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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

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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

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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

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

IS IT MAY YET????

No, but we are rapidly approaching the ALL RFTW Riders Reunion in KERRVILLE, TX! And yes, it is very HOT here in Texas!
Registration information is below. Please remember the earlier you register the better! There is a price increase September 20, 2023! (see below)

Place: YO 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

Wednesday – Early Bird dinner at Los Jimadores Mexican Grill & Bar

Thursday – On your own to ride the Hill Country and visit.

Friday – Arrival day is open for those interested in the Friday rides or catching up with friends. Dinner at VFW post 1480 reasonably priced @ $12.00 Serving at 6pm.

Saturday morning /afternoon – BOYO ride various rides and meetings are being planned. BoD/RC meetings 1600 – 1700 location room TBD

Saturday evening – 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.

Sunday morning is open for breakfast and coffee with friends before heading home.

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.

**************begin registration information*********************************

(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_____

****************end registration information**************************************

Send the above registration information and 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

We have begun meeting with different Leadership to start planning for 2024. The RFTW Executive BoD has decided to make a focused effort to get “Back to the Basics” regarding our Mission in 2024. Changes may be made to Platoon sizes and configuration based on rider registration. We will be looking at all of our stops to maximize our time on station and safety of the riders.

We will begin meeting with State Coordinators in the coming weeks and discussing each state from border to border and identifying areas of concern from 2023 and areas to improve in 2024. If you have not submitted an After Action Report (AAR) for the 2023 run, please do so by clicking HERE. RFTW leadership reads every AAR in an effort to make the Run the best it can possibly be!

As we work on getting “Back to the Basics” in 2024 I will be encouraging all riders to get to know each other better, not just in our Assigned platoons. Get to know your Stagers, Fuel Team, Road Guards, Ambassadors etc. There will be changes made to allow riders to get to know people in these leadership positions so take advantage of the opportunities.

We will be adding more focus to our Outreaches and Memorials to make sure we have as many RFTW riders participating as we can.  I will be publishing multiple monthly newsletters as we continue to prepare for the 2024 Mission. The first newsletter of the month will be the typical newsletter as seen in the past with Route updates etc. I would like to publish a second newsletter each month starting in September 2023 highlighting different aspects of our Southern Route Mission and focusing on the Outreach Missions and Memorials which we visit.

I would like your input!

If you have a specific Memorial or Outreach Mission that means something special to you or moved you to want to return every year I would like you to reach out to me so we can discuss sharing your experience regarding that Memorial or Outreach and what it means to you personally. I want you to share with all of us exactly what it means to you. Vietnam Veterans and other Combat Veterans, I know this could be a difficult request for you but now is the time to Say Their Names, Tell their (and your) stories, and make sure we Never Forget!

With each of these newsletters we will include all the details about that specific Outreach or Memorial and what day, time, location that it will occur. If it is an Outreach Mission in which Riders can Volunteer to participate in, we will include a sign-up link for that specific Outreach. The goal here is to make sure riders are aware ahead of time what Outreach they will be participating in and when and where they will need to stage to participate in the Outreach. More details will be posted in the newsletters.

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED

We are still in need of Volunteers (non-FNG’s) for a few positions. We are currently looking for a Raffle Rouser, 50/50 Rouser and Fundraiser Volunteer along with Platoon Leadership positions (PL, APL, TG). Please remember, the Platoon Leadership positions require CB communications. If you are interested in any of these positions, please fill out a Volunteer form. Even if you have previously served on any given team, if you plan to do so again, please complete the volunteer form. If you have any Medical Training and would like to be a part of our Medical Team please complete the volunteer form.

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.

