Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on Leave a comment

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.

Posted on Leave a comment

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

 

Posted on Leave a comment

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

Posted on 1 Comment

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

Posted on 1 Comment

2024 Southern Route Coordinator Say Their Names Newsletter

Welcome to the 2nd Edition of the Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget newsletter!

If you have a story you’d like to have highlighted, please let me know. Thank you, Carol Olmstead, for the information contributing to both the 1st and 2nd Edition of this series.

The story behind the song “My Son” – October 1968.

“My Son” is a song written and recorded in October 1968 by American country music singer Jan Howard. It is among several songs recorded by country artists during this period that related to the Vietnam War. The song is based on a letter Howard wrote to her son, Jimmy, who was drafted into the war. Her second son (Carter Howard) and Bill Anderson inspired Howard to record it. Upon showing the letter to Owen Bradley, he insisted that she record it. Recording the song in a single take, it was released as a single in November 1968 as “My Son”. Howard received over 5,000 letters from soldiers and their families following its release. “They said they felt like it was for them,” Howard commented. The song was later nominated for Best Female Country Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards After. Listen HERE.

Howard had sent the song to her son after its release. Before he could write back, he was killed in battle. At the same time, “My Son” became a major hit on the country charts in the United States, reaching number 15 on the Billboard Country Chart. The recording later appeared on Howard’s 1969 self-titled studio album. Since its release, “My Son” has been considered among Howard’s signature songs. In later years, the song also has also been featured in documentaries that discuss the Vietnam War.

On October 30, 1968, at the age of 21, Corporal James Van “Jimmy” Howard was KIA by a landmine in Quang Nam, Vietnam. Carter Howard, Jimmy’s brother who was also serving in Vietnam, escorted Jimmy’s body home to Madison, TN.

Jan Howard subsequently released the album “For God and Country,” in memory of Jimmy. Her ongoing performances, appearances at Veterans Day parades, and visits to VA Hospitals and veterans’ homes helped her win the 1992 Tennessee Adjutant General’s Distinguished Patriot Medal, the 2005 Gold Medal of Merit Award from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the 2010 Eagle Rare Life Award for Leadership. But her commitment goes further back, to the conception of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

“Because of Jimmy’s death, I was contacted to help raise money for them,” she recalled. “At the request of Jan Scruggs (president of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, who served in the 199th Light Infantry Brigade from 1969–1970 as a corporal), I went to Washington, D.C., along with several high-ranking military officers, to raise money for the fund. Radio stations gave their time, and I went around the country to do radiothons: People would call in and pledge money. What really touched my heart was when they pledged their Social Security checks. All of it, from hard-working people everywhere, went into building the Wall.”

Jan Howard passed away on March 28, 2020, at the age of 91. After Jimmy’s death, Jan truly Lived a Life Worthy of His Sacrifice!

Lyrics to “My Son”

My son my son I pray that you’ll come home to me my son my son
It seems only yesterday the most important thing on your mind
Was whether you’d make the baseball team or get the new school jacket
Like all the other kids had
And I remember how your eyes lighted up when you got your first rod and reel
For that big fishing trip just you and your dad
And I remember wiping the tears away when you hurt yourself on your sled
In those days it seems the house was filled with laughter and joy
Filled with your friends and they were all such good boys
And then came the day that you walked down the aisle
To receive that all important diploma
I was so proud, but I couldn’t believe that tall young man was my son my wonderful son
And then I remember the little girl that was always around kinda tagging after you
She’s not so little anymore but she’s still around who knows maybe someday
Then you received the call that I guess we knew would come someday
But it came so quick and now you’re so very far away
In the land that until a short time ago I didn’t even know was there
I know the time will pass you’ll be home again
But until that time my darling take care take special care
My son my son I pray that you’ll come home to me my son my son

Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice!

Darin “Lurch” Koch
RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

Posted on 1 Comment

2024 Southern Route Coordinator November Newsletter

An early Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I hope you are all able to spend time with family and loved ones! If you have no one to celebrate with and want to travel to Houston, Texas to celebrate with us, just let me know!

As many of you know, the RFTW BoD recently held a Town Hall meeting via Zoom. The meeting was very successful, and I want to thank all of you who took time out of your day to join the meeting. Yes, there were a few minor glitches that were ultimately worked out, but that just means the next one will be even better. If you missed the meeting or would like to review a recording of the meeting, please click here.

If you have any Route specific questions, please contact the Route Coordinator for the Route which you have questions about. If you have questions about RFTW in general, please reach out to any of the Route Leadership team members listed on each of the RFTW Route Hubs under RUN DETAILS at RFTW.US

The planning and preparation for the RFTW 2024 Mission does continue. But 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.”

