Southern Route – Day 2 – Chandler, AZ to Las Cruces, NM

Kristine Wood "Eyes"Southern Route SitRepsLeave a Comment

So much happened today, it’s hard to know where to start. Let’s start at the beginning… the stagers are responsible for staging us in platoons so we can roll out in an orderly manner. It’s a thankless job, riders tend to grumble when the stagers don’t get things perfect. The staging team like all the other RFTW teams are volunteers and work hard all year. This year our stage leads are Joe Erychleb and Steve “Hard Rock” Powell.

They decided they wanted really good signs this year. So they thought and thought and decided pizza pans with reflective tape would make great platoons staging signs. So they made 14 sets of signs for all the platoons. Joe made the top, pizza sign and Steve made the poles. Let me tell you, they are large and visible it makes staging easy for the riders when we come around the corner. We are lucky to have such dedicated volunteers. A big shout out to the entire staging team. Thank you for your dedicated service to all the riders.

As always, Marana, AZ welcomes the riders with open arms. The Golden Ranch Fire Fighters Pipes and Drums, Local 3832 presented the colors. After the colors were presented, Amber Simons O’Neill sang Hallelujah, a beautiful tribute to military, written by Sailor Jerri. It’s a beautiful song. Enjoy the video.

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Now, for one of the more emotional experiences I’ve had in six years, I’ve been on the run. If I ever needed a reminder that there is a God who knows and cares, today was it.

As we were preparing to leave Marana for Wilcox, Gump the Missing Man coordinator came up and told me, “as the six pack, APL, it’s your job to fill in if someone falls out of the missing man formation. I thought oh, okay, glad I was told before too many days went by, no biggie, I can do that.

Thirty minutes after Gump mentioned this responsibility to me, I hear over the radio, “Kristine, Kristine, missing man has fallen out, we need you up here now”. I quickly tap out of my platoon, zip on up to the missing man formation, (only going 5 over the speed limit), of course. I tap in and take the spot that was vacated.

If you’ve ever ridden in the missing man formation, you know how emotional it can be. Well today, once I settled into the spot, I began to think about my day and how it all went down. When I walked out to staging today, Radar shared with me a poem his daughter, Sydney Ley, wrote about the missing man. Very insightful and beautiful.

“Missing Man.
Those two words echo in my mind and in the wind as we ride. Nothing but the steadfast rumble of the bike beneath me and the sound of the wind rushing by.
If you’re still, you can hear their voices, calling for remembrance.
So many emotions and no words to say.
So here I sit, with the Missing Man.
In Silence, a quiet prayer.
To all the Missing Men and Women, who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their Country, for all their Brothers and Sisters to enjoy the freedom so heavily priced…Thank you. Gone, but NEVER Forgotten!”

As Gibbs of NCIS says, “there’s no such thing as a coincidence”. It was not a coincidence that Radar chose today to share Sydney’s poem with me. It was not a coincidence that Gump, thought to mention to me that it was my job to fill-in if anyone in the missing man formation taps out. It was not a coincidence that a rider did tap out. It is also is not a coincidence that Gump is our missing man coordinator.

Let me tell you a little bit about Joe “Gump” Hudson, Repatriated POW. Gump was a Prisoner of War, March 23, 2003 – April 13, 2003. He was held captive with seven other Americans, five were released, two were not. As you can imagine, the Missing Man Formation is very near and dear to Gump’s heart. I believe that the Lord’s hand was in the sharing of the poem, and the getting the Missing Man Formation completed. I don’t have the thought process to explain all there is to the missing man formation, please google it to learn more, to understand the honor and respect it gives to our Missing in Action and Killed in Action. Thank you Gump, we love you! ❤️

I think that’s all the words I have to share tonight. It’s just too much emotion to try to put into words. God Bless our Blue star families, our Gold Star families and our active duty military through out the world.

🏍🏍🏍🇺🇸We ride for those who can’t.We ride together-together we ride🏍🏍🏍🇺🇸

In closing:

“Do your duty in all things. You cannot do more, you should never wish to do less.” General Robert E. Lee