggage Fundraiser all in one transaction; please enter both “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” and “Luggage Fundraiser” on the memo line. If you are paying for more than one bike, please note that as well.

Another Southern Route fundraiser this year will be this patch. They will be sold beginning in Ontario and throughout the 10-day mission or until we run out. Each patch will be $5.00, and proceeds will be used to support our Veterans along the way.

After Action Reports

RFTW Leadership encourages ALL riders to complete an After Action Report (AAR) to get a better understanding of your experience on the Run and to make improvements to future Runs based on your suggestions. However, did you know that an After Action Report (AAR) can be done at any time? Thats right; an AAR can be done anytime even during the Run. If you have any kind of feedback or if there is a specific incident you observe or are a part of, you do not have to wait until the Run is completed and you’ve returned home. If you wait, you may forget certain details so please, if you feel the need, please submit an AAR at any time! Also, so you know, you can submit as many AAR’s as you feel are necessary!

  

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 or chat with a qualified responder.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator March Newsletter

Welcome to the March newsletter.

This month we acknowledge both the National Medal of Honor Day March 25th and Vietnam Veterans Day on March 29th!

Why do you ride or participate in the RFTW Mission?

Our RFTW 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; This is why I RIDE!

Until they all come home, until they are all accounted for, we must continue to Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice! Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, and Never Forget! 

The planning and preparation for the RFTW 2024 Mission continues and I have a lot of different topics to cover in this newsletter so please, take your time and read the entire newsletter! The Board of Directors, Route Coordinators, and Asst. Route Coordinators held the spring “Face to Face” meeting Via Zoom this past weekend.  I would call it a very productive and successful meeting. Most of our preparations have been finalized but our State Coordinators continue to make additional preparations at our stops and some are even adding special last-minute items for us.

By the time you read this, we will be down to less than 70 days until KSU on the Southern Route. For many, that means less than 60 days before they leave home and head out to join us in Ontario. As of the writing of this newsletter, we have a total of 345 riders and participants registered for the Southern Route. If you have not already registered, please do so as soon as possible. You can register HERE. ALL registration is conducted on-line via this website link so please register prior to your arrival to make things go smoothly and quickly!

Preparation and Safety
Now is the time, if you haven’t already, to get your bikes in tip top shape! Get them serviced, get them inspected, and make sure your state registration and insurance are all up to date and valid through the end of May 2024. Pack up your bikes etc. with everything you are taking and get out on the highway or interstate on a test ride. Make sure you’re familiar with how your bike is going to handle with the added gear. Make sure you can safely control your bike, stop, start, and tight turns while loaded! Be sure that everything is safely secured and will not become a hazard to other riders.

As you prepare your bikes or other modes of transportation, you also need to prepare yourselves, mind, and body too! This is NOT a weekend ride. Be sure you have your Emergency Information Form filled out – completely! It will be checked daily by your Team Leaders and/or Platoon Leaders. It is MANDATORY and you cannot ride without it. If you take medication, be sure that you listed it on your EIF and that you have enough of your prescribed medications with you for your entire trip.

It’s time for everyone to start hydrating! It is much easier to hydrate than it is to re-hydrate! Generally, it is recommended to drink a liter of water a day to stay hydrated. However, this can depend on your age, body, underlying medical conditions, and what physical exercise you are doing on that day. Being extremely thirsty, having dry mouth, fast breathing, fast heart rate, and/or low blood pressure are all significant signs of dehydration. However, what many of us will likely feel first is fatigue – both mentally and physically! Be aware and stay HYDRATED!

You will hear this mantra from now until we reach DC – Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! 

I will add that just because you feel fatigued – both mentally and physically, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are dehydrated. This mission is demanding, and everyone is different. Bottom line is to be safe and be aware of the signs that your body is giving you.

Also, be prepared for any and ALL weather conditions, we do not stop to “gear up”. A perfect example is our ride into Odessa, TX in 2023. This picture depicts some of what the Pack encountered!

 

Southern Route Daily Itinerary
Our official Itinerary is scheduled to be published on the RFTW website on or about March 31, 2024. There are no changes to our Night stops as indicated in our Hotel List.  Even though the 2024 Itinerary isn’t posted yet with the minute to minute timeline of our stops, you can check out the updated 2024 Southern Map & Stops here! The map has been updated and includes all of our stops including our new gas stops! There will not be any printed Itinerary’s available this year; for any Route. If you want a printed copy of the itinerary to carry with you, you will need to print your own once the Itinerary is published.