We must continue to Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, and Never Forget!

As the RFTW BoD, the Route Coordinators and their Leadership Teams continue to plan for RTFW 2024, now is the perfect time for you to ask yourself, “Why do I ride? Why do I take part in this Mission? What does this Mission mean to me?” Many of us have participated in this Mission for years and the saying Remember the Mission is very important. After years of participation, the Mission remains the same. To help remind us of why we ride, or to reinvigorate our spirit in the Mission, please take some time and watch the documentary “All The Way. The Story of Run For The Wall”. This documentary includes all 4 routes and riders and patriots from each Saying their names, Telling their Stories, and making sure we Never Forget!

We ride for comradery, we ride to remember, we ride to heal, we ride for our loved ones who can no longer ride. We ride trying to “Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice”!

After our recent Town Hall meeting, I was sent an email from a 2023 FNG rider who stated that he had been inspired by the song on the UK RTTW website. This is a Run similar in mission to RFTW, but in the UK.

This rider wondered if there had ever been a song written commemorating our RFTW mission here in the U.S. Below are links to three different songs that have been written and sung in support of RFTW over the years. Please enjoy these songs and Remember the Mission!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fc8Q6Q9-qNw

Run for the Wall – YouTube

Run for the Wall – YouTube

RFTW Southern Route 2024 now has over 126 registered riders and participants with less than 190 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.

We are still looking for volunteers, especially Platoon Leadership positions. CB communications is required for these positions. It is my intention to attempt to have a dedicated Outreach Platoon Leadership Team (PL, APL, TG) which will be responsible for leading riders, along with the assigned Road Guards and Outreach Team members, on each individual Outreach mission. If you have not already volunteered for Platoon Leadership and have previously served in Platoon Leadership and would like to be a part of this dedicated Team, please submit a volunteer form. You can also submit a volunteer form if you are interested in volunteering for any other positions.

If you are interested in riding the Missing Man Formation, please send an email to Rick “Speedbump“ Shoaf at sardawg28@msn.com. Speedbump has volunteered to coordinate the Missing Man portion of our mission this year. If you see or talk with Rick, please thank him for taking on this important responsibility.

It is still not too late If you have not submitted an After-Action Report (AAR). Please submit reports by clicking here. RFTW leadership reads every AAR in an effort to make the Run the best it can possibly be, and we take the AAR’s seriously. Do not be alarmed, the BoD and the RC’s read all AAR’s but we do not respond directly to each AAR submission.

If you have a Memorial or Outreach Mission that the SR visits and that Memorial or Outreach Mission holds special meaning to you, I would like you to reach out to me! I’d like to highlight each of our Memorials and Outreach’s and share the stories of those remembered at each of them. I want us to Say Their Names, Tell their (and your) stories, and Never Forget!

Be on the lookout for the 2nd Edition of the Say Their Names Newsletter!

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

Posted on Leave a comment

2024 Southern Route Coordinator Say Their Names Newsletter

2024 Southern Route Coordinator Say Their Names Newsletter

Welcome to the 1st Edition of the Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget!

This is the 1st Edition of a series I’d like to keep posting to live up to the Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget phrase.

If you have a story you’d like to have highlighted, please let me know. Since I found a wonderful article with first-hand survivor accounts and details of this mission, this is a long, but very interesting story.

The “American Beauty” Reconnaissance Mission – June 1969

The story of the loss of Brig. Gen. James (Jimmy) M. Stewart’s stepson, Lt. Ronald McClean.

General Stewart lost his 24-year-old stepson; Marine 1st Lt. Ronald McClean on June 8, 1969. Lt. McCLean was KIA while on a reconnaissance patrol mission in the DMZ code-named “American Beauty”. Lt. McClean and the Marines with him were caught in an ambush when he was killed. The 5 surviving Marines were pinned down for 24 hours by a dug-in NVA platoon. The resulting onslaught of automatic-weapons fire, grenades, and 12 hours of close air support could have killed the team many times over.

The following account is an extract from an article written by Jeffrey Grosscup – 5-27-2009.

“We all expected to die on the hill,” said Bob Lake of Aitkin, MN, who at 19 had been the assistant patrol leader. “We were in no man’s land, unknowingly dropped into a [1,200-member] enemy battalion, and [helicopter extraction from] the hilltop was the only way out.”

