Today is a short ride like yesterday, tomorrow the same, only a half day on Friday and then it’s over. Some can’t wait to be there, others like me can’t stand that it’s almost over. My wife is one that wishes it was over and I was home. Of course I want to be home and I miss my darling wife immensely, but I also love Run For The Wall. The fact that it’s almost over is weighing on me seriously. I have found new friends to add to my already long list of Run For The Wall friends. These new friends have ridden more than a couple thousand miles with me. They have counted on me as their platoon leader to get them through the day safely and I have tried. I love these people. I don’t want it to be over. I had some serious anxiety over this today. It hit me hard in Siler City.
Our meeting this morning at Asheville HD was actually very good and very efficiently conducted. My leadership briefed our platoon members and we left Asheville under LEO escort in some light fog, but it evaporated quickly. The radar report looked like we would hit some rain somewhere along the way and we did. We were pretty much happy we did. It was hot.
First to our next donated gas stop, then to Siler City. I love being there. This is our Chaplain’s home, and he is the pastor of the Sunrise Pentecostal Holiness Church (I hope I got that right). This man we know as Good Wrench is most loveable. His concern for us all is deeply sincere. His prayers are heart-felt, gracious and eloquent. I honestly believe God hears and answers his prayers and when he prays for God’s traveling mercies, I truly believe we will receive them and we have.
After fueling we made our way to the church. Members of our Chaplain’s congregation were there to serve us lunch, if you call grilled rib-eye steak, potatoes, green beans, homemade peach cobbler and homemade vanilla ice cream lunch. We look forward to arriving in this wonderful town to share this wonderful meal, with these wonderful people. As we approached the church we were received by a large group welcoming us. A giant American flag was draped over the entrance. We parked and made our way to the chow lines and were greeted by many happy-to-see–you faces including some members of the Buffalo Motorcycle Club.
While sitting under a large tent, eating my excellent steak, I was thinking of the peach cobbler waiting for me. A lady sitting next to me was telling someone else that the lady coming to our table made all the peach cobbler. I had to thank her. When I did, she gave me a hug. After finishing my meal I was taking my plate to the trash and one of my sister riders from Las Vegas asked me how I was feeling. She could tell something was bothering me. I shared with her I was sad that soon Run For The Wall would be over and I wasn’t very happy about that. She gave me a hug and we held each other for a while. Maybe it was a long while. I was seriously upset and she could tell. She told me she would always have a shoulder for me. I knew she would, she always has and I felt a little better, but not quite all.
I am also saddened that I am carrying with me a small portion of a dear friend’s ashes. He wanted to go on Run For The Wall one last time, but his illness late last year got worse and then by accident he fell and broke his hip. He was hospitalized but died later that January night. Now my friend, Jim “Paladin” Lenz is gone. He was a long time Run For The Wall rider and had been on the Midway Route a couple times. He was one I could talk with and did many times for hours. He knew me and I him. I frequently told him he was my hero for the things he did and he would argue with me that he is not a hero but others are. He would say to me as we ended our calls “I love you brother” and I would same the same in reply. Jim knew he might not make it to the Wall this year. He asked me one day that if it came down to it, would I take him to the Wall one last time. It wasn’t easy to say because I didn’t want anything to happen to him, but I told him I would. He mentioned to me that after visiting the wall, somewhere on the way home I would find a place I felt appropriate to lay his ashes to rest. I know I will. His memories live on. I love you brother. I’m riding to the Wall for you Paladin. Another friend is riding for him as well on another route.
Jim’s wife sent me a link of a video. She appears in a short clip being interviewed by a reporter asking why she was there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ze181OfgQD4. If the link doesn’t work, copy and paste it to your browser.
Some children from an elementary school in Siler City came by with cards they had made for us. I grabbed a few. One says, “Thank you for your service”. Inside is an outline of America colored red, white and blue like an American Flag. Another, “You are our hero. Thank you”. Another says, “We wanted to thank you for all your hard work and service and we hope God blessed you because you saved thousands or millions of lives maybe even more. But we hope that you take care and keep on fighting for our rights”. Some very nice sentiments from some very small children. I will leave all of these at the wall.
I’d like to share again a card I received last year. This one stays with me, so I can read it again and share it again and read it some more.
I would like to take this time to thank you. I want to thank you for fighting and defending our country. You left your families and risked your lives for our freedom. For that I am extremely grateful. You made it your responsibility and your priority to help, protect and defend our country. You’ve done your part and I deeply, deeply appreciate your work, effort and service. This is my way of showing my gratitude. Although it isn’t much compared to what you’ve sacrificed, my thank you truly does come from the heart. It’s because of your bravery that we are allowed to live so freely and for that, I want to say thank you. Sincerely –
P.S. “The veterans of our military services have put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms that we enjoy. They have dedicated their lives to their country and deserve to be recognized for their commitment”. – Judd Gregg
P.P.S “On this Veteran’s Day, let us remember the service of our veterans and let us renew our national promise to fulfill our sacred obligations to our veterans and their families who have sacrificed so much so that we can live free”. – Dan Lipinski
I hope these quotes touched you anything like they have touched me. The last one got me good. The printing was immaculate. It was carefully decorated with the American Flag on the front. The sentiment as profound as they come. Thank you children.
After lunch we departed the church and paraded through downtown Siler City. Then we rode to Chatums Middle School where a program was prepared for us. As we approached, children lined the driveway and cheered. We parked and went into the gymnasium and sat. There many children were waiting for us. The program began and children played bells, some sang, the band played songs. All were excellent. All brought emotions to us. All were cheered. All of us clapped to the music and all applauded their entertainment so beautifully offered to us. As I was leaving, I started tossing up RFTW pins to the children sitting on the floor. I didn’t have many, but gave them all I had left. They screamed with each one I tossed until they were all gone. I’ll bring a lot more next year. I’ll definitely be back to Siler City again.
We had two sponsored fuel stops today thanks to our anonymous benevolent donor. By the way, my platoon would like to thank you. I’m sure the entire Run For The Wall company would like to thank you as well, but I’m also sure you know already how much your gift is appreciated and how much we all love you for it.
Our next stop Fayetteville NC. From Siler City all the way to downtown Fayetteville, we had a police escort and they blocked highway roads and streets for us our entire trip into town. We pulled into the parking area of the Airborne and Special Operations Museum. We were there for a very important event by several accounts. First is the Field of Honor. Every flag honors someone from North Carolina who is currently serving, those who have served, and the men and women who have made the supreme sacrifice for our nation’s security and freedom. There’s also a memorial for service dogs and some impressive statues of General Henry Hugh Shelton and Iron Mike honoring airborne troopers. Inside the museum there are several displays. There are other exhibits and a theater. We were all invited into the theater. A program was available and there were several invited guests. The company of Buffalo Soldiers was there.
There were a few former POWs being honored. The program included a biography of the experiences of these men and other POWs, while they were in captivity. Of these servicemen, several spent many years as prisoners from one to 5 years. Their stories are horrific. The suffering they endured unconscionable, the pain and loss they lived immeasurable, their character unconquerable. These are men that were determined to live and have to their last breath. They endured with the hope of someday being released. Their stories are incredible. Some of them have now passed, but their wives were present to honor their husband’s memory. We paid them each tribute and honor.
Rick McDowell (Hawk) was the organizer and MC for this presentation. There were several speakers and ceremony including colors, the National Anthem, invocation, benediction and awards presentation.
Following our visit to the Airborne and Spec Ops Museum, we were permitted time to browse through the museum then provided a meal outside behind the museum. Then we were excused for the night.
Day 8 is in the books. It won’t be long now. Dang.
“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.