Southern Route FNG Zoom Meeting
A Southern Route FNG (Fine New Guy or Gal) Zoom meeting has been scheduled for March 13, 2024 @ 7pm Central. This meeting is for ALL 2024 SR FNG riders and participants. The SR currently has 110 riders and participants who have registered as FNG’s! An email has been sent to each SR registered rider who identified themselves as an FNG on their registration. If you are a SR FNG rider, please make every effort to attend this meeting. SR Leadership will answer any of your questions and provide additional information and advice to support your safe and successful mission. This meeting is especially important to SR FNG riders who will not be starting in Ontario, CA since they will not be able to attend the FNG meeting there. If you did not receive the email please reach out to me @ darin.lurch.koch@rftw.us or Mike Kyzer @ mike.kyzer@rftw.us

Missing Man Formation
Our Missing Man Coordinator has multiple openings to ride in the Missing Man Formation (MMF). If you are interested in riding the MMF, please send an email to Missing Man Coordinator Rick “Speed Bump” Shoaf at Rick.Shoaf@rftw.us. Rick will explain the process, requirements, and expectations of riding in the MMF during the run. This is open to all riders, not just FNG’s, and we are not excluding anyone including our volunteer Road Guards, Fuel, Staging, Ambassadors, and Platoon Leadership positions.

Platoon Leadership and Volunteers
Unfortunately, some of our experienced Platoon Leadership volunteers have had to withdraw from participating in the Run this year so we now have some openings available in Platoon Leadership positions. We need Platoon Leaders, Asst. Platoon Leaders, and Tail Gunners. If you have any questions about these positions or are interested in volunteering for Platoon Leadership, please submit a volunteer request here or contact Platoon Coordinator Kevin “Short” Short directly @ kevin.short@rftw.us.

We are also looking for additional volunteers to assist with the Fundraiser and 50/50 duties each day along the Route. Also, we are also looking for interested individuals to fill the role of SitRep writer and Social Media Representative. If you are interested in volunteering for any of these positions, please send me an email @ darin.lurch.koch@rftw.us.

Pre-Paid Fuel
For the second year the Pre-Paid fuel option will be available on the Southern Route. If you are riding from California to DC, we encourage all riders to take advantage of the Pre-Paid fuel option. As a direct result of the Pre-Paid fuel option, Southern Route saw a significant decrease in the amount of time it took to fuel the entire pack last year. Shorter waiting times in the fuel lines equate to more down time off the bikes for the riders and that means more time for hydration, snacks, and bathroom breaks!

Please keep in mind that the Pre-Paid fuel option applies to the 23 planned and coordinated fuel stops we will be making during the day while on our Mission. ALL riders are still required to fuel on their own filling their tanks prior to staging each morning. Whether you decide to top-off at night on the way to your hotel; or on your way to staging in the morning; you must still fill up your gas!

The Pre-Paid fuel option is $150.00. You can take advantage of the Pre-Paid fuel option early by using the Zelle payment app and sending $150.00 to Southern.Route@rftw.us If you use the Zelle app, please add “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” in the Memo line. We will receive the notification of the payment and will have a list of those who have Pre-Paid at Registration in Ontario, CA.

You can also send a check to:

Run For The Wall Inc.
50 Fourth Ave #1445
Dayton, NV 89403

If you send a check you need to add a note about what Route you are on and what the check is for i.e Southern Route Pre-paid Fuel/Southern Route Luggage Fundraiser.

Fundraising
The Southern Route is offering a fundraising opportunity that may benefit all riders’ safety! Our newest fundraiser is the Luggage Fundraiser. The SR will have a dedicated enclosed trailer to transport luggage.  This will allow riders to remove bags normally strapped onto their bikes and have them securely transported for them from our morning starting location to our nightly dinner stop. This adds to the safety of all riders by removing bags that could obstruct other riders’ view of bikes in front of them; preventing a rider from focusing on a loose item on another bike around them; removes the added weight allowing for better control of your bike while riding in formation. Riders will be required to drop off their bag(s) at the morning staging/breakfast location. Bags will not be available until our final night/dinner stop. Riders will be restricted to 2 bags per bike. A check-in/check-out procedure will be followed ensuring no-one absconds with a bag that is not their own. The cost will be $7 per day or $50.00 for all 10 days. A prorated rate may be available depending on your starting location. Ask at check-in!  If you wish to take advantage of this new fundraiser, you can also prepay by using the Zelle app and sending to Southern.Route@rftw.us  Please add “Luggage Fundraiser” to the memo section when submitting your payment.

If you plan to purchase the Pre-Paid Fuel and the Luggage Fundraiser all in one transaction; please enter both “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” and “Luggage Fundraiser” on the memo line. If you are paying for more than one bike, please note that as well.