In January 1998, I tracked down Bob Lake, a Minnesota high school teacher, who had been one of the recon team members who walked out of the DMZ with me 29 years earlier. Lake provided the names of Roger See, Joe “Doc” Sheriff, Jimmy Sessums and Bunn, the Vietnamese Montagnard scout. The patrol leader, See, was the most difficult to locate, as he was living a nearly under­ground existence.

According to Sheriff, of Booneville, Ky., who had been the patrol corpsman: “Roger’s cool and even-headedness kept us alive. This was my first patrol. I thought, ‘God! If this is what it’s like out here, what are my chances of surviving?’” Sheriff went on to do 14 more recon patrols, with no casualties.

Lieutenant McLean had had infantry experience but had only been in recon a couple of weeks before he was killed. Officers seldom went on recon patrols, and this would be McLean’s first. Navy Lieutenant Martin Glasser was the battalion surgeon for the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion in June 1969. He said that because he and Lieutenant McLean, 24, were both from California, they quickly became friends.

Glasser remembered that an order had come down from division headquarters to have recon teams inserted into the DMZ to confirm enemy presence there. He also recalled that a priority for the mission was to bring back a POW. He said it was already known that there was an NVA battalion there, and the recon commander, a lieutenant colonel, refused the order, realizing that to drop lightly armed teams in the middle of it would be suicidal. That battalion commander, according to Glasser, was replaced by another who carried out the order.

Glasser said that McLean had heard the same intelligence briefings and was well aware that DMZ ­patrolling would be highly risky. He wasn’t going to ask his men to do something he wouldn’t do himself. “He didn’t have to go on the patrol,” Glasser said, “but once committed, he had a premonition that he would get killed.”

The team went in early on June 6 with orders to patrol an area four kilometers square. Two other reconnaissance teams were given similar missions, and all three would be operating in parallel quadrants across the DMZ. After a 35-minute helicopter flight from Quang Tri in northern I Corps, American Beauty was dropped on the same hilltop they would later fight on with every bit of firepower they had to save themselves. To allow the helicopter landing, American jets had blown away the hilltop foliage, and it was still smoldering when the team went in.

The NVA had to have seen the helicopter insertion. As the Marines raced into the jungle, the enemy had occupied the landing zone and dug in. The NVA had 54 hours to fortify their position. Late that afternoon the team observed a bunker complex with NVA soldiers ­periodically poking their heads out of holes. American Beauty, from an undetected observation point, called in 72 rounds of artillery.

By June 7, a day before American Beauty had its own fight, the recon team to the east had had an eyeball-to-eyeball encounter with the NVA, reporting two dead and several wounded. Four helicopters were shot down attempting their rescue.

“We were monitoring their radio frequency,” said Lake, “and could hear all the gunfire, and suddenly their radio went dead. Our fear factor shot off the scale. We thought they were wiped out.” (In fact, the reason American Beauty lost contact at that point was that the other team changed its radio frequency.)

 

“I knew from what was happening to [the recon unit to the east] that this was going to happen to us if we didn’t get out of there,” said See. “I spent all day on the radio trying to get us out before it happened.”

“Request denied,” came the reply. “Continue mission.”

The patrol spent the second night on a mountain precipice to minimize its exposure. “I had my feet wrapped around a tree so I wouldn’t roll off when I was sleeping,” said Lake. “We had movement 20 meters from where we were.”

Late on the morning of June 8 the team had moved only a short distance from its night position. “We had movement all around us,” said See, “and I was slowly moving us in the direction of the hilltop.”

Sessums remembered McLean being the rear security and recalled that every time he came forward he was reporting movement. “Were we watching them or they watching us? I don’t know,” said Sessums.

The official chronology records that at 1130 hours on June 8 the team fired on approaching enemy troops with unknown results. Team members deny that happened, saying that up to that point their position had not been compromised. The team still did not have permission to move to the LZ, but See headed that way, figuring that orders would have to come. For four hours they zigzagged through the bush, stopping frequently to listen. At about 1630 they stopped to eat, hoping to receive word that they were to be pulled out.

They were sitting slightly off a trail with the men back-to-back, observing, listening and ready to eat. Lake remembered Corporal See looking back to the east, the ­direction he thought any attack would come from. “We were stupid being right on the trail,” said Lake.

“We were bewildered. We knew there were [NVA] all around us.”

They had no way of avoiding what came next. “I’d just opened a can of meatballs and spaghetti,” said Lake, “and as I looked in the direction we were headed, I saw two jungle hats coming down the trail. They were only 15 meters away. I shot four rounds and…the whole team opened up….We killed one and wounded the other.”

