(I wrote these words last year, but they seem completely appropriate this year as well). Wow this mission is going by fast. Only three days left and the last day is only a half day for the Midway Route. The last day we have less than 100 miles to ride, then a visit to the USMC Museum in Quantico and then on to the hotel in Arlington, VA. That’s it. I can’t believe we’ve been waiting for so long for our anticipated event for to be over so quick. It’s like waiting in line for an hour or more to ride Peter Pan at Disneyland because your children just have to and you finally climb in your flying gondola, then in three minutes you’re climbing off. Your children are happy and that’s what matters. This ride, this mission just feels like it’s flying by like we were on a Peter Pan gondola. Way too soon it will be over.
Today was a great day for a motorcycle ride. Yes it’s not a ride it’s a mission. Okay correction noted. We had very little rain and what we had came in the last 10 minutes of our ride to Asheville. Some people dawned their rain gear after the Morning meeting, but it came off at the next stop. It was hot. The next few legs were cooler and quite pleasant I thought. That said, everyone knows that if you wear raingear it won’t rain, and it basically didn’t. We all made it to Asheville in one piece and had a great time doing it.
At our morning meeting, Mr. Patriot was on hand to see us off and he brought some friends. Michael thanked us for coming and honoring him, he blessed us to ride safely and bid us farewell until next year. There was also a grade school of children there to meet us veterans and patriots.
Our final venue today is Asheville Harley Davidson for dinner. As we entered the interstate, the beautiful country called to us and there were several comments on the CB about this being God’s country. I cannot argue with that. The greenery everywhere, the hills, the canyons we rode through, all were wonderful to see. The problem with all this beauty is that we really can’t see much of it. We got to keep focused on the backside of the rider in front of us. On the way, I commented that I’d been looking at the same rider’s backside for 5 years and almost 15,000 miles. He replied, “but it’s a pretty backside”. I laughed. Then someone commented, “You guys need to get a room”. It was so funny. Anyway, the ride today had many sweeping, ascending and descending turns and a few tunnels and lots of traffic all in beautiful hills, covered with a forest of trees. What a rush.
We headed to our first stop which was Knoxville for lunch and the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial for lunch. Although the route into the memorial did not go quite as planned, we all got there safely.
Several of us took advantage of the large water feature to make fools of ourselves again. A couple of our seasoned riders have been making fools of themselves walking fully clothed through the water feature since our first visit. We know who you are. I joined in this time as well as a couple others. Some children were playing there and wanted to be included in the pictures being taken of all the participants.
Later at the memorial, there was a prayer from our chaplain corps and the Pledge of Allegiance. Afterward, a Wreath Laying ceremony commenced by our riders which was performed with military precision and dignity, followed by cheers and applause. Lunch was served and we enjoyed the Veterans Memorial. I have a few Medal of Honor coins from this memorial. New coins were available created for the latest Knoxville Medal of Honor “recipient” (you don’t say “winner” you know and it ain’t the Congressional Medal of Honor, it’s the Medal of Honor which happens to be awarded by Congress. I learned that from a docent at the Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery and you can bet he knows).
Our next stop was the Citgo station where our North Carolina State Coordinator would be waiting and he was. He is a dedicated guy to Run For The Wall and to our country. This Citgo station has the best ice cream, thee best. Many agree. They all rush inside to get in line. Our North Carolina State Coordinator is responsible for the multitude of fire engines we will see on overpasses throughout North Carolina. (Tomorrow in Fayetteville we will have a very special event he coordinates at the Airborne Special Operations Museum).
Before long we arrived at the Asheville Harley Davidson shop, all in one piece. It didn’t take long partly because we lost an hour when we entered North Carolina. Now we are on Eastern Time. Our excellent Staging Crew got us parked at the Harley shop so we could each get out when we wanted to. Well, some of us anyway. There was a band playing and the smell of barbeque in the air. What a great event. Dinner was excellent and the band was great. They played a couple of my favorites. There was also singing of the National Anthem. After dinner, Bandit said to all present like he has at most of our meal stops, “What do we say to all these people that fed us?” We answer in unison “THANK YOU”.
Soon it was time for presentations. Several plaques and certificates were handed out. One of the representatives from the VA Hospital spoke some words of welcome and appreciation. A few of the patients that live at the center were on hand. The mic was handed to Staff Sergeant Wayne Carringer, POW, and Bataan Death March survivor now 97 years old. He had few words to say, and they were dignified and patriotic. Previously here at the same event, he said, “Always be thankful for every meal you receive because you never know if you’ll have one tomorrow. Always be kind and loving to your friends, because you never know if you will see them again”. One last thing he talked about was avoid doing things that you will regret in the future. Thinking back on things we said in anger or hard times we gave to someone will cause us pain in the future when we reflect back on them. I thought the wisdom this elderly gentleman has gained over the years of his life and the unique and traumatic experiences he endured were of particular importance to helping me find happiness in my life, if I’ll remember his words and make them a part of my life.
Many riders took advantage of the Asheville HD service center. Services were quickly managed. My bike had a minor part issue and it was corrected quickly. Sort of. I think they closed the service shop doors after my bike was fixed. Seriously, this is a great HD Shop and their staff and their techs are all pros. You wish you had a shop this great close to your house if you own a Harley.
I see a lot of healing going on during this mission. It is wonderful to see. People helping people with issues they really know nothing about but issues we all know how to deal with because we have been there and our issues are managed the same way. Kindness, caring, love and blessings through our helping hands and from God. We all need these things to help us get through our own difficulties, our own demons, whatever they may be and these things are reality to those that suffer with them. Most of us know how to help someone that needs it. If you see a need, be there for them. Help in any way you can. Just show you care. It pays dividends to your soul many times over. In Galatians 6: 2 it says “Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the Law of Christ”. The Law of Christ is to love one another. It’s easy to do. Everyone that looks like they need help, please try to lift. Help everyone you can to find healing anyway you can. Help us get everyone to the wall. The wall that heals. We only have a few days left.
Another day completed. Another day closer to arriving in Arlington, but also another day closer to the Run For The Wall being over. I wish it could continue. Many others feel the same way. Traveling mercies to you all, I ask a loving, caring God to provide. Blessings to each of you.
“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.