Welcome to Wentzville! This is what the pack heard after a long day in the saddle that saw us leave Kansas behind until next year and enter Missouri. At the border, Central Route was joined by law enforcement officers from several agencies who worked in a ballet-like dance of motor officer and machine to continually move in front of, around, and behind the riders to repel would be encroachers of our space. They stopped traffic from gaining access to us via freeway onramps and they also went ahead of us to move vehicles we might overtake to the right of the roadway. This had the effect of making our riders completely safe from outside influence. Wow, thank you so very much!
Our first stop of the day was for fuel on the Kansas Turnpike. We were met with open pumps staffed by the CVMA. Fuel and Turnpike tolls were donated by ABATE KS District 4, ALR 400, CVMA 21-4, Warner Electric, Skin Illustrations, and KWIC Staff LLC. Wow! So many giving to the Run For The Wall. Your generosity is significant. Thank you for giving and for manning the pumps for us. It was great to see your warm smiles as you helped us on the road this morning and the massive flag that “presided” over everything… Loved it!
After fueling, I was relaxing near my bike when I was approached by CW2 John G. John and I struck up a conversation. He was wearing a hat identifying himself as a Veteran, so I began to ask him questions about his service. John told a story of becoming a Sikorsky Choctaw pilot in the Army because his eyesight was too poor to be accepted as a pilot in the Air Force. John’s story isn’t much different than many I’ve heard or even my own. The specifics are different but the emotions and struggles are similar. However, John has yet to visit the Wall. He told me that he has been in DC on business a few times while working for the State of Kansas, but he could never bring himself to visit The Wall. John, you are not alone. The Run For The Wall rides for men like yourself. Your burdens do not need to be carried alone any longer. Seek us out, ride with us next year on a bike or in a car and when you arrive in DC, you’ll have a massive support group to help you go to the Wall.
Lunch was provided by the CMA and the Citizens of Concordia at the 13th Street Park in Concordia MO while vintage aircraft from The Commemorative Airforce, Heart of America Wing flew overhead. This is one of my personal favorite places. The peace that is present in this small town envelops you as you make your way through historic buildings toward the park. Once at the park, the people of Concordia carry with them such love, kindness, and warmth that everyone feels at home and at peace. Why this place is filled with peace becomes self-evident when the riders are led to join hands and recite the Lord’s Prayer. Lunch was pulled pork that was cooked and donated by Charlie Williams with Ham donated by Tyson’s Ham, homemade finger deserts (think cookies, brownies, etc.), and chips of various types. Teachers from the local school came around to each table to hand out bags containing cards students had written to our riders. Inside the bags with the cards were buttons, a card for a return message, and an envelope. It was explained that the school maintains a map where students track where riders are from. How do they know? The cards we are to return should identify where we are from. What a great idea! The card in my bag was genuinely appreciative of Veterans and the sacrifices given by so many. Teachers, I applaud you. In the school systems I’m familiar with, teachers are undermining the military and our First Responders. In Concordia, you are teaching respect for the Military and probably First Responders as well. Thank you.
After our meal in Concordia, the Central Route donated $1000 to Wreaths Across America on behalf of Seth Vandekamp and the entire pack along with Concordia community members sang the National Anthem. How cool was that! Four hundred-plus voices joined together in unity to sing the National Anthem. I almost couldn’t sing. Pride in our country, pride in our mission, and pride in the men and women around me choked me up a bit. When the singing was done, as I mentioned above, we were led to take the hands of those around us and together recite or pray the Lord’s Prayer. I realize this had the chance for some to maybe not know the words, but for as much as I could see, everyone took a hand and at a minimum honored those around them. This was an amazing moment. Our country was founded, and our independence won by men who wholeheartedly believed in God and who undoubtedly prayed those same words. I’m not trying to preach here for that is unnecessary. What I am doing is pointing out how appropriate it was for that to have taken place. Concordia, you are a refuge of peace for our riders. Some took naps or rested under your trees during the additional time we had after lunch. You have created an atmosphere where that is possible.
The massive flag flying high over the roadway on arrival in Wentzville always blows my mind. It is huge and the only thing that compares to it as we arrive are all the people cheering and waving flags of their own alongside the roadway. The entire scene is impressive and much like our arrival in Junction City yesterday, my helmet had a bit of rain on the inside and I’m sure I’m not the only one with the same condition. As has become a tradition over 33 years of stopping in Wentzville, a brief ceremony was held before getting down to the business of enjoying the Cattlemen’s Association’s BBQed steaks. For various reasons, some riders may choose not to stay for an evening meal. At this location, leaving for a meal elsewhere is not a choice very many make! This year’s ceremony was different than in past years. Mark Schmitz, Father of Lance Corporal Jarred Schmitz, who was among the 13 killed during the hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan briefly spoke. Mark presented the Run For The Wall with a flag bearing the names of all 13 slain in the attack to carry to the Wall in Washington DC. Mark also handed out window clings of the same flag design to anyone who wished to place one on their bike to honor the fallen. And lastly, Mark Schmitz told us of a new nonprofit “Remembering the heroes that made the ultimate sacrifice by supporting the veterans still with us.” For information, you can visit TheFreedom13.org
This was an amazing day filled with acts of love of country, love of Veterans, brotherly and sisterly love between riders, a Father’s love for his son lost in Afghanistan, and love of a God in Heaven. I can’t wait to see how tomorrow tops today!
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