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CR Day 3, Gallup to Eagle Nest: Bonds

This morning the Central Route departed Gallup en route to Eagle Nest. The weather was good but rain was on the horizon. A police escort was generously provided from just outside of Albequerque all the way into Eagle Nest. Thank you to the Officers who supported us, their Command who gave the green light to do so, and to anyone who was delayed by our crossing your path at just the right time to cause you a delay.  Lunch was provided at the Big Rock Bowling Center in Española. Rain had been significant in Española prior to the Pack’s arrival but that didn’t mean there was none to be found. Rain was with us most of the way up to Eagle Nest from Taos and was heavy in Santa Fe. However, the rain didn’t darken the mood or diminish the spirit of our riders. Everyone arrived well and fully enjoyed the abundant Eagle Nest hospitality.

Along the way, I witnessed men and women doing things that change people from strangers to family. I witnessed, laughter, tears, joy, prayer, the somber playing of taps, the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance, people sharing meals and stories, riders and supporters opening themselves to each other, and the open exchange of like-for-like genuine kindness without pretense or mask. These are the formation of bonds that cause people to name others they did not know at the start in Ontario “family,” “brother,” or “sister.”  These are some of the RFTW experiences that bring healing to Veterans and nonveteran supporters alike.  In support of the RFTW’s stated mission “to promote healing among all veterans and their families and friends”, the Central Route made a donation to The National Veterans Wellness and Healing Center at our dinner this evening.

There are reasons the Central Route stops in the locations it does. In Eagle Nest, the reason is the David Westphall Veterans Foundation, located in nearby Angel Fire. There is a deep relationship between the Foundation and the Run For The Wall. Each year, over Labor Day Weekend, a number of RFTW riders come back to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest to lay up to 500 bricks at the memorial. The Walkways of the memorial are all lined with bricks inscribed with the names of veterans.  Today, something very unusual and special occurred. The laying of a brick for RFTW Chaplain, Rupert Harrell was held.  The Foundation made an exception to allow the bricklaying now because the traditional September time is in conflict with an annual Chaplains conference.  For those of us who are unable to come in September, this was a solemn honor to witness. For the Harrell Family, it was clearly emotional. It is my prayer that each Harrell family member experienced healing in equal measure to the emotional struggle. Your RFTW Family and Chaplains are here to support you. The ceremony was also clearly challenging for the Chaplains who served side by side with Rupert. It is clear that Rupert will have a lasting legacy here in the natural even though he has heard the words “well done my good and faithful servant” Mathew 25:21.

Here is Rupert’s Bio as read by Chaplain Duane:

“Today we rode in honor of Rupert Harrell and we will lay a brick in his memory by this Huey. Vietnam War (1962-1975)

Rupert Harrell, Jr. proudly served in the U.S. Army for 2-1/2 years as a Helicopter Crew Chief. Service medals and awards received include the National Defense Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, two Bronze Star Medals with Valor, Vietnam Service Medal, two Overseas Bars, Air Medal, two Purple Hearts, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Marksman with M-14 Rfile, Sharpshooter with M-16 Rfile and the Army Commendation Medal. Rupert was a true hero. In Vietnam, he served as an assault helicopter Crew Chief/Door Cunner for a Co. 158 Avn. 101st Airborne, Ghostriders. He was shot down four times. I personally met one gentleman who credited Rupet with saving his life in Vietnam when he pulled him into his helicopter and extracted him from a hot zone. They called him Preacher in Vietnam because he received his credentials with the Assemblies of God while he was in Vietnam. In his ministry, he has taken many Vietnam vets back to Vietnam to do ministry, build churches, and find their own inner healing.

Rupert was a husband, a father, a pastor, an evangelist, an HonorBound Motorcycle Ministry member, and a Run For the Wall Chaplain. Rupert was scheduled to be the Senior Chaplain for the RFTW Central Route in 2020 and 2021 but the official runs were canceled. Sadly, we lost Rupert before he could fulfill that role and I served in his place. Rupert is greatly missed and I’m proud and honored to have been able to call him friend.”

There was one additional item I think will bring a bit of levity to this otherwise somber posting. Not to say that somber isn’t okay. It is. If we don’t experience both somber and joyful moments while conducting this mission, we will have probably failed. Early in the evening at the Community Center, it was discovered that the cake decorator had been creating these ginormous and amazingly beautiful cakes for our arrival but she had never had a slice of her own. Well now, that cannot be!  Paul Marshall cut the cake and gave her the first piece. You’ll see some of that in the grid of photos above.

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