FNG Story – Charles (Chuck) Wright

Run For The WallFNG Stories

Name: Charles (Chuck) Wright
E-Mail: [email protected]
Phone: 205-999-2462
City: Odenville
State: Alabama
FNG Story:

RFTW 2014
A Life Changing Experience

For those of you who have never experienced the loss a spouse due to suicide, all I can say is that you are very fortunate. My loss came May 20, 2011. Six years after her retirement from teaching Seventh Grade Math for thirty years and tutoring three and four nights a week afterwards, My wife took her life in the woods a half mile behind our house. It took four days before volunteers found her; without a doubt, the worst four days of my life. I could never explain the feelings and emotions I experienced during that period. She left a two page letter telling me how much she loved me and that her actions were not my fault but due to her continued failing health. She asked for me not to have any memorial or even obituary. She only wanted cremation and nothing else. No directions as to where her ashes were to be placed. It was my decision to scatter her ashes from a helicopter over a beautiful peaceful area in
the Appalachian Mountains; an area we had toured many times on my motorcycle. I no longer have my riding partner; it’s like I’m missing part of my bike.

The tragedy of losing my wife now supersedes the other continuing tragedy that I have experienced in life. Using the word “continuing” is due to the fact that as a Platoon Sergeant, the bodies of three of my Marines lost in the last combat action of the Viet Nam War, May 15, 1975, have
never been recovered. The pain, horrors and extreme miseries I experienced for four days searching for my wife somewhat ended when she was recovered and put to rest. The families of PFC. Gary L.Hall, LCpl.
Joseph N. Hargrove and Pvt. Danny G. Marshall have had to endure the like for over 39 years now never having had the opportunity to experience closure by laying their sons to rest. Their loss has weighed heavily on my mind for years and has now been elevated as I relate my own experience to what their families must be going through. Fighting depression is one hell of a battle experienced by many vets, (and civilians). Tough times never last, tough people do; Many times I have to ask myself, “Why?”

Monday May 19, 2014, (the day before the third anniversary of losing my wife) I rode my 2003 Harley-Davidson Ultra motorcycle from my home in central Alabama to Meridian, MS. to meet up with 350+ other military vets on their bikes at the Meridian Agriculture Center. The group had started their trip several days before in California as the Southern Route of the “Run For The Wall” on their annual journey to Washington, D.C. to honor those who never made it home. I read somewhere that some crazy Marine had started this RFTW thing back in 1989 so I thought this would be the ride I belong on. Maybe it would ease some of the painful memories of those four days in May 2011. Besides the Southern Route there is a Central Route and a Midway Route all starting in California, and all finishing in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day. The theme for the ride is always, “We ride for those who no longer can.”

Spent that night in Meridian on the ground in a small tent outside the Agri. Center as several others did who opted not to pay for a room. In the morning my body was telling me to remember my age and in the future to shell out the money for a room. My plan was to ride with the group all day on the 20th, spend the night in Chattanooga then back home the next day.

After departing Meridian we stopped at a VA Hospital in Tuscaloosa, AL. and visited other Vets for lunch; always a pleasure to hear stories from some of the older vets and thank them for their service, and our freedom. Next stop Asheville, AL. for fuel and a break, then on to Chattanooga for the night.

First time I had been on a road trip since I lost Cindy. Riding the roads we had been on so many times before was getting to me and the thought of riding through an area the next day not far from where I had spread her ashes was something I did not think I could handle and convinced myself that going home would be the best idea now that May 20th was coming to a close.

We had supper at and donated by Thunder Creek Harley-Davidson, then after a short period of socializing everyone departed to various hotels nearby.

Not having reservations and not really wanting to socialize anymore I opted to search for a room a little further away from where everyone else was staying; actually about 10 miles away.

After checking into a Hampton Inn I made preparations to head home in the morning (not caring if I actually made it or not). Removed my wristband and tape on my bike identifying me as a registered biker with the “Run For The Wall” and started to settle in for the night. Heard what I recognized as a Harley pull in nearby and wondered if it was someone with the RFTW group since as far as I knew I was the only biker there.

Around 10:30 that night I walked outside (was on first floor) and towards the lobby to get some ice. About five doors down I noticed another Harley-Davidson similar to mine; had a USMC Gunnery Sergeant sticker, a Drill Instructor Association sticker, plus one that really stood out, “Mayaguez Recovery,” which was the last combat action of the Viet Nam War.

WHO THE HELL WAS THIS PERSON?

There were only a little over 200 of us that were on the operation, May 15, 1975. Looked for lights on in nearby rooms and saw none so I left a note on the bike for him to contact me in room 151 before leaving in the morning, as I was heading home at daylight.