Another Southern Route fundraiser this year will be this patch. They will be sold beginning in Ontario and throughout the 10-day mission or until we run out. Each patch will be $5.00, and proceeds will be used to support our Veterans along the way.

FNG ride into Arlington National Cemetery
As you may have heard, we will have a very limited number of motorcycles allowed to ride as a group into Arlington National Cemetery on Saturday the 25th of May for a wreath laying in section 60. The BoD is still working on a fair and equitable way to determine who will be riding motorcycles into ANC. RFTW as a group is limited to 75 bikes (150 people on those bikes) total from all 4 Routes. It will likely be based on several factors which will be published once a final decision is made.

Ride into Riverside National Cemetery / March Air Force Base Museum in California
(Copied from the President’s Message).  “As you may have seen in a FB post, Carol is working on the possibility of riders going to the March AFB museum following the ride the Riverside National Cemetery. This is a Tuesday event, with KSU tentatively scheduled for 0815 from the Elks Club. The Elks will be serving breakfast so our riders can stage, eat, and leave from the same location. Right now, the cost of entrance to the museum is $10, but Blaze is trying to get that lifted. If you are interested in going to the museum, please email Carol at carollolmstead@ymail.com so she can provide a head count. Rumor has it that the museum is planning to rope off a parking area for us.”

You must be registered and CHECKED IN to go on this ride, so get to Ontario and get Checked in on Monday the 13th.

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 or chat with a qualified responder.

 

 


Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

 

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2024 Southern Route Say Their Names Newsletter

This is the 4th Edition of the Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget!

USN LCDR Dennis S. Pike – MIA 3/23/1972 – Laos

LCDR Dennis S. Pike’s story is one of determination, love, and unwavering hope. Born and raised in Arizona to hard-working parents, Dennis developed a passion for flight as he grew up in the shadow of the aircraft flying in and out of Luke AFB. His childhood dreams were filled with visions of soaring through the skies, but his journey to the cockpit was not without obstacles.

Dennis met his future bride when they were only 13. Both graduated with honors and married shortly after graduation. Dennis chased his dream of flying as he attended ASU as the Air Force Cadet Colonel. His dreams of flying seemed dashed when he failed the flight physical due to a color deficiency. He studied every color vision test book used by the military and practiced standing at attention compressing his spine so he could meet the Navy height standards of 6’1” as he was 6’2”. Finally, he was accepted through an inter-service transfer and attended flight school, passing at the top of the class.

Dennis was a funny and outgoing man, with a loving wife and three children Denise, aged 11; Vincent aged 9, and Shannon aged 2. He played seven different musical instruments and enjoyed singing and entertaining.

LCDR Pike was assigned to Attack Squadron 192, known as the Golden Dragons, aboard the USS Kitty Hawk (CVA 63).

On March 23, 1972, he was the pilot of an A-7E Corsair II (bureau number 157520, call sign “Jury 307”) that took off from the USS Kitty Hawk on a night strike mission against targets of the Ho Chi Minh Trail in southern Laos.

After his first pass over the target, LCDR Pike radioed his wingman that he had either been hit by anti-aircraft artillery fire or was experiencing engine trouble. LCDR Pike was forced to eject over Laos, due to a .65 Cent spacer in the engine which had melted, causing oil pressure to fail. His last transmission to his Company Commander, Robert Taylor was, “I have to leave it, oil pressure problems.”

His wingman observed a cloud of white smoke and shiny particles in the moonlight, and an object tumbling through the air that he thought was LCDR Pike’s ejection seat, but no parachute was sighted. The loss location was over rugged jungle-covered mountains, southwest of the Lao/South Vietnamese border, which made search and recovery efforts difficult. LCDR Pike was not located following the incident, and he remains unaccounted-for.

On March 23, 1972, CDR Robert Taylor was the commanding officer of the KITTY HAWK based Attack Squadron 192 and recalls the March 23 mission:

“We were on a mission just south of the DMZ,” remembers Taylor. “Government forces were being overrun by the Viet Cong, and a T-28 with an American
pilot and Vietnamese observer also went down. We were on target for about forty minutes and finally had to leave. I watched Pike disappear on the way out, and that scene, those ten or fifteen seconds, are embedded in my mind, lived over and over. I was about a mile-and-a-half behind him, saw the smoke come out of his tailpipe and called him up asking if there were any problems. He replied, ‘Yeah, I’ve got some oil pressure problems.’ We were only about twenty miles inside of Laos, and I told him to take a heading toward Da Nang. He rolled out and made the turn from southwest all the way around to the east at five thousand feet. I told him, ‘If you pass three thousand feet and don’t have anything left, then [get] out.’ He replied, ‘Roger that,’ followed by an ‘Uh oh, there goes the engine. Well, see you guys later.'” Pike indicated that he had to eject.