I look forward to seeing as many of you as possible in Kerrville!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

 

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2024 Southern Route Coordinator Welcome Message

Run for the Wall

Hello RFTW family from a very hot and humid Pearland, Texas! It is my honor to have been nominated and approved as the Southern Route Coordinator for Run for the Wall XXXIV in 2024! I cannot express how honored and humbled I am to have been selected to fill this position. After completing my role as the Route Coordinator for the SandBox Route this past year, I was definitely not planning to start another year as a Route Coordinator, but here we are. Mission before Self! I am an Air Force veteran, and my wife Tina (HandOff) is an Army combat veteran as well. As veterans, the RFTW Mission is very important to us both and we know how crucial this mission is to so many other veterans out there. We have seen firsthand the healing and magic this mission is responsible for, and we have embraced that mission along with our new RFTW family which grows every year! Make no mistake, RFTW is a family and we do not take that lightly.
I joined the U.S. Air Force after graduating High School in in Norfolk, Nebraska in 1987 and began basic in February 1988. I would ultimately be selected for a career field in Air Force Intelligence, TS/SCI clearance and all! I spent about 9.5 years on active duty with my first duty station at Iraklion AS in Crete, Greece (working as an Intelligence Analyst/Specialist when Iraq decided to invade Kuwait in August 1990). After 2 years in Greece I was reassigned to Key West NAS in Key West, Florida were I re-enlisted for another 6 years and subsequently reassigned to Yokota AFB in Tokyo, Japan. Three years flew by in Japan. I returned to the states with an assignment to Ft. George Mead in Maryland, working at NSA. Unfortunately, I received a Humanitarian reassignment to Offutt AFB in Omaha, Nebraska to help care for my terminally ill father. After his death in 1997, I completed my enlistment, electing to stay in the reserves. In 1999, I was recalled back to active duty due to the Kosovo Conflict. Once my recall to active duty ended, I chose to leave the military for good. I then spent 3.5 years working in Corrections before accepting a position with the government as a Federal Special Agent (Criminal Investigator). I retired at the end of December 2022 after 32 years of total federal service.
Although I spent many years overseas during my military service, I never had to endure or experience people disrespecting me while in uniform or for my service. My family and fellow service members accompanying me were welcomed home and treated to displays of patriotism that our Vietnam veterans did not receive. Part of the RFTW Mission is to “Promote healing among ALL veterans and their families”. I believe the patriotism we experience on RFTW from everyone along all 4 Routes aids in that healing and provides that “Welcome Home” so many did not initially receive.
The Run For The Wall mission is “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.”
I look forward to the opportunity to lead the Southern Route, and together we will safely complete our mission in 2024.
This is why we ride – to support this mission!

Assistant Route Coordinator and Road Guard Captain
I am proud to announce that the RFTW Executive Board approved my nominations for Assistant Route Coordinator and Road Guard Captain (RGC) for 2024. Please join me in congratulating Ken “Radar” Ley as the Assistant Route Coordinator and Bob “Captain” Mazzone as our Road Guard Captain for RFTW XXXIV. Both are extremely qualified for their respective positions, and I have no doubt each will continue to support the RFTW mission with the attention, detail and respect required for these positions. Thank you both for accepting these positions.

AFTER ACTION REPORTS
Each year we look to the After Action Reports (AAR) for suggestions to improve the Route and the overall mission. If you participated in RFTW in 2023 on any Route, we want to hear from you! Please complete an AAR and tell us about your experience, whether you were a new rider (FNG) or a returning rider to RFTW. We value everyone’s input and the RFTW BOD and Route Coordinators (RC) review each AAR for suggestions on ways to improve the mission.

VOLUNTEERS
We need volunteers to help continue this mission. Please consider volunteering for a leadership position by completing a Volunteer Form here. Even if you were a volunteer last year, please take the time to complete a new volunteer form as early as possible to let us know your willingness to volunteer again! We need volunteers in many positions so please indicate all positions you may be interested in.

2023 FNG’s (Fun/Friendly New Guy/Gal)
If you were an FNG in 2023, we would really love to hear your story, in your own words, on what the RFTW mission and experience meant to you. Please consider submitting and sharing your FNG story with others. What was your experience like? Please share your story here.

ALL RFTW RIDERS REUNION – Kerrville, TX
If you are so inclined, the ALL RFTW RIDERS REUNION (not an officially sanctioned event by RFTW) will be taking place in Kerrville, TX from September 27-October 1st, 2023. For additional information please see the TX Riders Reunion Facebook page or contact Sam or Roger “Cowboy” Mead at: rwmead@hotmail.com cell: 830-928-6634 or 915-422-5547.