Sessums, of Paragould, AR, radioed back that they had a POW. “The POW was our ticket out,” said Lake. “With the POW our mission was over. The helicopters were on their way.”

But now they had the prospect of NVA coming at them from two sides. If not for the prisoner, the team could have gone into hiding to wait for a safer time to move. Having secured the POW, however, they were radioed their orders to get to the landing zone. A Marine observation aircraft was in the area, and the pilot monitored the team’s frequency. He radioed, “Be advised you are being attacked from the west.”

The team suddenly had to lay down a defense for what the pilot estimated was a platoon-size unit. Corporal See ordered the patrol to get online and quickly string together Claymore mines. Expecting to be overrun, Sheriff and Lake did little more than stretch out their arms to place the Claymores facing the attackers.

 

“The Claymores were no more than six feet ahead of me when the observation pilot called to let it rip,” said Lake. “Both Doc and myself were blown through the air by the back blast.”

By this time there were fixed-wing aircraft overhead, and the area was raked with bombs. Sheriff remembered the jets and helicopter gunships pounding the hill for more than an hour while the team waited for its green light to move out. “This hilltop was only 30 yards wide and 20 across. We didn’t expect anything could survive the bombing.”

The team moved out with the hilltop as its objective. As the Marines came off the trail and into a clearing at about 1745, the LZ was to the left. The hill had about a 35-degree grade that made distance visibility nearly impossible. The Montagnard scout Bunn was up the hill first, followed by Lake and Sheriff. Sessums, McLean and See provided cover from behind a fallen tree.

“I was with the prisoner, trying to get him to move uphill,” said See, “when the NVA opened up, and a bullet got me in the leg. McLean moved over to help with the bandage.” McLean was sitting up when machine gun fire erupted, and a round caught him in the chest.

See yelled for Doc Sheriff. As Sheriff ran down, the NVA positions exploded with automatic weapons fire. Bullets were right at Sheriff’s heels, and a dust cloud engulfed him as he reached McLean. Sheriff’s running to McLean remained Sessums’ most vivid memory: “Bullets came from everywhere. He should have been killed.”

Reaching the body, Sheriff declared McLean dead. This was Roger See’s second tour in Vietnam, and as the leader of more than 60 patrols, he had not lost a team member. McLean was his first.

The patrol had walked into a beehive, and now the prisoner was a handicap. There was no way they could move forward with him. Sessums and Sheriff watched as See took aim at the prisoner’s head and shot him.

Years later, See remained troubled about killing the prisoner. “I should have tied him up,” he said. “That was my mistake.”

See told Sheriff to get back uphill. “I was going up the hill hunched low,” said Sheriff. “I was one foot from a hole where an NVA was curled up. If he had been able to get his AK-47 aimed lower, he would’ve had me. But because his weapon was elevated, all the rounds went into the air and the muzzle blast threw me back, leaving burn marks on my face.”

Startled, Sheriff fired his own unaimed automatic volley. Sessums, watching from below, assumed Sheriff had been killed and radioed back that they now had two KIA. That transmission was negated when Sheriff signaled he was okay. With their POW dead, McLean dead, and Bunn, Lake and Sheriff on the hillside, See and Sessums left McLean’s body and moved ahead.

Sheriff knew that the guy with the AK-47 was still in his hole. Both Sheriff and See believed this was the one who had killed McLean. Sheriff motioned to See to throw a grenade. Standing above the hole, See pulled the pin and waited several seconds before dropping the grenade. The blast neutralized that threat, but the other dug-in NVA soldiers kept the Marines pinned to the ground.

Each of the Marines had a story of an enemy grenade that didn’t go off. Which were the same story told through another’s eyes and which were individual incidents can’t be discerned, but while it was still daylight, one landed just feet from See’s head. “I told myself ‘I’m a goner,’” he said, “but the grenade didn’t go off.”

“We were told to get to the top—secure the high ground,” said Lake. “This is crazy, but Doc and I started singing ‘From the Halls of Montezuma.’ I grabbed a grenade and tried to throw it uphill, but my backpack interfered with the throw, and it only went about 10 meters before rolling down, exploding very close to Doc Sheriff. He yelled, ‘What the f— are you doing?’”

The team had no way of estimating enemy strength. The treeless hillside was clear only to the north. Had there been any NVA in the distant tree line, they could have picked off the exposed Marines one at a time. McLean’s body was 35 meters behind them.