At 0530 (5:30 am) there’s a knock on my door… it had been 39 years since the operation so we had to announce our names and immediately hugged each other. We really did not know each other while in the unit, but the fact we were there together is all it took to be Brothers (besides being Marines).

I knew that it was a Marine who started the “Run For The Wall” in 1989 from California and was in awe when I found out that the crazy Marine was standing in front of me; Retired Marine Gunnery Sergeant James Gregory, aka Gunny. Told him to go outside and look at my bike which was covered. When I removed the cover I’m sure if you looked close enough you would have seen tears in both of our eyes.

Sign on front of my bike:
HALL HARGROVE MARSHALL
BRING THEM HOME!

Those three Marines were the main reason he started the “Run” and for all the other guys who never made it back…… We were riding for all of them.

He and his wife, Patti just got in town to join the run the night before. They had been at the Annual Mayaguez Reunion in Branson, MO. I was going to go but had some mental and emotional issues relating to May 20th that made me cancel a few days before.

We were the only ones associated with the “Run” at that Hampton Inn, which was several miles from the main group. Gunny said for me to come down to his room as he wanted to show me something. Not knowing Patti was in the room, off I went barefooted and only a pair of gym shorts. Went a few doors down, met his wife and was shown pictures on his laptop of the Mayaguez Reunion they had attended the day before.

James told me they choose the Hampton Inn away from the main group to ensure they would get a full night’s sleep since once they’re around their “family” all night socializing is too hard to resist and they were already worn out from being on the road for several days.

Informed them I would have breakfast with them and then head back south. Well, like a true Marine, he informed me that I would be going to D.C. with them and not home (and riding along side of them)… sooo, after breakfast, off we went.

Believe it was somewhere around Bristol, TN, that Gunny suggested we peel off from the main group and take a more scenic route through the mountains to Wytheville, VA, where we were to spend the night.

To say the least, it was scenic alright. Confident I was following someone who was familiar with the area, the ride was very enjoyable, (even though some of the roads did not seem to be traveled often). My comfort soon turned to concern when Gunny’s GPS directed us to turn left up ahead into what was actually a farmer’s driveway. Was it time for me to turn on my GPS since Gunny’s Piece of S___ was leading us astray? Without hesitation though Gunny was up and running in a new direction… while I was praying he may have relatives in them there hills to help us out. Soon we were back on a well-traveled highway, (one which I swear we had been on earlier). Eventually we did arrive in Wytheville a little behind the main group. Laughing about our adventure, Gunny stated his mind drifted off to how we met up in Chattanooga and he wasn’t paying attention to where we were.

They introduced me to some very interesting Viet Nam and Middle East Vets; Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. They also had their own personal stories worthy of more recognition than they will ever receive. Many supportive people also made the ride wearing patches on their vests stating, “Maybe we weren’t there, but WE DO CARE. Their support as true Americans can only be described as invaluable and sincerely appreciated. All welcomed me to join their family.

I felt like the Honored Guest of the man who started this run after he got on stage and told the story of our meeting in Chattanooga. Literally everyone there knew “The Gunny” and had high respect for his
accomplishments.

There were several former and retired Marines riding with the Run For The Wall but James and I were the only ones with customized helmets; Mine on left, his on the right.

To this day, we are still scratching our heads as to how in the world did two Retired Marines, the only two, (as far as we know) end up staying at the same Hampton Inn just a few rooms apart.

The only two associated with The Run For The Wall, whose main group were in hotels several miles away.

Two Marines who had not seen each other in 39 years and shared experiences of the last combat action in Viet Nam.

Two Marines who have been haunted for years by the loss of three fellow Marines 39 years ago.

Two Marines proud enough to mount the Marine Corps emblem on the front of their helmets long before seeing each other again in 2014. Both of us being Ex-Drill Instructors… and that’s just some of the things Ex-DIs do.

And two Marines riding Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic motorcycles (but only one without his partner).

As Patti stated at breakfast, “Our meeting in Chattanooga was meant to be.”

One of the true heroes, a WWII Vet welcomed us to Lynchburg, VA. I had the honor to meet and thank this man for our freedom that he fought for on Omaha Beach during WWII.

James and Patti had to leave early heading back home to Charleston, SC, so I ended up touring DC pretty much on my own. (Democrats must have laid out those streets.)

Actually I wanted to be alone anyway when I visited “The Wall” for the first time to find the names of Hall, Hargrove and Marshall. “Mission Accomplished”

Spent the night in Arlington, Virginia then headed back home 721 miles with three 30 minute nap-stops. Rode back by myself with “years to come of fantastic memories,” and something to finally look forward to next year.

Thanks Patti and James (Gunny); meeting both of you made May 20th bearable.

Semper Fi,

Sincerely,
Charles (Chuck) D. Wright
USMC Retired