Name: Joe “Wingnut” Nelon
State: West Virginia
A really good friend of mine invited me to go on the RFTW with him but up until this year I could not make the trip. It has been three years in the planning but I finally made it and what an eye opening experience it was for me. I joined up in Hurricane WV. After staging at 06:00 we got to talk and meet our platoon leader “Kid” (platoon 6 or 9 depending on who was holding the sign) and some of our fellow riders. What an amazing group of people! The ride its self was smooth and uneventful and this would not have been possible with out all the hard work of the volunteers. I send a heart felt THANK YOU to all of you for what you do and why you do it.
My main reason for wanting to do this trip, in the beginning, was in remembrance of my grandfathers Col. Claude R. Nelon Sr. (USAF), CDR Joseph Ady (U.S. Navy) and Gerald H. Sterling (U.S. Army Air Corps 548th Fighter Squadron). These men were my heroes growing up. Each and every one of us has our reasons for going and I thought I knew why I was going to DC, boy was I wrong! Not only did this trip opened my eyes and overwhelm me with pride for being an American, it made me realize the one person, that is still with me, that I had never thanked for everything he had done for his country and for me, my dad, Claude R. Nelon Jr. Sure I have talked to him about Vietnam, at least what little he would talk about it, but I had never thanked him or welcomed him home! I had flown an American flag on the back of my bike like most people were doing but during the ride it came to me that even though my dad was not able to physically go on the run I would fly that flag for him to DC and give it to him upon returning to Hurricane WV (his home town). I now had another mission to complete. Once I made it back to Hurricane on Monday I took that flag and my RFTW pin to my dad. Through my tears and his, I thanked him for everything and I was able to finally welcome him home.
Thank you is not enough for all the sacrifices that have been made in so many ways for this great country. I WILL NEVER FORGET! To the brothers and sisters I met and to the many I did not get a chance to meet, I will see you all next year. “Crow” thank you for encouraging me to do this and for the personal tour. Last but not least a special thank you to “Kid” for putting up with this FNG.