The Marines had been unable to move for 2 1⁄2 hours. On top of the hill was an A-frame bunker, reinforced with logs and dirt and with sightlines to anything that approached the top. “The jets started dropping 100-pound bombs on top of that thing,” said Lake. Helicopters also hammered the hill with machine guns. “They knocked the crap out of everything, but ­apparently not the bunker,” he said.

Sheriff, who earlier had escaped the short grenade toss of Lake, now caught a piece of shrapnel in his hand. Shrapnel also blew a hole in the plastic stock of his M-16 rifle. The NVA were in their holes, not returning fire.

Late that day 1st Lt. Frank Cuddy, a Marine helicopter pilot who was later awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his support of American Beauty, was flying back from Laos with his helicopter gunship team when he saw the McDonnell F-4 Phantoms and learned that a recon team was in real trouble.

The aerial observer was short of fuel and wanted Cuddy to take charge. At 1930, believing the pounding air support had neutralized the hilltop, they attempted a helicopter extraction. Cuddy’s team would supply covering fire for the Boeing-Vertol CH-46s that would try to lift the team out.

“As the choppers approached, we were ready to make our run,” said Lake. “But as they came to hover, the NVA opened up and forced them off.”

Cuddy’s two Bell UH-1 Huey gunships remained on station while new teams of CH-46 pilots made two more extraction attempts. Each time, the NVA delivered crushing fire. The helicopters limped back to Vandegrift combat base.

“We carried enough fuel to stay on station for two hours,” said Cuddy. “When we left to refuel and rearm it was dark, and we would be leaving [American Beauty] all alone. I promised them I’d be back.”

As darkness fell, the team had been able to crawl together behind some fallen trees where they could take cover. “The NVA didn’t know where we were,” said Lake, “and they didn’t come out of their holes to look. Nothing moved.”

Sessums remembered hearing the distinct thud of a metal object hitting the tree they were behind, and then a sulfur like smell and a hissing sound. Another dud NVA grenade. In the dark, moonless night, a Lockheed AC-130 dropped illumination flares. When a gunship did arrive, the pilot needed the exact location of American Beauty before he could deliver his ordnance.

 

“We carried a strobe light,” said See. “I put it in a hat and threw it away from us…the NVA tossed a bunch of chicoms at it. We took a compass reading to the strobe light to mark our position and gave it to the pilot. His machine guns started smoking.”

“The trees sounded like a chain saw was chewing them up,” said Sessums.

Cuddy thought that after this pounding the CH-46s would attempt another rescue, but he learned that the division commander had ordered a cessation of rescue attempts. Too many helicopters had already been hit. Ground forces would be used instead.

And yet, there was an honored tradition to consider. “In the Marine Corps it’s ingrained that you don’t leave dead and wounded,” said Cuddy. “To leave them out there was to let them die.”

Cuddy’s team returned on station with a plan to get the patrol out. Huey gunships carried about 1,600 pounds of fuel. Cuddy intended to get the fuel down to 200 pounds, just enough for the 20-minute flight to Vandegrift. The crews jettisoned toolboxes and extra machine-gun barrels to gain more lift capacity. Stripped down, they thought they could carry two men on one helicopter and three on the other.

“The NVA knew our plan,” said Cuddy. “They kept their heads down as we shot up our ammo….We thought maybe we got them all.” At about 0130—and against orders—Cuddy came in for the extraction. An illumination flare was dropped, and the team was told to be ready.

“I was no more than three, four feet off the ground,” said Cuddy, “when all of a sudden 15 to 20 NVA were out of their holes firing at us. We were blinded by the muzzle flashes. One came right out of the A-frame and was face to face with me, firing. I stuck my M-16 out the helicopter and emptied a magazine on full automatic.”

Lance Corporal Lake, who would have been first on Cuddy’s helicopter, saw it all. “If [the NVA] had been on our side he would have been awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery,” said Lake. “Nothing got him.”

The co-pilot got hit and Cuddy was wounded in the face and leg. Plexiglas, shrapnel, and bullets exploded in the cockpit. They had to break off the rescue attempt. Cuddy could barely control the aircraft. His radio was shot out and the hydraulic system partially shut down, but he kept it flying and landed at Vandegrift. The next day he counted 16 holes in his helicopter’s nose and cockpit area.

When Cuddy and his crews left the DMZ early on the morning of June 9, all the patrol had was the artillery battery firing illumination. The sounds of foot movement, groaning wounded NVA and bodies being dragged through the brush continued throughout the following night.

“I had been operating on adrenaline up to that point,” said Sheriff, “but now was the first time I really felt afraid. I remember saying to [See], ‘We’re not going to make it,’ and he came back, ‘Ah, Doc don’t worry, I’ve been through this stuff dozens of times, we’ll be fine.’ He was the toughest rascal I’ve ever met.”

