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Day 6. Monday May 23, 2022. Forrest city, AR to Cookeville, TN. “CELEBRATION!”

There’s a party going on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We’re gonna celebrate your party with you!

Today we are heading to COOKEVILLE!!!  This is our “key” stop along our entire route.  Up to this point, we have been getting to know each other, learning each others stories, finding out about our shared pasts, and becoming Family.  Today we laughed and cried together.  The laughter was from the heart, but so where the tears.  And here is why:

At our morning meeting, one of our BRAND NEW FNGs asked if she could do something for our Riders.  She hadn’t met many of us yet, but she still had a gift for us all.  “Curly” got up on the stage, and in front of 250 strangers, she SIGNED the words to “Proud to be an American!”    We couldn’t believe it!  She was so passionate in her signing that we were all singing and clapping along with her!  She is going to fit right in with our little group!

Right after that, we had one of our Active Duty Personnel lead us in the Pledge of Allegiance.  I have never heard it lead with such gusto and determination.  It was a fantastic start to our day, and definitely put us all in the mood to start our Celebration!

We were a little concerned about the weather this morning.  It was raining ahead of us AND behind us.  But being the Midway Route, we were right in between the storms.  We are the “Goldilocks” route: We are “just right!”  AND we made it through the entire day without getting wet.  ANOTHER reason to Celebrate.

Two Platoons of our Trike Riders got to go on a breakout Mission this morning to the Tennessee State Veterans Cemetery in Parker Crossroads.  These People are always in the back of the Pack, so they don’t get chosen for a lot of programs.  Well not on the Midway Route!  It was my honor to get to accompany them, especially since I was on two wheels.  We participated in a wreath laying ceremony which was followed by “Echo Taps” and a rifle salute.  The Flag we were standing under was HUGE!  And the wind was blowing it hard enough to make it look like the Flag was at attention.  It was a great Outreach!

We just barely returned from THAT outreach when it was time to head out on another one.  This time, two different platoons went to Lebanon, Tennessee to visit the Veterans Museum.  This is a very unique museum, as it has displays primarily about the uniforms and arms for each branch of the Military, for the past 200 years.  They have a “wall of Honor” where they feature a local veteran from each branch of the Service, with a picture and a short biography.  Today, we MET William Seay, standing next to his own photo.  “Welcome Home, Sergeant!”  It is a really interesting place to visit, and I look forward to coming back when I can spend more time.  We performed a wreath laying ceremony here, as well.  And I must mention something else: As a Texan, I know that BBQ is BEEF.  But that pulled pork sandwich really deserves this Texans “Seal of Approval!”  I would ride back up here just for that sandwich!

Did I mention that we had LEO Escorts through all of the major cities AGAIN today?  Folks, let me tell you, it is an amazing site to see an entire FREEWAY shut down just so we can ride through!  It wasn’t easy to get, but I DID take a photo that shows a little bit of what this looks like from OUR perspective.

And then we rolled into Cookeville!  This place is phenomenal!  They cheer us as we roll down main street.  The wave flags WITH us when we arrive.  They hug us all, over and over and over.  Then they FEED us!  AND they provide some musical entertainment!  AND they auctioned off a super-delicious cheese-cake made by Sarah Winfrey.  How do I know it was delicious?  Right before the auction started, I ran to the front of the room to get some photos.  I just happened to grab an empty chair, and then that table bid on the cheesecake.  WE WON!!!  WooHoo!

So you see, Cookeville is a Celebration for us.  Yes, we had a lot of fun today, but we also participated in several very meaningful outreach programs.  (We have another one first thing in the morning!)  Cookeville is sort of a “turning point” in our Mission.  We have had a LOT of fun along the way and experienced some amazing emotions.  But today was Day Six, and that means we are more than half-way to our destination.  Every day from now on, as we draw closer to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in DC, our emotions are going to get a little more raw.  The joy will still be there, but it is going to be tempered with the solemnity of our Mission.

So today we partied and celebrated our Family.  Tomorrow, it all becomes more serious.

There’s a party going on right here
A dedication to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We’re gonna celebrate your party with you!

Cheers!

Jim “Hoofer” McCrain