Day 6, Forrest City – Cookville
According to my GPS we finished today with a little over 2000 miles. We are now in Cookeville, TN. Today started out a little different. It had all the usual activities, breakfast, mandatory meeting, prayers, instructions, drawings, bio reading, etc. Today we will be heading to Cookville, TN where last year I met up with “Mr Patriot”. It began when he’d read one of my sitreps and knew we were coming through Cookeville where he lives and wanted to meet me, so we set something up and something big started (check Day 7 2017 sitrep for more details). If you were there then you remember Talking Hands teaching everyone how to sign ”Hi” so we could all greet Mr. Patriot. Anyway, he remembers and he continues to track RFTW progress and post patriotic stuff on Facebook frequently. Today in Cookeville I saw him in the middle of the street and road straight toward him. He knew it was me immediately and was excited to see me; more about Cookeville and Michael later.
(I wrote this last year, but it’s too good to omit). Many individuals on the Run have painful memories that they hope to find answers to or at least relief from by associating with friends that share common stories and common pain and know some of the dark places we sometimes fall victim to. A friend of mine had such an experience while on the Run. I could tell he was troubled. I waited a moment and then walked over to him and hugged him for a while. The emotions were thick (this friend was disappointed he could not make the run this year but plans to next year). For my friend, the pain is still there after many years, but Run For The Wall has become his reason to cope with the pain and he is doing the best he can with it. Others are suffering with pain and demons of their own. There’s no way we can tell how deep this pain goes or how tight a grip these demons have on them. All we can do is comfort them as they struggle to get through their battles with them.
Getting through Memphis was a challenge, but we cleared it with expert Road Guard service. We have in our hearts a warm place for these brave men and women to risk their lives to help keep us safe on the Run.
We stopped in Brownsville for another sponsored fuel stop, and headed to Dickson for lunch at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. They also had many deserts. I kept looking until I found the cobbler, apple this year. It was wonderful. Just as I felt I was starting to cool down, it was announced it was time to go.
Getting through Nashville was a real nightmare, but again a Road Guard was our savior and he got my platoon safely though it all (five different interstate transitions with heavy moving traffic). With us separated, platoons in the rear were separated as well. It took several miles for all of us to catch up again, going ridiculous speeds. (I’d recommend we take an alternate route and avoid downtown Nashville). When we got to our fuel stop several of us were rattled but we had made it.
We made our way to our final stop and then on to Cookeville. On the way into town, I heard a rider say “I love coming into this town”. I said “me too”. I said, “remember a few years ago coming in here in the pouring rain and all the people were still out here to welcome us. Another rider said “and we were an hour late”. It is a “must be there” kind of experience. It is the Run For The Wall feeling that each of us thrive on, a personal feeling of welcome, of belonging, of love and appreciation for someone none of them know except as veterans. The welcome was indescribable as in past years. Police directed us through town. People and groups lined the streets with flags waving and cheering all the way to the Leslie Town Center. I’m sure there were a thousand or more people on the streets welcoming us. What an amazing sight. The people of Cookeville are phenomenal.
As we were riding to the Leslie Town Center, I saw Michael (Mr. Patriot) in the middle of the street waving a flag. I rode right up to him. He knew it was me and gave me a big hug right there in the middle of the street. When we made it to our dinner stop, we all parked and made our way inside. We were greeted by everyone including the Mayor and several dignitaries. Inside there were tables set with Red, White, and Blue table cloths. We found our way to tables and had a great meal quickly followed by a prayer from their chaplain giving thanks to God for our safe travels of the day and the meal we were about to enjoy. After the awards were passed out, an area MIA family member talked to us about his experiences growing up not knowing what happened to his father. It was touching. Then a local singer sang a few great songs we all enjoyed. Later I saw Mr. Patriot and presented him with this year’s pin and another challenge coin and we got a picture together.
A beautiful day and an exceptional experience but now it’s over. I can’t wait to come back to Cookeville, TN. It is my home away from home.
Day 6 is in the books. Tomorrow a challenging highway ride.
“We Ride For Those That Can’t”
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 5 Leader / Midway Route SitRep Writer
I’d appreciate your comments. For those that have emailed me their comments, my thanks and my love to you all.
A friend of mine shared this poem with me and wanted me to share it with you.
At 0815, on a Sunday morning,
The kickstands went up and the sound of thunder began to roar,
With two in front of me riding abreast,
And two behind me, that will follow side by side,
And beside me was the very honor
Of this here soldier that rode beside me
For he was the missing man that we all knew
With hundreds of bikes that road staggered
Through the town of Shawnee, on a route to Sallisaw, on the way to DC,
From a journey that started out in California
To honor those that never came home
As we ride for them on this here ride
From the POWs to the MIAs
They are never forgotten in a journey of our ride
So as I ride in a formation of the missing man
I will honor those of the very names that never came home
And as we part from the ranks someone else will take my place
And I’ll hold today the memories of our ride
From the sound of thunder that will carry their names
In the Oklahoma winds where we will meet once again
Where all gave some and some gave all
In a foreign land where we lost them all
But as we part we part as brothers and sisters
A family forever in a journey called Run For The Wall .
Written by SSGT Ralph Lee Butler Jr
May 19, 2016