If the aerial rescue had been successful, McLean’s body would have been left behind. Retrieving it would have required another recon insert or ground unit operation, with its own problematic consequences.

 

The illumination rounds were the first indication to the infantry company, four miles to the south, that an American unit was in trouble. Sometime that evening the company learned that it would move out at first light to get the team out. Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines, made it to the southern boundary of the DMZ around 0930, having traveled about three miles with some 90 troops. I was an artillery forward observer with that company. At a clearing 300 meters inside the DMZ, we established a patrol base. The plan was for the 3rd Platoon to make the rescue while the 1st and 2nd platoons remained in reserve.

In normal operations we avoided the trails, but in this case the terrain dictated we use them. Otherwise, we would have easily added half a day to get to American Beauty. The NVA knew we were coming, and we never expected them to let us walk in. What we didn’t know was the size of the NVA force American Beauty had encountered. Two infantry platoons should have been sent in, one as a blocking force.

At 1100, Bravo Company came across a dead NVA, probably the one shot by the team the previous day. We were now walking into the battlefield. This sight caused the column to move more slowly. The point squad pulled into a clearing at about 1130. The first sight was McLean’s body sitting up, slightly hunched forward, behind a fallen tree. There was no movement.

The recon team expected the NVA to still be dug in on the hill and See remembered trying to signal the Marines with a mirror, to let them know they were friendlies and to get them to be quiet. The first squad drew no enemy fire, and for the first time the recon team got up and moved around. Apparently the NVA had used the cover of night to make their exit. The collective guard came down, and survival instincts quickly subsided.

“When the Marines came in, I just started shaking,” said Lake. “I started crying. My team members were looking at one another, thinking, ‘Oh, boy, we are really tough sons of bitches.’”

The sun was high and the day was already hot when we finished burying three NVA. It was humane of us to bury their dead, but risky to spend any more time exposed. McLean’s 200-pound body was rigged with two ponchos and a 12-foot wooden pole for a four-man carry. The grunts made the reconners carry their own.

The trail we came in on would have been the easiest way out, but now tactical wisdom argued for avoiding it. Instead, we headed directly south through deep jungle mountain ravines. Pointmen used machetes to cut trail the entire 2,700-meter distance. By nightfall we had traveled only 1,000 meters and reached a dried stream bed where we set up our night position.

On June 10 we cut, climbed, and carried our way for 16 hours before getting to the southern edge of the DMZ and joining with the rest of Bravo Company. It was dark when the helicopter came to transport McClean’s body. The following morning the American Beauty survivors, all with bullet or shrapnel wounds, walked back to Bravo’s original patrol base for their ride out.

Besides McLean, two other reconners from the team to the east were killed and at least 15 Marines were wounded in their efforts to verify NVA activity in the DMZ. Within two days the team was dissolved and designated “combat inoperative,” due to combat stress. Lake was sent to scuba school in the Philippines and Sheriff to another unit. Sessums and See later got paired together at a mountaintop radio relay station. The four have not been together since January 1998, when I began researching the patrol, there have been many phone conversations between the members. In addition, Bob Lake has met personally with each of the team members and Joe Sheriff has met with Roger See. “I saw Roger in the summer of 2000 in the Florida Keys,” said Sheriff, who was then 52. “Back then [in 1969] Roger was…keeping the rest of us alive. Last visit, I felt like I was able to help him.”

For his actions on the American Beauty patrol, See was awarded the Navy Cross. Both Sessums and Sheriff were awarded the Bronze Star, and McLean the Silver Star posthumously. All earned the Purple Heart. Bob Lake’s Purple Heart was only approved by the Marine Corps on April 4, 2001, and was presented to him on Memorial Day before a hometown crowd.

Bob Lake remembered his anxiety about Vietnam surfacing in February 1985, after he read an article in Good Housekeeping in which Jimmy Stewart was interviewed about his stepson’s death in Vietnam. Lake’s sense from the article was that Stewart really didn’t know what had happened, so he wrote the family a letter. In order to do that, Lake had to get in touch with a memory he had been repressing. His letter to the Stewart family drew the following response, whose brevity spoke to how privately the family had dealt with their loss.

March 19, 1985

Dear Robert Lake,

My wife Gloria and I wanted you to know that we are grateful to you for your kind and thoughtful letter. We are so grateful to you for telling us about our son, who died in Vietnam. To tell you the truth, you are the only Marine who served directly with our son that we have heard from….