Taylor saw the canopy shatter and a black object came out. Taylor and his wingman saw the ejection but lost visual contact. Taylor is certain that something left the airplane.

LCDR Pike was not located following the incident, and he remains unaccounted-for.

Four days prior to Denny Pike’s aircraft failing, another A7 had failed, but just after it had launched from the carrier. The pilot was recovered. There were questions at that time as to whether to ground the aircraft, but it was kept in the air. This was the 3rd incident of its kind dealing with the A7’s engine.

After LCDR Pike’s aircraft failed, the A7 was grounded. But the North Vietnamese were staging an invasion on the south, and to ground the A7 meant to essentially ground the entire strike force, and there was uncertainty as to the exact cause of the A7 accidents. It was finally concluded that the engine problems had been caused by foreign object damage and the A7 was airborne once more.

On March 24, 1972, the black cars showed up at the Pike home. Lou Ann refused to open the door at first, but when the officers were clear that Dennis was not dead, just MIA, she allowed them in. They told her that in such cases where there was so little information to go on, anything could have happened and for all, they knew he could be a POW by now. Her job was to keep the faith, hope for the best, and continue with life as usual.

Little information has been discovered since this incident. However, conflicting information continues to be provided from various sources. The National Security Agency (NSA) reported LCDR Pikes’ name associated with a list of 21 other men, thought to have been transferred to Russia in 1974. In 2009 a VFA-192 helmet was located by the JTFA, but the villagers were not eager to part with the artifact. LCDR Pike was the only member of that squadron lost in the area.

Of 600 American servicemen lost in Laos during our military involvement in Southeast Asia, not one was released when the war ended. The Pathet Lao insisted that Americans held in Laos would be released from Laos, but the U.S. did not include them in peace agreements reached in Paris in 1973.

Since the wars end, thousands of reports relating to Americans prisoner, missing or unaccounted for in Southeast Asia have been received by the U.S. Government. The official policy is that no conclusive proof has been obtained that is current or specific enough to act upon. Detractors of this policy say conclusive proof is in hand, but that the willingness or ability to rescue these prisoners does not exist.

Today, Lieutenant Commander Pike is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. His name is also inscribed along with all his fallen comrades on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.

LCDR Pikes’ youngest daughter is RFTW’s very own Shannon Spake!

In January of 2019, the daughters, Denise, and Shannon made the trip to Laos in hopes of reaching their father’s ejection site that had been located in 2015. Despite meticulous planning and fundraising efforts, their expedition was thwarted by a washed-out road, just miles away from their destination. Undeterred, they carried with them a vial of Arizona dirt to honor their father’s memory and sought to connect with locals in search of any information or stories about the American pilot who may have perished on their mountain.

DPAA resurveyed the area in November of 2019 and hoped to excavate it in March of 2020. But Covid delayed those efforts. Ultimately, in September of 2021, they were able to excavate and planned to return to complete the job sometime this year.

By the time this newsletter is posted, Shannon will be enroute back to Laos with two other MIA Daughters and a KIA Son, all visiting their fathers’ suspected impact sites. If you would like to support Shannon via Venmo at https://venmo.com/u/Shannon-Spake-1 or contact her directly for additional details.

This is why we ride!

Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator February Newsletter

Here’s hoping everyone had a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

If you didn’t already know, the RFTW Merchandise Director, Alan “X-Box” Steiner has been putting together some excellent sales opportunities for everyone to take advantage of to purchase RFTW merchandise. The next special Alan has set up is occurring over Presidents Day weekend! You will receive Free shipping on any order with no minimum. Take advantage of this by ordering your 2024 patches, shirts, pins, and other items now! Shop RFTW Merchandise.

Our RFTW 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.” 

 

On February 3, 2024, many of us were fortunate enough to attend the Celebration of Life for Capt. Ronald W. Forrester. What an honor and what a perfect example of WHY WE RIDE!

It was truly a beautiful celebration by Karoni and her family – and in the presence of all her extended RFTW and Texas A&M Family! Even though Capt. Forrester and Capt. Ralph Chipman are now home, we will not stop Saying Their Names, Telling Their Stories, and Never Forgetting them!

This is why we RIDE; This is why I RIDE!

Until they all come home, until they are all accounted for, we must continue to Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice! Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, and Never Forget! 