Darin “Lurch” Koch
RFTW Southern Route Coordinator 2024

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Southern Route Coordinator – May 2023 Newsletter

These words have been rolling around in my head every morning for about a week….

Leaving on a Long Ride

Our bags are packed, we’re ready to go
We’re standing here outside the door.
We hate to wake up early, but it’s time to go.
The dawn is breaking, it’s early morn
The road guard’s waiting he’s blowing his horn
Already!  We’re so ready we could die.

So kiss us and smile for us, tell us that you’ll pray for us.
Cause we’re leaving on a long ride
Don’t know when we’ll be back again
Oh babe, we’re ready to go.

Many of the Run for the Wall Family members are already KSU and heading to Ontario. I join my prayers with many other RFTW family members in wishing all riders safe travels. Looking forward to gathering in Ontario as we begin the mission.

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.

When you’re tired, cold and wondering why you signed up to join this ride, Remember the Mission – Romeo-Tango-Mike.

See you in a few days.

Kristine “Eyes” Wood
Southern Route Coordinator 2023

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Southern Route Coordinator Newsletter – April

Welcome Home to the 330 registered Southern Route riders.

April is going to fly by in a whirlwind as riders across the country prepare for XXXIII. Facebook is full of pictures of riders preparing, tents, duffle bags, ice chests…how will it all fit on the bike?  The Wood house has also begun preparing. We took the bikes into the shop for a little fine tuning. I reviewed last year’s notes to see what we wished we had packed and what we wished we had left at home. Deciding how many shirts to pack and wondering if the rain gear will hold out for one more year.o.

HYDRATE – HYDRATE – HYDRATE

At the forefront of our mind is HYDRATE – HYDRATE – HYDRATE! If you’ve signed up for the Southern Route, you better like riding in warm weather.  The first few days out, it’s hot and dry! We experience looooong hot days as we ride across the desert.

PREPARE NOW!
Did you know…humans can live for about three weeks without food, but they can last only three or four days without water? On the Southern Route it’s less than that.
“Even though water is essential for life, an estimated 40% of seniors are chronically underhydrated, and adults ages 65 and older have the highest hospital admission rates for dehydration.”
Please do not be one of the riders that needs medical attention because you failed to drink plenty of water.  Start hydrating now, and get in the habit of drinking 8 – 15 glasses of water a day. Continue the regimen as you travel to Ontario and as you make the ten-day journey to DC.

We will once again have cooling neck ties for riders to wear as we cross the desert. Shirley “Top Sarge” Scott makes cooling neck ties, not only for The Southern Route but for all the routes. Make sure you thank her for her service. It takes a lot of time to make hundreds of neck ties, and it’s also expensive, she donates all of it.

Southern Route planning update:Chaplains

  • Last week, was the final state coordinators meeting before the run. Every state coordinator without exception shared that their communities are excited to welcome riders with parades, programs, celebrations, flag lines, treats and prayers for continued safety as we roll on to DC.
  • Road guards have drafted their assignment plan. All LEO representatives have been contacted and are planning the same outstanding support as in previous years.
  • Fuel team is fully staffed and are ready to guide riders in and out of the fuel stops.
  • Staging team still has a few openings. If you are not an FNG, please consider volunteering for the staging team. Staging is getting new signs this year. Thank you to those that have worked to make us new signs (you know who you are).
  • Remember, if a road guard, staging team member or fuel team member asks to jump in front of you in a food line or bathroom line, it’s because they need to get in and get out and get back to work. Be courteous and let them in.
  • Chaplain team has arranged for staging vehicles, as well as platoon chaplains and chase vehicles. Did you know there are chaplains riding at the very back of the pack that help load bikes onto the trailers? The chaplain team has been a great comfort and strength to me this year.
  • Registration team held a training meeting with the board this week. They are ready to check you in, notice, check you in. You must register on-line. You will only CHECK-IN with the registration team. Be sure to fill out and print the emergency information form and bring it with you.

Missing Man Formation

Interested in riding in the Missing Man Formation? Southern Route Missing Man lead Judy Wormmeester shares how to sign up, expectations and why she rides.

Thank you for your interest in riding as an Escort in the Missing Man Formation.