Best wishes,

James Stewart

Jeffrey Grosscup was a Marine Corps ­artillery officer with the infantry company that rescued the American Beauty reconnaissance team. For additional reading, see: Never Without Heroes, by Lawrence C. Vetter Jr.; and First Recon—Second to None, by Paul R. Young.

Ronald McClean with his Mother and Stepfather, Jimmy Stewart. (The National Gold Star Family Registry)

Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice!

Darin “Lurch” Koch
RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

Posted on Leave a comment

2024 Southern Route Coordinator October Newsletter

An early Happy Halloween to everyone! I hope you have lots of fun and kids Trick or Treating!

I want to take a moment to acknowledge Roger “Cowboy” Mead and wife Sam for another successful All Riders Reunion, their years of dedication to RFTW, and hosting the All Riders Reunion in Kerrville, TX since 2015. Thank you, Cowboy and Sam, for all you have done! They have now passed the hosting and planning duties on to Philip “Juice” Tutton and his wife Belinda “Pickles” with the reunion remaining in Kerrville!

The planning and preparation for RFTW 2024 continues. As stated in my welcome video, I believe in the saying I used on the SandBox Route last year which evolved during the Run last year to “Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget”. You will continue to hear me say this along with the new saying for the Southern Route this year – “Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice” This is why I ride; this is why WE Ride!

Keep your eyes open for additional “Newsletters” focusing on “Say Their Names, Tell Their Stories, Never Forget” and “Live a Life worthy of their Sacrifice”.

RFTW 2024 is off to a great start with promising early registration numbers. With the countdown to KSU in 217 days, there have been 270 riders and participants register across all 4 Routes! If you have not registered yet, please register as soon as possible. Early registration helps us plan for our stops and Hotel accommodations, etc.  You can register HERE.

After registering, I encourage everyone to also visit the Rider Code of Conduct HERE. While at the Kerrville All Riders Reunion I was asked multiple questions which are easily answered by reading the Rider Code of Conduct. Please be respectful to all participants and supporters by adhering to these expectations.

If you are new to RFTW and this will be your first year (FNG) on the Southern Route and are interested in riding in Honor of a friend or loved one in the Missing Man Formation please send an email to me at darin.lurch.koch@rftw.us. This contact will eventually change to the Missing Man Coordinator. We are currently still looking for an appropriate volunteer to fill this position.

Along with the MM Coordinator, we are also looking for additional Platoon Leadership volunteers to fill the positions of Platoon Leader, Asst. Platoon Leader, and Tail Gunner especially if you are riding a Can-Am or a Trike with Trailer. All Platoon leadership positions are required to have CB communications. You can volunteer for any position(s) HERE.

It is still not too late If you have not submitted an After-Action Report (AAR). Please submit reports by clicking here. RFTW leadership reads every AAR in an effort to make the Run the best it can possibly be and we take the AAR’s seriously. Do not be alarmed, the ExecBoD and the RC’s read all AAR’s but we do not respond directly to each AAR submission.

If you have a Memorial or Outreach Mission that the SR visits and that Memorial or Outreach Mission holds special meaning to you, I would like you to reach out to me! I’d like to highlight each of our Memorials and Outreach’s and share the stories of those remembered at each of them. I want us to Say Their Names, Tell their (and your) stories, and Never Forget!

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

Posted on Leave a comment

2024 Southern Route Coordinator September Newsletter – All Riders Reunion – Kerrville, TX

Just wanted to throw out a quick reminder for those riders interested but that have not yet registered, the ALL Riders Reunion in Kerrville, TX is coming up quick. This event is open to the entire RFTW Family even if you are an FNG (Funny new Guy/Gal) to RFTW you can still participate in this event!

Place: Y.O. Ranch Resort Hotel, Kerrville TX

Phone: 877-967-3767

2033 Sidney Baker Kerrville, TX 78028

Dates: September 27, 2023-October 1, 2023

Room rates per night: Single/double/Triple/quad rate $99.00

Clink HERE to book your hotel reservation online at the Y.O. Ask for the RFTW – Veterans group rate; this block of rooms at this rate will be held until 12 noon 8/20/23.

The Y.O. Ranch Resort is located off Interstate 10; take exit 508. The hotel is south of I-10, approximately 1/2 mile on the left.

To check out the hotel amenities and accommodations go to www.yoranchhotel.com

For those needing RV accommodations:

  • Kerrville-Schreiner Park 830-257-5392 (closest to the hotel, city park, call for reservations)
  • Buckhorn off I-10 800-568-6458

According to Cowboy and Sam as of September 5, 2023, there are 80 registered participants (and I know that number has already increased) including 13 FNG’s to the reunion!