The planning and preparation for the RFTW 2024 Mission has continued and the Southern Route Leadership teams continue to prepare and finalize our itinerary. Our official Itinerary is scheduled to be published on the RFTW website on or about March 31, 2024. There are no changes to our Night stops as indicated in our Hotel List.  Even though the 2024 Itinerary isn’t posted yet with the minute to minute timeline of our stops, you can check out the updated 2024 Southern Map & Stops here! The map has been updated and includes all of our stops including our new gas stops!

REGISTER FOR THE RUN TODAY!!! 

RFTW Southern Route 2024 now has over 328 registered riders and participants with less than 90 days until KSU May 15, 2024. If you have not registered yet, please do so as soon as possible. Beginning February 1, 2024, registration cost increased to $60.00.  You can register HERE. ALL registration is conducted on-line via this website link so please register prior to your arrival to make things go smoothly and quickly!

RFTW has a new updated Rider Code of Conduct that every rider and participant is required to read and adhere to. Please be respectful to all riders, participants, and supporters by adhering to this code of conduct while on the Run. You are required to confirm you have read this during your registration.

Remember, all riders and participants must check-in with registration upon arrival and joining us on the Southern Route. Whether you are going All the Way (ATW) or at one of our night stops you need to give yourself enough time to check in with the registration team. Registration will be open both in the evenings after our arrival at our dinner stops and in the morning at our staging location. However, it is best if you arrive and check-in the evening before departure; mornings are much more hectic and limited in time.

Also, all riders need to be able to show valid identification (license), valid motorcycle registration, and current motorcycle insurance information at check-in. Failure to have these items may cause a delay in your check-in.

Missing Man Formation

Our Missing Man Coordinator has multiple openings to ride in the Missing Man Formation (MMF). If you are interested in riding the MMF, please send an email to Missing Man Coordinator Rick “SpeedBump” Shoaf at Rick.Shoaf@rftw.us. Rick will explain the process, requirements, and expectations of riding in the MMF during the run.

Pre-Paid Fuel

For the second year the Pre-Paid fuel option will be available on the Southern Route. If you are riding from California to DC, we encourage all riders to take advantage of the Pre-Paid fuel option. As a direct result of the Pre-Paid fuel option, Southern Route saw a significant decrease in the amount of time it took to fuel the entire pack last year. Shorter waiting times in the fuel lines equate to more down time off the bikes for the riders and that means more time for hydration, snacks, and bathroom breaks!

Please keep in mind that the Pre-Paid fuel option applies to the 23 planned and coordinated fuel stops we will be making during the day while on our Mission. ALL riders are still required to fuel on their own filling their tanks prior to staging each morning. Whether you decide to top-off at night on the way to your hotel; or on your way to staging in the morning; you must still fill up your gas!

The Pre-Paid fuel option is $150.00. You can take advantage of the Pre-Paid fuel option early by using the Zelle payment app and sending $150.00 to Southern.Route@rftw.us If you use the Zelle app, please add “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” in the Memo line. We will receive the notification of the payment and will have a list of those who have Pre-Paid at Registration in Ontario, CA.

If you do not use Zelle, you can also send a check to:

Run For The Wall Inc.
50 Fourth Ave #1445
Dayton, NV 89403

If you send a check you need to add a note about what Route you are on and what the check is for i.e. Southern Route Pre-paid Fuel/Southern Route Luggage Fundraiser.

Fundraising

The Southern Route is offering a fundraising opportunity that may benefit all riders’ safety! Our newest fundraiser is the Luggage Fundraiser. The SR will have a dedicated enclosed trailer to transport luggage.  This will allow riders to remove bags normally strapped onto their bikes and have them securely transported for them from our morning starting location to our nightly dinner stop. This adds to the safety of all riders by removing bags that could obstruct other riders’ view of bikes in front of them; preventing a rider from focusing on a loose item on another bike around them; and removes the added weight allowing for better control of your bike while riding in formation. Riders will be required to drop off their bag(s) at the morning staging/breakfast location. Bags will not be available until our final night/dinner stop. Riders will be restricted to 2 bags per bike. A check-in/check-out procedure will be followed ensuring no-one absconds with a bag that is not their own. The cost will be $7 per day or $50.00 for all 10 days. A prorated rate may be available depending on your starting location. Ask at check-in!  If you wish to take advantage of this new fundraiser, you can also prepay by using the Zelle app and Southern.Route@rftw.us  Please add “Luggage Fundraiser” to the memo section when submitting your payment.

If you plan to purchase the Pre-Paid Fuel and the Luggage Fundraiser all in one transaction; please enter both “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” and “Luggage Fundraiser” on the memo line. If you are paying for more than one bike, please note that as well.

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 or chat with a qualified responder.

Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

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Information Update – Link For Services For Capt. Ronald Wayne Forrester

All,

As you may have read in other RFTW communication, the remains of the father of long-time RFTW rider Karoni Forrester were positivity identified recently and returned to the family.