Riding in The Missing Man Formation, (MMF) is a commitment of a higher level, where during the escort leg, you are reminded of the commitment of the person no longer with us, and you honor the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

As an escort, you are expected to take this position with reverence.  We ask that you sit up straighter, no kicking back on the highway pegs, no radio, and no waving to RFTW supporters.   It is a time to remember who you are riding for, remember their family, their friends, their sacrifice.  Riding with Run For The Wall is all about honor and respect during the whole ride, but even more so as an Escort.

During your escort, we look for a tight formation so that The Missing can be “seen”.  The formation consists of 2 riders side by side up front, the Escort right behind the Route Coordinator in the left track of the lane, the right track is for The Missing, and side by side riders in the back.

I will hand out Missing Man Formation placards in Ontario.  These can be clipped to your windshield on the day you are to Escort.  This will help the staging team get you to the Support Platoon for the day.  Please make sure you notify your platoon leadership that you will not be riding with the platoon for that day.  If you are not starting in Ontario, please contact me at the stop where you will be starting.

At the time of you escort leg, you need to move your bike up from the Support Platoon to your Escort position.   We ask that after you have positioned your bike in the Escort position during staging, you use the restroom and visit the hydration truck as quickly as possible.   The MMF Chaplain and I would like some time with you so you can tell us about who you are escorting, we can say a prayer, and you can compose and prepare yourself for this emotional journey.

Please have a bio prepared of who you are riding for.   This should be printed and laminated to protect it from possible weather during The Run.   Riders attach the bio to their bikes at the stops, so others can see who they are riding for.   A copy can be emailed to me.   I would like to print it out and carry them with me in a binder.   I try to read about who is being escorted in the MMF either the night before or the morning of the escort.

Again, thank you for your interest in riding as an Escort, I will keep you posted as to your intended leg. Welcome to the RFTW family,

Judy Wormmeester
Not Airborne (If you ask, I can tell you the story of my road name.  I have actually enjoyed skydiving)
I ride for my brother and the crew of Baron 52
Sgt. Joseph A. Matejov
2/5/73 – USAF – Laos – MIA

The Mission,  “…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…”

Along with healing among all Veterans and their families and supporting our military all over the world, The Mission of Run For The Wall also supports families and friends of those Missing In Action and the ones that gave the ultimate sacrifice of their life.   As part of the Mission, RFTW has a Missing Man Formation at the front of all four routes.   At each leg a different Escort rides for someone who is Missing, or no longer with us.

If you know someone who is MIA or KIA and would like to escort them in the Missing Man Formation during a leg of The Run, please contact Judy, Not Airborne, Wormmeester at jwormmeester@yahoo.com.   If you do not personally know someone, but feel called to be an Escort, you can go to virtualwall.org and can locate a list of those on The Wall.  You can search by the following criteria:

Last Name (this is a common search if you do not know someone personally)
Wall Panels by Date
By State and City (this is a common search if you do not know someone personally)
Height of Valor (medals)
Faces of Freedom (photos)
By Military Unit
POW/MIA Status
Groups and Battles

It is asked that you learn about the person you select and create a bio of their history; including a picture helps to make a deeper connection.   In the past, some riders have contacted family members to learn more, and to let them know that their family is not forgotten.   Some are still connected with that family to the point where they meet up, and stay in contact.  It becomes personal.

Once you contact Judy, she can send you information on what she needs to add you to the list.  If all of the escort legs are full, we can add you to the wait list.   For a number of reasons there can be a need to find someone at the last minute.   Thank you, and welcome to the family.

Why I Ride

Kristine Wood "Eyes"After three years as Assistant Route Coordinator and coming up on a year as Route Coordinator I have wondered why, why am I doing this? At first I worked through why I am not riding, which brought me to why I ride.

I am not riding for a hat, an itinerary book, a pin, a patch, a pat on the back, a corporation, a free meal, or a trademark. Some of these items are nice and some are necessary but they are not why I ride.

  • I ride for the 58,281 whose names are on The Wall.
  • I ride for the 1,584 still unaccounted for.
  • I ride for the nine soldiers out of Fort Campbell that died last month in a helicopter crash.
  • I ride for the KIA from all wars
  • I ride for the 81,500 still missing from all wars
  • I ride for my 9th Great Grandfather, a POW during the American Revolution who never recovered from his injuries
  • I ride for the 22 a day
  • I ride for you, the 330 riders registered on the Southern Route
  • I ride for all Veterans from all wars that sacrificed for freedom
  • I ride for the American people. A country that forgets it’s defenders will soon be forgotten. We cannot allow Americans to forget why we enjoy freedom.
  • I ride for Ricky Smith…

I met Ricky just before he enlisted in the Marines. His brother is married to my daughter. As a young man, Ricky followed in the footsteps of his father and his father’s father before him. My son-in-law, Billy joined the Navy, it didn’t go over well in a family of Marines. Ricky recently wrote this poem, a heartfelt account of boys going to war.

Peter Pan Goes to War

Once upon a time, in Neverland fair,
Lived a boy who never grew up or had a care.
His name was Peter Pan, and he was free,
Flying and playing, as happy as could be.
But time is a thief that steals away youth,
And Peter, too, was not immune to its truth.

He grew up, and with it came a call,
To fight a war, in a land far from all.
In Afghanistan, he fought and bled,
His innocence lost, his heart heavy with dread.
No longer flying high, but crawling in the dirt,
His dreams of Neverland, forever hurt.

The world had changed, and so had he,
No longer the boy he used to be.
His laughter now replaced by tears,
As he faced his darkest fears.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen,
Once a child, now a man, burdened with a calling.

The loss of childhood, a heavy toll to pay,
As Peter Pan grows up, to fight another day.
And so, he battles on, in a war that never ends,
Dreaming of a world, where peace and love transcend.
But alas, it seems a distant dream,
For in this war, nothing is as it seems.

And so, we weep for Peter Pan,
A boy who once flew, but now he can’t.
A hero, but at what cost?
For in growing up, he has lost.
Lost his innocence, lost his youth,
Lost the one thing he held most true.
A sad tale of a boy who grew,
To fight a war, he never knew

Thank you, Ricky for your service.
Remember the Mission – Romeo Tango Mike

Kristine “Eyes” Wood
Southern Route Coordinator 2023

Rickysmith
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March Southern Route Coordinator Newsletter

Call to action!

Wow, can you believe it? Just 75 days to KSU!!!

Currently there are 978 total riders registered on all four routes. The Southern Route has 314 registered riders, 77 of which are FNGs. Imagine, 978 riders will travel across the country experiencing American Patriotism on steroids!

The Southern Route leadership continues to meet monthly and things are coming together. The route has been planned down to the minute and coordinated with the Law Enforcement Officers that will escort us across the country. The folks at the meal stops are preparing their menus and shopping lists.

We are still looking for volunteers! Are you qualified to volunteer?

Let me share a few statistics. Currently there are 314  registered riders on the Southern Route, minus the 77 FNGs that are not eligible to volunteer, minus the 163 riders that have already volunteered. That leaves 72 riders currently registered on the Southern Route that are eligible to volunteer but HAVE NOT. Our numbers are going to increase between now and May and we need PLATOON LEADERSHIP AND STAGING VOLUNTEERS. If you are not an FNG, please consider volunteering, we need YOU to help us  get safely across the country.

https://rftw.us/volunteer-sign-up/

In addition to the volunteers who facilitate our trip across the country, we also need money to purchase gas for the chase vehicles and for  donations to the VA Hospitals that we support and the schools that we visit.

To help fund the run, we hold raffles; 50/50 raffles, quilt raffles and a stained glass raffle. This year we are raffling Flags of The United States of America!  There are historical flags and flags flown at prominent military or historical locations. One flag will be raffled each morning.

The on-line raffle site allows you to purchase tickets for the specific flag you are interested in. You are also able to purchase 50/50 raffle tickets. When you purchase 50/50 tickets, if not selected on any given day, your name will stay in the pot for a chance to win the following day. Photos of the donated, handmade quilts, will be posted as soon as the photos are available at which time we will begin selling tickets for each quilt.

Purchase raffle tickets here:   https://southernrouterftw.company.site

Pre-Paid Fuel

Speaking of gas, the prepaid fuel option is gaining traction, every week we see more and more riders prepaying for their fuel. Still not sure how it works? Let me explain…

You have the option of prepaying on-line or when you arrive in Ontario. If you have purchased prepaid fuel, when you arrive in Ontario and check-in, you will be issued a wrist band and a receipt. When you pull into the gas stop, show the fuel team member your wrist band and you will not be charged for fuel. Yes, you read that correctly, fill your tank and ride on through. We will all arrive at the staging area quicker, with a little more time for rest, hydration and snacks.

Now for the questions that are running through your mind:

  1. How can $150.00 be enough money for fuel? Historically, the remaining fuel expenses are donated stops.
  2. How do I know my bike’s fuel usage will be $150? The stops that are not donated fuel stops will all be $10 stops.
  3. What if you’re not going all the way? This would not be a good plan for you, unless you want to donate your unused gas money to the chase vehicles’ fuel expenses, because NO REFUNDS WILL BE GIVEN
  4. What if you lose your wrist band? You will have to show your receipt to be issued a new wrist band.
  5. What if you do not complete the run? There again, you will be making a donation to the chase vehicles’ fuel expense fund. NO REFUNDS WILL BE GIVEN.
  6. Will this impact donated fuel stops? NO, the generous donors on the route will still donate fuel stops.
    We encourage ALL of the all the way riders to prepay for their fuel. All riders will benefit by having faster fueling and longer rest time.

Purchase prepaid fuel here: https://checkout.square.site/buy/KGFJ4PI5MGGVX3QTJ76I46LN

Why I Ride

Vietnam War Veterans Day
March 29, 2023

This month marks the sixth year of honoring and recognizing Vietnam Veterans and their families on Vietnam War Veterans Day.

“The Vietnam War Veterans Day Recognition Act of 2017 was signed into law by 45th U.S. President Donald J. Trump, designating every 29 March as National Vietnam Veterans Day.
29 March is a fitting choice for a day honoring Vietnam veterans. It was chosen to be observed in perpetuity as March 29, 1973 (50 years ago this month) was the day United States Military Assistance Command, Vietnam was disestablished and also the day the last U.S. combat troops departed Vietnam. In addition, on and around this same day Hanoi released the last of its acknowledged prisoners of war. “

November 1, 1955 was selected to coincide with the official designation of Military Assistance Advisory Group-Vietnam (MAAG-V); May 15, 1975 marks the end of the battle precipitated by the seizure of the SS Mayaguez.

The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that today there are more than 7 million U.S. Vietnam veterans living in America and abroad, along with 10 million families of those who served during this timeframe.
Excerpt taken from: https://www.vietnamwar50th.com/assets/1/7/National_Vietnam_War_Veterans_Day_Updated_-_Nov_2022_11.PDF

I was a young teenager when my brother-in-law shipped off to Vietnam. He was never the same. Three years ago he died from cancer related to agent orange exposure. I ride for Danny, I ride for the veterans on the run, I ride for the families whose loved ones were never the same or never came home. I ride for the 1,582 still unaccounted for.  I ride, to thank and honor all our veterans and their families, not just on March 29th, but all year.

Why are you riding  this year?

ROMEO – TANGO – MIKE
Kristine “Eyes” Wood
Southern Route Coordinator 2023

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Southern Route Coordinator Newsletter – February 2023

Welcome Home to the 64 FNG’s currently signed up to ride with us on the Southern Route. We look forward to reconnecting with the 245 riders that have ridden in previous years. Southern Route registration currently stands at 302 participants with 932 registered on all routes.

Southern Route Leadership, team-leads and state coordinators are planning welcome home events clear across the country.  One of the mission goals of RFTW is to promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends. Vietnam Veterans were not welcomed home as they should have been which added salt to the wounds of the already suffering Veterans. One method of promoting healing for you, the Vietnam Veteran, is through the welcome home ceremonies held in the communities we ride through. From California to Arizona, Mississippi to Virginia, the state coordinators and community volunteers are planning meals, ceremonies and greetings. Please, come ride with us and allow American communities to help rectify the wrong done so many years ago.