Sam is also advising that she would still like raffle/auction items if you have those to donate and to remind folks that the “Take/Swap” table will be available too. This table is for you to take or swap items such as Pins, pens, patches, challenge coins, etc.

Cowboy has posted the following Agenda:

9/27 – Wednesday

1800…………Meet And Great Dinner El Jimador Mexican Grill & Bar 1550 Junction

Hwy. For Early Early Birds.

9/28 – Thursday

Early Birds Your On Your Own.

9/29 – Friday

0900………..Pow/Mia Flag Raising At The Entrance To The Y.O. Resort/Hotel

0915………..Registration….Ride Sign Up Opens At The Y.O. Resort Lobby

1000………..Rides – Guided Or Self-Guided – Starting Location Y.O. Resort

Self-Guided Ride Infomation Available At The Registration Table.

1000-1700..Y.O. Resort Visit/Socialize/Sightseeing

1700………..Y.O. Shuttle To VFW

1720………..Y.O. Shuttle To VFW

1740………..Y.O. Shuttle To VFW

1800………..Dinner VFW $12.00…..Call Y.O. Resort For Shuttle Returns

1800 – Visit With Post Members.

9/30 – Saturday

0900………..Registration Y.O Resort For Those Not Registered.

0900……….Rides Guided/Self-guided…..Y.O. Resort

0900-1600. Y.O. Resort Visit/Socialize/Sightseeing

1600……….Registration Ends

1600-1700.RFTW Executive BoD/RC Q&A………….Y.O. Resort Conference Room TBA

1800………Banquet/Roast/Raffles/Auction…..Y.O. Spanish/Cypress rooms. A buffet dinner is being served in a private room for the group. The dinner will include coffee and tea service. Adult beverages will be available from the lounge.

10/1 Sunday

Anytime Coffee/Breakfast On Your Own

Goodbyes until May 2024 and September 27 – 29th 2024 in Kerrville! Until then RIDE SAFE!!!

Additional Registration information:

Saturday’s dinner and a RFTW 2023 Reunion rocker are included in the non-refundable registration fee. For first timers (FNG) to YO RFTW Reunion, a reunion patch is included.

Registration cost: Now until September 20 – $40.00

Registration cost: September 20– September 28 – $50.00

Deadline for the registration is September 26th paid in advance. The deadline is required by the hotel to confirm head count for Saturday’s dinner. Prior registration and payment is required.

************************************************************************

(Please print clearly)

Name(s)_________________________________________________________________

Road name(s)____________________________________________________________

Number of Attendees:______________

Full Address:______________________________________________________________________

Email:____________________________ Phone:______________________________

First time attendee Yes_______ No_______

Wednesday evening Los Jimadores Mexican Grill & Bar Yes______ No_____

Friday evening dinner at VFW   Yes______No_____

Send checks payable to: R.W. Mead 120 Ridge Grove Rd Kerrville TX 78028 For more info, contact Sam or Cowboy at: rwmead@hotmail.com cell: 830-928-6634 or 915-422-5547

An email receipt will be set upon payment. The email receipt will be your dinner ticket/confirmation.

SOUTHERN ROUTE NEWS

Just a quick update for the Southern Route – leadership meetings are ongoing, and we are working diligently to make any updates and changes where needed to get “Back to the Basics” regarding our Mission in 2024.

It is still not too late If you have not submitted an After-Action Report (AAR). Please submit reports by clicking here. RFTW leadership reads every AAR in an effort to make the Run the best it can possibly be and we take the AAR’s seriously. Do not be alarmed, the ExecBoD and the RC’s read all AAR’s but we do not respond directly to each AAR submission.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

The Southern Route is still looking for additional volunteers! We are currently seeking additional volunteers for Platoon Leadership; Ambassadors; Staging; Fueling; Outreach; and Fundraising – 50/50 Rousers. If you are eligible and would like to volunteer for any of these teams or positions, please complete a Volunteer form. If you have any Medical Training and would like to be a part of our Medical Team, please complete the volunteer form.

I Need YOUR Help!

If you have a Memorial or Outreach Mission that the SR visits and that Memorial or Outreach Mission holds special meaning to you, I would like you to reach out to me! I’d like to highlight each of our Memorials and Outreach’s and share the stories of those remembered at each of them. I want us to Say Their Names, Tell their (and your) stories, and Never Forget!

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.

I look forward to seeing you in Kerrville!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024