You can read more about USMC Capt. Ronald Wayne Forrester in the DPAA announcement at this link.

Today at 2 PM CST they are holding a service for him in the Austin area. For those unable to attend. This is the link to view that service online.

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator Say Their Names Newsletter

This is the 3rd Edition of our Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget! Newsletter

US Marine Corps
Capt. Ronald Wayne Forrester

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Forrester (DOB 3/15/1947) entered the U.S. Marine Corps from Odessa, Texas. He was a graduate of Ector High school. Capt. Forrester was a member of the Marine All-Weather Attack Squadron 533, Marine Air Group 15, 1st Marine Air Wing. On December 27, 1972, he was the bombardier/navigator aboard an A-6A Intruder (bureau number 155666, call sign “Tiny 05”) which took off from Royal Thai Air Base Nam Phong, Khon Kaen Province, Thailand, carrying two crew members, Pilot Captain Ralph J. Chipman (from Orem, UT) and then 1st Lt. Forrester, on a night combat mission over the northern part of North Vietnam. The Intruder was last heard from when an airborne controller received a radio transmission indicating “Tiny 05” was beginning its entry into the target area. No subsequent radio contact was made.

A subsequent article in Quan Doi Nhan Dan, a daily Vietnamese newspaper described an aircraft downed by the Vietnamese. Apparently, the pilot was reported to be deceased, and the possibility the co-pilot as well. Although this article was thought to possibly relate to Capt. Chipman and Lt. Forrester, it was not definite enough for proof of death. Both men were classified Missing in Action.

In September 1978, the Marine Corps changed Capt. Forrester’s status from Missing in Action to Killed in Action. Investigations following the incident continued for decades, with investigators eventually discovering remains and material evidence which were believed to be associated with Capt. Forrester and the other aviator in the area of the crash site.

Capt. Forrester is the father of our very own RFTW rider and POW/MIA advocate Karoni “Hoops” Forrester. Karoni grew up knowing her father through photos and friends because that’s all she had.

Capt. Forrester ended every letter he sent home with “Give Karoni a kiss for me”.

See a wonderful news interview with Karoni HERE.

Capt. Forrester is memorialized on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. His name is also inscribed along with all his fallen comrades on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.

On December 4, 2023, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) identified the remains of Captain Ronald W. Forrester, missing from the Vietnam War. 

According to the Permian Basin Vietnam Memorial Website, Capt. Forrester was the only military member from Ector County who had never been accounted for. The Southern Route visits the Permian Basin Vietnam Memorial each year on Day 4 of our Mission in Midland, TX. The memorial is “a tribute to the 225 men from 30 of the West Texas Permian Basin counties who died in service related to the Vietnam War and to those who fought and survived.”

Karoni and her family are planning a Celebration of Life for her father, Capt. Forrester, on Saturday, February 3, 2024, at 2pm at the Lake Travis United Methodist Church in Austin, TX.

You can find the Facebook announcement HERE. I hope to see as many of our RFTW family there supporting Karoni and her family!

Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

 

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator January Newsletter

Happy New Year Everyone! Is it May Yet?

It’s not quite May yet, but it is time to remember what our RFTW 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; This is why I RIDE!

Until they all come home, until they are all accounted for, we must continue to Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice! Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, and Never Forget! 

As many of you already know the Southern Route hotel list was posted January 1, 2024. It takes commitment and fortitude to get the hotel list done way before most riders haven’t even decided if they’re going. I want to thank all our State Coordinators for all their dedication in reaching this deadline over the holiday season. The 2024 Southern Route Hotel list can be found here: 2024 Southern Route Hotel list. This list also contains information for those who may be camping along the way.

The planning and preparation for the RFTW 2024 Mission has continued during this cold season and the Southern Route Leadership teams continue to prepare and finalize our itinerary.

REGISTER FOR THE RUN TODAY!!! 

RFTW Southern Route 2024 now has over 203 registered riders and participants with less than 133 days until KSU May 15, 2024. If you have not registered yet, please do so as soon as possible. Early registration ends on January 31, 2024. Beginning February 1, 2024, registration cost increases from $45.00 to $60.00. Early registration helps us plan for our gas stops and meals.  You can register HERE.

We are all Ambassadors for RFTW while we go about our everyday lives, spreading the word about RFTW and promoting our Mission through our experiences on the Run. The BoD has created many tools to use to share information about the Mission. You can access flyers, business card templates, brochures and talking points. These are great tools to help all of us promote our Mission at local restaurants, veteran establishments, dealerships, etcClick here for RFTW promotional materials

When promoting RFTW, please remind donors that RFTW is a 501C(3) nonprofit. Donors can donate on-line here on the RFTW website. If using this link on the RFTW website, please instruct them to select how they want the donation applied; preferably directly to Southern Route or RFTW General Fund. Donations will also be accepted through Zelle directly to the Southern Route at southern.route@rftw.us.

