RFTW Midway Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 9
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
DAY 09 – Thursday, May 21, 2020
Falcon NC – Ashland VA
Today is another one of those “low mileage days.” But unlike the last one that we had, today is not quite as carefree or joyous. The gravity of our Mission is starting to tell on each Riders face. You can see it by the way that they walk, hear it in the way they talk, and feel it in their solemn mood. For 8 days, we have been hearing about people still Missing in Action. We have met some of the Family Members that are still waiting for any news of their loved one. We have talked to former Prisoners of War, and gained strength from their ordeal, but been horrified by what they were forced to endure. We have steeled ourselves against some of this by adopting a little bit of the “1000 yard stare.” We aren’t getting used to what we are hearing, and we are not forgetting it, either. Instead, we are being galvanized into action.
One of the small, seemingly insignificant actions that we take every day, every mile, and at every stop, is to constantly maintain a “Missing Man Formation.” This is a six-man platoon that rides separate from all others, and always at the head of the pack. It is comprised by the Route Coordinator, Assistant Route Coordinator, Escort Rider, Chaplain, and Missing Man Coordinator. That sixth position is a vacant spot left directly next to the Escort Rider. It signifies that absence of our Missing In Action. The Escort Rider is a position of honor that is reserved for our FNGs.
We do not move without this formation. No one cuts into this formation. If someone needs to drop out during the ride, there is always someone nearby to take the open slot. We protect this Platoon and formation as a sense of loyalty and respect for those that have paid the ultimate price, and to let their Families know that WE will never forget them.
Something that I have observed over the years is the absolute reverence that all of the Riders have for this formation. As the Road Guards ride by, just doing their jobs, they will render honors with a salute. As the Ambassadors roll by, on their way to meet up with our supporters, you will not hear a single radio playing. All of the Riders will sit up tall in their saddles, they will basically be at attention in a form of a rolling salute. Many of the Escort Riders will carry a personal memento of someone that they want to honor during this portion of their journey, and will lovingly and reverently take a photo of this item in the Missing Man slot just prior to taking off. Both before and at the end of each leg of the Mission, the Chaplain will personally meet with the Escort Rider to make sure that they are emotionally “okay” and pray with them for healing. This is just about the most profound experience that any Rider can have on ANY of the Three Routes in RFTW, and I have yet to find anyone that hasn’t been moved by it. For those that are not able to participate as an Escort Rider, please know that the pure reverence that you show for the formation is just as strong a testament!
And this is the mood that I see, year after year, on ALL of the routes, on this, Day 9. We do not take our Mission lightly. This is who we are and what we do. We play hard, we ride hard, we love willingly, we show loyalty constantly, and we pay respect where respect is due. We are “Run For The Wall!”
And tonight, we will celebrate our journey together. We are not finished, but this is our last night alone together. It is time to discuss our accomplishments. We will honor our Leadership Teams for a job well done. We will pay tribute to all of our Coordinators and Volunteers. We will cheer as our incredible Road Guards get their service badge for the year! We will laugh at some of the funny things that happened along the way. We will cringe as we remember the hardships. And we will say Thanks to those around us, our fellow Riders, for supporting each other as we trekked across the country. We will dedicate ourselves to continuing our Mission, not just tomorrow or the next day, but throughout the coming year. And some of us will start making plans for NEXT year, too!
With our awards ceremony over, it is off to the Hotel for one last night as the Midway Route Family. Not too many people will get a good nights sleep, because they are going to stay up late visiting and telling stories. There may even be a hug and a tear or two.
Jim “Hoofer” McCrain
If you would like to follow along with our ride from last year, just follow this link: