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CR Day 2: Honor and Generosity

Gourd Dancers in full Regalia

So many of us look forward to Central Route Day 2.  This second day is filled with experiences of honor where the Native American communities in Holbrook Arizona and Gallup New Mexico honor the members of the Run with dances that honor the Warrior while proudly displaying their heritage and culture.


The morning started with rendering honor and never forgetting the tragedy of 9/11. A breakout platoon visited the Winslow Arizona 9/11 Memorial where two beams represent the twin towers. Coincidentally, they also look like the number eleven, the date in September when life ended for many and the way we live in the United States changed forever.

In Holbrook, Tʼiisyaakin as it is known in Navaho, every school is visited by the Central Route’s Ambassador Team where a flag folding ceremony is held and the Ambassadors communicate what the Run For The Wall is all about. To accomplish this effort, the Ambassadors ride well out in front of the main pack. By the time our large group of riders arrive in Holbrook, visits to the schools are complete and the students can be found lining the streets welcoming the riders home with signs, flags, clapping, and cheering. What great honor they show each and every rider. The pack navigates the streets of Holbrook passing every school before coming to a stop at the American Legion Post 37 where lunch is served, Native Dances are performed and students play music out of the back of an old Duece and a half. Here new riders may have their first encounter with Native dances. Today we witnessed several. I was at the back of the room and couldn’t get good photos. However, you can go to Mama G’s blog where I expect you can find some good images of the dancers. Mama G in years past was the daily SITREP Writer for the Central Route. Now she keeps an informal archive of her RFTW experiences on her own blog. That link is here.

Between Holbrook and Gallup is the New Mexico border, where most years we pick up a Law Enforcement escort. This escort is a ballet of officers, mostly on motorcycles, who run ahead to block on-ramps, then quickly recapture and pass the RFTW main pack to get back in front where they can once again block an on-ramp or in some cases pull over vehicles we would otherwise overtake and have to change lanes to pass. All the vehicles that we delay are allowed to follow our Last Man Vehicle operated by Tommy Two Chains, who also functions as the coordinator of our Chase Truck team. I’ll give you more information on the Chase Team in a post another day.  The New Mexico LEO escort is very much appreciated. With their help, the risk to rider safety is diminished, but even more so, their presence serves to validate the RFTW Mission. Each rider feels it in different ways, but all are impacted by the presence of the LEO Escort. For me, it speaks this truth to my soul; my service is worth their time, their effort, and the small sacrifice of delay for those they kindly move out of our way or stop from entering the freeway until after we have passed. It says “Thank you for your service, welcome home, this is your parade.” We will encounter other escorts as we cross the country. If you are reading this and you are one of the escorts, or were someone who approved police resources to escort The Run For The Wall, or you are maybe someone who was delayed by the escort, thank you. We appreciate you. We are grateful for the honor you give to the Run For The Wall.

Upon arrival in Gallup New Mexico, the riders encounter what can plausibly be argued as “the most honoring” of all the stops we make. I say “argued” because the sacrifices made by the hundreds of volunteers who graciously serve us at every stop are themselves right there in comparison. There is something extra special about the Native American tribes who come together in Gallup to engage with the Veterans in a ceremony that cannot easily be forgotten. US Flags line the roadway entering  Red Rock Park and Drummers and Singers can be heard in the distance as we dismount our iron horses. I chose that term not because we hear Bon Jovi over the loudspeakers but because we hear songs and drums from a distant past that carry the tradition of a proud Native Heritage across the centuries from the days before motorcycles and modern transportation where Native Warriors, often horse-mounted, were honored with the same songs and drums as they honor the Veteran Warriors of the Run For The Wall today. Each song and pattern of the drums has a specific meaning, as does the regalia worn by dancers who invite our riders to join them in the center of the gathering to dance or carry one of a significant number of flags representing Native tribes, and the United States. Many of the dancers are US Military Veterans themselves. It is important to not overlook the fact that the people who undertake such an effort to honor our military were once hunted by the United States military, yet now they embrace us under the flag of the United States as Brothers, Sisters, and Warriors.

The service of Native Americans in the armed forces is legendary.