Southern Route leadership is meeting monthly as are the state coordinators, to fine tune every aspect of the Southern Route. From platoon leaders, to the gas stops to the law enforcement escorts, every detail of the 3,000 mile journey is being analyzed, picked apart and looked at again, 2023 Southern Route is going to be great! You will not be sorry you signed up and rode with us. This ride will change your life!

We still need a few good volunteers! If you have riden with us before, please consider volunteering for a leadership position. Platoon leadership and stagers are a little short staffed. The run cannot take place without the 125 plus volunteers, Southern Route NEEDS YOU!

The itinerary is being compiled and it too is being scrutinized before it is released to the public. Please be patient with us. We are hoping to have it posted on the RFTW website by March 1.

As Southern Route leadership prepares for the run, what are you doing to prepare? No, I don’t mean packing your bike or changing the oil. I am referring to your personal health.

  • Get that yearly physical you’ve been putting off.
  • Make sure any meds you take are at the proper dosage.
  • Start exercising 30 minutes a day. The run is arduous, are you ready for long hot days?
  • Work on strengthening your clutch hand (it’s for sure to get a work-out).
  • Get mentally ready. The run is ten long and emotional days. You will need mental stamina to get you to DC.

    Why I Ride

Every morning on the run we hold a mandatory “all rider” meeting. One aspect of that meeting is the “Why we ride” message. At a recent leadership meeting I asked Senior Chaplain, Dustin “Leatherneck” Taylor to share with us why he rides. He shared a very moving story that emphasizes what we call, “the magic of the run”. Please read his story here and Remember the Mission, why we ride and why you are riding this year. Romeo Tango Mike.

Why I Ride – Dustin “Leatherneck” Taylor

“Run For The Walls’ mission statement is “We ride for those who can’t”.  This is one of my stories of why I ride. 

My father-in-law is a Vietnam Veteran, and that’s all my wife and her brother really ever knew about that part of his life. Like many others that served in Vietnam they don’t talk much about their experience. My wife and her brother never knew that he was a Purple Heart recipient, until one night he and I were talking and I being a Marine Corps Veteran myself asked him a few questions and he began to open up about his service to our Country.

He shared a story about an individual named Lamb that he had gone to basic with and that they had been stationed together with the same company in Vietnam. He told of a battle he was in on May 4th, 1970, where he was injured pretty bad, and his friend Lamb was killed. He began to talk about his friend Lamb and what he could remember of him, like where he was from and that he was married. You could tell that this causality of war still weighed heavy on his heart. He told a story that he probably hadn’t told ever or at least for several decades. You could feel the emotions in the room as he shared what had happened to him that so many years ago.

My wife and I started doing some research on Lamb (Floyd Wetzel Lamb JR) and we found out that he was from Chuckey Tennessee, which just happens to be a few miles off the path of the Southern Route. In 2018 my wife and I broke away from the pack outside of Chattanooga and set out to find the final resting place of SPC Floyd W. Lamb JR. After a beautiful ride through the hills we came to Chuckey Tennessee.  We quickly found the church where he was buried and after several minutes of searching, we found his grave site.

A long story turned short story is my wife and I happened upon an individual at the church that knew the Lamb family and pointed out that Floyd’s 93-year-old mother still to this day lives in a house across the street from the church. I left my contact information with the gentleman to give to the family.  Three hours down the road I received a call from Floyd’s mother. I explained who we were and that we were headed to Washington DC with Run for The Wall and that my wife and I were honored to ride in memory of Floyd. She could not believe that after so many years someone would take the time to find a family they had never met and ride in honor of their son/brother. More to making a story short we have made the Lamb Memorial and Lamb family a part of the Southern Route Outreach. 

“Why I Ride” …I ride for those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our Beloved Country and didn’t make it home to their families, like Floyd (Jason)Wetzel Lamb JR, and for the people like my Father-in-law that still carry the burden of war with them every day, in their scares, their memories, and in their heart.”

In 2022, as assistant route coordinator, I was able to go on the Lamb outreach and was blessed to meet the Lamb family. I took several photos of the family and the cemetery(shared here). This year, we have had patches made honoring Jason Lamb. The riders that are selected to visit with the Lamb family will receive a patch to place on their vest.