RFTW has a new updated Rider Code of Conduct that every rider and participant is required to read and adhere to. Please be respectful to all riders, participants, and supporters by adhering to this code of conduct while on the Run.

Pre-Paid Fuel

For the second year in a row the Pre-Paid fuel option will be available on the Southern Route. If you are riding from California to DC, please consider taking advantage of our Pre-Paid fuel program. Please keep in mind that the Pre-Paid fuel option applies to the 23 planned and coordinated fuel stops we will be making during the day while on our Mission. ALL riders are still required to fuel on their own, filling their tanks prior to staging each morning. Whether you decide to top-off at night on the way to your hotel; or on your way to staging in the morning; you must still fill up your gas!

The pre-paid fuel program has proven to get us through the gas line much quicker and provide for longer KSD rest stops. That really beats sitting in a gas line, fumbling with cash, and waiting for your turn to fuel! The Pre-Paid fuel option will again be $150.00. You can take advantage of the Pre-Paid fuel option early by using the Zelle payment app and sending $150.00 to Southern.Route@rftw.us If you use the Zelle app, please add “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” in the Memo line. We will receive the notification of the payment and will have a list of those who have Pre-Paid at Registration in Ontario, CA. Below are 3 screenshots of what the process looks like using the Zelle app through USAA.

The Zelle cash app is already incorporated in many on-line banking apps such as USAA. The Zelle app is also available as a stand-alone app that can be downloaded to your phone or tablet. If you download the Zelle app, during the setup process it will ask you to identify your bank. If your bank has Zelle built into its own app it will direct you to go to your banks app!

Zelle is the only mobile payment app we are currently authorized to use.

 

Fundraising

For the first time ever, the Southern Route will offer a new fundraising event that may benefit all rider’s safety! Our newest fundraiser is the Luggage Fundraiser. The SR will have a dedicated luggage transport truck and enclosed trailer which riders may pay to have transport their luggage daily. This will allow riders to remove bags normally strapped onto their bikes and have them securely transported for them to our night stop. This adds to the safety of all riders by removing bags that could obstruct other riders view of bikes in front of them; preventing a rider of focusing on a loose item on another bike around them; removes the added weight allowing for better control of your bike while riding in formation. There are other benefits that may come into play too, especially when mother nature is factored in; but we won’t discuss that! Riders will be required to drop off their bag(s) at the morning staging/breakfast location. Bags will not be available until our final night/dinner stop. Riders will be restricted to 2 bags per bike. A check-in/check-out procedure will be followed ensuring no-one absconds with a bag that is not their own. The cost will be $7 per day or $50.00 for all 10 days. If you wish to take advantage of this new fundraiser, you can also prepay by using the Zelle app and Southern.Route@rftw.us  Please add “Luggage Fundraiser” to the memo section when submitting your payment.

If you plan to purchase the Pre-Paid Fuel and the Luggage Fundraiser all in one transaction; please enter both “SR Pre-Paid Fuel 2024” and “Luggage Fundraiser” on the memo line. If you are paying for more than one bike, please note that as well.

If you or any supporters plan to donate items to the Southern Route for Auction/Raffle please send me an email with the details of the item(s), pictures, and where that item will be presented to the Southern Route so our Fundraising Team can plan accordingly.

Gift Cards

A segment of every morning meeting is fundraising. This is done through the 50/50 raffle and item raffles. This year we’re again looking for donated gift cards to raffle at morning meetings. Please consider bringing gift cards to donate to our morning raffle fundraising. The funds are used in part to purchase fuel for the chase vehicles and medical vehicles. Just knowing the chase vehicles and medical staff are with us provides a level of comfort, safety, and security. Please help us pay for this service.

 

Missing Man Formation

If you are interested in riding the Missing Man Formation (MMF), please send an email to Missing Man Coordinator Rick “SpeedBump” Shoaf at Rick.Shoaf@rftw.us. Rick will explain the process, requirements, and expectations of riding in the MMF during the run.

We are still looking for a few volunteers in Platoon Leadership positions. CB communications is required for these positions. If you are not an FNG and are able and willing to volunteer for a Platoon Leadership position, please submit a volunteer form. You can also submit a volunteer form if you are interested in volunteering for any other positions.

Leave no one behind does not end on the battlefield!

Veterans Lives Matter – Give a Damn!