“…American Indians have proudly worn our nation’s uniform in every one of our conflicts…American Indians per capita – have had the highest percentage of their people in military service, exceeding every American ethnic group.”

Ben Nighthorse Campbell (Former U.S. Senator, COL.)

Here are but a few of the many who deserve mention. The Navaho Code Talkers provided secure radio communications that helped turn the tide of WWII. Minnie Spotted-Wolf, Blackfoot tribal member, USMC, first Native American woman to enlist in the USMC; Master Sgt. Woodrow Wilson Keeble, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation tribal member, U.S. Army, WWII and Korean War veteran, medal of honor receipt; The more than 42,000 Native Americans who served in Vietnam, of whom 90% were volunteers; Lori Piestewa, Hopi tribal member, U.S. Army, Iraq War veteran, first Native American woman to die in combat, Purple Heart and Prisoner of War Medal recipient.

To all who have made this day so special, we salute you and with our deepest gratitude we thank you for your sacrifices of time and resources to welcome and honor the riders of the Run For The Wall.


I was hesitant to add this to the SITREP today but at the prompting of the Route Coordinator, Paul Marshall, I am doing so. Every day of the Run, while we are on the road leading up to our arrival in Rainelle on day 9, our Raffle Rouser, Lance works feverishly each morning to raise funds to donate to Rainelle Middle School. To do that, Paul collects donations to be used in his fundraising efforts. I reached out to him via text message asking that this morning he would auction off a blanket or quilt if any were donated. Here’s where doing something beyond yourself can be multiplied; follow the dots with me. At some point well before we left Ontario Papa Smurf’s wife, um.. Mrs. Papa Smurf? Chose to be very generous with her time. She created the most beautiful set of quilts that had two large ones and two pillowcases all made with great care. That set is what Lance put forth to auction this morning. I bid an amount that probably wouldn’t cover the cost if the set was sold in a quilt store, but it wasn’t an embarrassment either and with luck, I won the auction without having to fight someone to do so. Ok, there were two dots to follow there, Mrs. Papa Smurf graciously donated Quilts for auction and I purchased those quilts. Dot one, generosity to the Run for the Wall. Dot two, funds that were going to wind up going to Rainelle from me in some method this week. I budgeted them to be donated. Now they have been. Now we get to the exponential growth of this generosity. Mrs. Papa Smurf likely never expected that the buyer of her amazing quilts would give them away! That is exactly what I did today while at Red Rock Park. I have interacted with Native people on a number of occasions, and I have learned through those interactions that the giving of gifts is incredibly meaningful within their culture. I also know as the recipient of a blanket from a member of the Lumi Nation in Washington State that to some tribes the giving of a blanket indicates acceptance as family and adoption into the tribe. There is, of course, no paperwork and you aren’t now formally a Native American, but you are indeed respected and thought of as family. Using that knowledge, I sought out Larry and Victoria Anderson. I met Larry and Victoria last year. Larry had just been released from the hospital the morning of our arrival and was determined to be present. Similarly, Larry has still been fighting illness and today was one of the few times he has been out of his home over the last year. This couple works behind the scenes to bring all of the nations represented at the ceremonies together and they advertise the event while they spend countless hours ensuring the event is successful all without asking to be recognized. Today, I gifted them one of the larger quilts and the two pillowcases. They are now forever a part of the Run For The Wall Family, and mine as well. The second large quilt was given to PJ James, Gunnery Sergeant, USMC Ret. Gunny James is a member of the Navajo Code Talkers Association and is a direct descendant of the heroes who helped win WWII. Gunny James himself is a Purple Heart awardee among his many other military accomplishments. Gunny James and his family are now forever Family to the Run For The Wall and mine as well. So, if you’ve been following the dots, the one action of Generosity given by Mrs. Papa Smurph has now given to the Middle School in Rainelle, to me by bringing me great joy in the purchase and gifting of those quilts, and also to the Anderson and James families, who tonight are enjoying their gifts and the generosity and honor bestowed upon them by a member of The Run For The Wall.

This is a 360 video taken of the Dances and Songs Ceremony in Gallup for the Run For The Wall.

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