For ten days, Southern Route riders, remember and honor the heroes that gave their life in service to America and the 1,581  still missing. We pray for answers.

 

Romeo Tango Mike

Kristine “Eyes” Wood
Southern Route Coordinator 2023

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Southern Route Coordinator Newsletter – January 2023

Happy New Year!!!

I hope your new year is off to a healthy, happy beginning.

The new year is a time for reflection, and planning. As I was mentally preparing for the new year, I had been pondering my role as Southern Route Coordinator. It’s easy to get bogged down in the logistics, nuts and bolts of the run and to lose sight of the mission and why I joined Run for the Wall in the first place and why veterans return to the run year after year.

My pondering was brought home to me on New Year’s Eve and brought clarity to my thoughts and mission. Doc and I were attending a party at our neighbor’s home who is also a biker and owns a motorcycle merchandise shop in town. Consequently, the other attendees at the party were predominantly bikers.  Well into the evening, I looked over and saw a man looking through the book Run for the Wall – A Journey to the Vietnam Memorial. I went and sat next to him and we began to talk.

Jerry, a veteran and a biker had heard of the Run but didn’t know much about it. What a golden opportunity for me to share my passion, and commitment to the ten-day motorcycle ride across the country, escorting veterans on the healing ride of a lifetime. Jerry had tears in his eyes as he reviewed the pictures of patriotic Americans greeting veterans all across the country. Needless to say, Jerry signed up to ride with us in 2023.

This experience with Jerry was just what I needed to boldly enter 2023 and the final preparations for this year’s Run. I hope everyone in leadership has similar opportunities to share the Run with others and to pause and remember the 1,581 still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has compiled profiles of many of the MIA, please read and remember, this is why we ride.

Click here for MIA biographies

Promotional Materials

The Board has recently created many tools to use to share the run. You can access flyers, business card templates, brochures and talking points. These are great tools to help all of us 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.  Romeo Tango Mike

Click here for RFTW promotional materials

Interactive Map

Another newly added item to the website is the interactive Southern Route Map and Stops. Wow, it already has 2,857 views! The map provides a day by day list and map of each stop, highway and exit. A big shout out to Kelly “Gonzo” Perry for putting the map together for us. Be sure to say thank you when you see him this year. Did I mention, he works for donuts 🤗🍩.

Click here for map

 

 

Other News

If you are riding from California to DC, please take advantage of our Pre-Paid fuel program. This has been discussed in previous newsletters. The QR code on the attached flyer will take you directly to the link where you may purchase pre-paid fuel. The pre-paid fuel program will get us through the gas line much quicker and provide for longer KSD rest stops. Beats sitting in a gas line, waiting for your turn to fuel.

 

 

 

Gift Cards Needed

A segment of every morning meeting is fundraising. This is done through the 50/50 raffle and item raffle. This year we’re looking for un-used or 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.

Volunteers Needed

We are still looking for volunteers for the staging team and platoon leadership. If you have ridden with RFTW before, please consider volunteering.

Click here to volunteer for Southern Route

Public Service Reminder – Registration price increase takes effect on January 31, 2023. REGISTER FOR THE RUN TODAY!!! 

 

The Southern Route hotel list was posted January 1, 2023. A big shout out to the state coordinators who worked to get the hotel lists to Assistant Route Coordinator, Michelle “Stonewall” Phelan so she could have it posted on the web. It’s not always easy to be working on tasks so far before the run takes place. It takes commitment and fortitude to get the hotel list done way before most riders haven’t even decided if they’re going. A big thank you to Stonewall, for staying on top of all the details. Be sure to say thank her when you see her this year. Did I mention Stonewall works for beads and trinkets 🤗

Southern Route Leadership team is meeting monthly to plan a safe, memorable ride for 2023. The first draft of the itinerary is done, the hotel list is done, many leadership teams are fully staffed. The Southern Route is well planned. During the next few months, we will continue to fine tune the details. The 100 plus Southern Route Volunteers are committed to making the XXXIII Run a great experience.

Is it May yet?

Kristine “Eyes” Wood
Southern Route Coordinator