If you or someone you know find themselves struggling with their mental health, please know you can contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator December Newsletter

From myself and our very own Santa Ed, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays to our RFTW Family and friends! May you all have a Happy Holiday Season!

In previous newsletters, I have mentioned asking yourselves why we ride and what is our mission?

Run for the Wall is 1 Mission, 4 Routes! That 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.”

As many of you already know, after 50 years, Capt. Ronald W. Forrester, USMC, MIA 12/27/72 has been positively identified. Capt. Forrester is the father of our very own Karoni Forrester. In Karoni’s words from December 6, 2023:

“Yesterday morning I received a call from United States Marine Corps Casualty.  One of the 12 bone fragments recovered in the two excavations of our crash site this year is a positive DNA match to Daddy.

Allow that to settle for a second because I’m still in shock myself.  The government identified Dad’s remains just weeks before the 51st anniversary of his A6 Intruder being shot down over North Vietnam.  I wanted to call so many of you personally before you reading it here.  I’m blessed to have a long list of people who have been supportive and loving to me and my family on this journey, and I failed to complete my list.

THANK YOU to family and friends, and friends who have become family.  Thanks to the League of Families for initially bringing POW/MIA families together to be stronger and bolder as one collective voice demanding accountability.  HUGE THANKS to DPAA (JCRC/JPAC/DPMO – all the iterations!) and to the independent ARC, our own POW/MIA accounting warriors (you know who you are!).  The efforts made by our government, and groups of concerned citizens, to account for Americans Missing in Action is unmatched anywhere in the world, even though it takes a very long time.  Answers do come and we are grateful that it’s our family’s turn. 

Daddy wanted to be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery and already has a Memorial headstone there.  We will be working through details to plan his funeral, though waiting time for a funeral at Arlington can be upwards of six months.  In the meantime, his brothers and I will be planning a Celebration of Life/Celebration for Answers in the Austin area early in the new year for Dad’s Texas family and friends (and our friends too!).  I always love a good Ron Forrester story, and I want to hear many that day!  Uncle Don wants to have it sooner than later, on the heels of us finally getting the long-awaited answer. More details to come.

As today is Mamaw’s birthday in heaven, I know they are all celebrating in a special way; rejoicing together that those of us here on earth finally know what they know.”

This is why we RIDE!

Until they all come home, until they are all accounted for, we must continue to Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, and Never Forget!

We must also remember to “Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice”!

The planning and preparation for the RFTW 2024 Mission has continued during this cold season and the Southern Route Leadership teams continue to prepare. Our State Coordinators have been doing excellent work and our Hotel list for 2024 is just about complete. This list is scheduled to be published January 1, 2024. Please remember to mention Run for the Wall to the hotels. Even those who did not provide us with a special group rate may still provide a discount if you mention RFTW. Please be patient and courteous to the hotel folks when you call to reserve your room. We are all Ambassadors for the Run and politeness goes a long way in maintaining our relationships with those that support us along the Routes.

RFTW Southern Route 2024 now has over 164 registered riders and participants with less than 135 days until KSU May 15, 2024. If you have not registered yet, please do so as soon as possible. Early registration ends on January 31, 2024. Beginning February 1, 2024, registration cost increases. Early registration helps us plan for our stops and Hotel accommodations etc.  You can register HERE.

RFTW has a new updated Rider Code of Conduct that every rider and participant is required to read and adhere to. Please be respectful to all riders, participants, and supporters by adhering to this code of conduct while on the Run.

If you are interested in riding the Missing Man Formation (MMF), please send an email to our new Missing Man Coordinator Rick “SpeedBump” Shoaf at Rick.Shoaf@rftw.us. Rick will explain the process, requirements, and expectations of riding in the MMF during the run.

We are still looking for a few volunteers in Platoon Leadership positions. CB communications is required for these positions. If you are not an FNG and are able and willing to volunteer for a Platoon Leadership position, please submit a volunteer form. You can also submit a volunteer form if you are interested in volunteering for any other positions.

If you haven’t done so yet please consider donating to the Run before the end of the year so you can claim it on your taxes. RFTW is a 501C(3) nonprofit. You can go to the link below and donate online or you can Zelle directly to the Southern Route at southern.route@rftw.us.

If you or any supporters plan to donate items to the Southern Route for Auction/Raffle please reach out and send me an email with the details of the item(s), pictures, and where that item will be presented to the Southern Route so I can begin the planning with our Fundraising Team.

 

Leave no one behind does not end on the battlefield!

Veterans Lives Matter – Give a Damn!

If you or someone you know find themselves struggling with their mental health, please know you can contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024