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Day 9, Fayetteville – Ashland

There’s something magical about staying at the host hotel.  Seeing all your buddies and talking about the stories of the day or relaxing with a cold one with your platoon mates.  To others, staying at the host hotel may be a little hell on earth.  No close place to park, long check-in lines, card keys that don’t work forcing you to go back down the elevator carrying all your gear, and cut back in line to get new ones.  There’s an endless number of things that work against you checking into a hotel that are multiplied at host hotels, so some avoid them.  I’m beginning to think they might be the smart ones, but I’ll let you be the judge.

I stay at some non-host hotels.  There are a few host hotels I will never stay at again.  Last night I stayed at a non-host hotel in Fayetteville.  It’s a great place to stay.  I’m not telling which one it is.  One thing about staying at a non-host hotel that I never thought would be a factor is the ability to receive the most current and vital information from leadership, like when the morning meeting staging location is changed at the last minute.

I left my hotel and arrived at the staging location noted in the book only to find it vacant.  A call to one of my platoon leadership and I had the new location, several miles away and several minutes away from my current location.  My faithful GPS got me there quickly, but not quick enough.  I missed the meeting and the departure time.  Thankfully the schedule/itinerary has the address of the next stop and I plugged that into my GPS and was instructed how to get there with relative ease.  All was fine and I enjoyed a little time riding at my leisure.

Falcon’s Children’s Home is a private school that cares for children that have not been successful in the public school system, it’s also a home for school age unwed mothers and those who are wards of the state.  Teachers, faculty and children are doing remarkable things at this school, where doors are now open to them that would otherwise have been closed.  I think the very special teachers that work with these very special children are key.  All children are valuable and need an opportunity or maybe a second one to prove what they can do.  With the right teachers, children can learn things they can’t in public school systems. We are all alike in the eyes of God.

The children here at Falcon’s provided an excellent program for us.  Starting with colors and the National Anthem.  There were some presentations by Bandit and the principal, Mr. Leggett and Hawk had a few words for us and for the children. Then the senior class members were all given certificates from Run For The wall.  Run For The Wall presented the graduating class with a cake.  After this a challenge coin designed by the school was presented to each member of Run For The Wall. What a great gift we were all treated to.  The Colors were retired, benediction offered and as we left the school, the children lined the parking lot waving and cheering goodbye to us.  Why do they love us so much?  Folks they don’t even know?  Is it because of who they think we stand for?  Are we who they think we are?  God help us be deserving of their love and help us be who they expect us to be.  We surely love these children.  We will be back again next year for a fact.






We next headed to lunch at the Shiloh Pentecostal Church.  We received a very warm welcome.

Have you ever seen an ice chest filled with spaghetti?  How about two?  Well we did and it was really good with extra sauce in pitchers to put on top if you wanted more as well as salad and plenty of deserts.  So from lunch, we were headed to our fuel stop (the last of the mission) and then to dinner under local LEO escort to the Moose Lodge in Hopewell, VA.

Hopewell.  What a wonderful, loving and caring place.  I think I’d like to move here.  I know, I said that about a few other places already, but it’s true.  The people at the Moose Lodge were so nice to us.  They spent all day preparing food and arranging tables and chairs for us.  First they welcomed us inside the air-conditioned building and gave us water and iced tea, sweet tea, lemonade and water.  We were quickly all inside and seated.  Soon a children’s choir from Tussing Elementary School Third Grade was singing a medley of songs about veterans and how they are so appreciated.  However they did not sing the song that made them an internet sensation.  A song they recorded years ago.  It’s quite popular on YouTube still.  You can find it at this this URL. I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the place, because I couldn’t see myself.  Afterward, we stood and applauded.  We were all touched, just like each of the years before this.

I wasn’t really hungry after eating a mess of spaghetti, so I sat at my table and browsed through pictures I’d taken on my phone.  I had some really good ones.  As I continued a came across my dad’s Navy picture.  It took me back.  My dad passed in ’99.  I took my Missing Man ride with him my FNG year in 2012.  I miss him.  As I sat thinking about him, I reflected on this year’s Run and realized after tomorrow’s visit to the USMC Museum in Quantico, VA we ride to the hotel and the Run is over with only a wake up for the festivities on Saturday.  It was a sad feeling and I teared up like yesterday all over.  I think my dad would be proud I participate in Run For The Wall.  I’m not sure he would be happy I ride a motorcycle to do it however.  Anyway, I love you dad.  RIP Gunner’s Mate, USS Colorado BB-45, February 1937 to March 1941.

Some ladies next entertained us with a form of tap dancing to some familiar tunes.  They were great and mostly available I think.  Not sure about that last part.

An ensemble of bagpipes, bass drum and snare drum entertained us next with some favorite bag pipe songs including an excellent rendition of Amazing grace that brought tears again.

Next was the anticipated time to hand out the coveted zip ties for entering Arlington on Saturday. FNGs were called up by state where they began the Run.  All FNGs got a zip tie this time.  In another couple years, some may get turned away.  We had almost 200 FNGs with us this time on the Midway Route.  We hope to get many more in years to come.

Bandit and Wombat handed out awards to leadership members and to all the team members.  Bandit told a short humorous story about each one called up and mentioned how much he loved “each and every one of us because we are family”.  I was surprised when he called my name up to receive a plaque for doing the SitReps.  I hadn’t received one before.  Just shows you how thoughtful Bandit really is.

As we headed out the door, we shared thanks and hugs with all that served us here at the Moose Lodge in Hopewell.  We headed for our hotels in Ashland.  Tomorrow we ride together a total of 94 miles and then we are on our own.  Remember to stop at signals and stop lights.  No more road guards to block them for you.  Shucks.

“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.