Day 10 – May 27 – Ashland. VA to Washington DC
Well, here we are our final day of riding on this mission to The Wall. I don’t know to be happy or sad. It’s hard to know what to feel. I feel some of both. I don’t want it to be over. Anyone ready to start over?
I always love the prayers our chaplain’s corps provide for us. Thanking God for all his blessings and asking Him to continue to be with us as we ride. That our bikes may carry us safely to our destination, that our minds may be alert, that other motorists will notice us and be safe, that we may find healing today and every day, that we will remember why we are doing this and that we will give all praise and glory to God. I do thank God for the safety we have received from day to day. We have had extraordinary weather following us every day, thanks be to God. We have been safe. Many have found healing, some I know personally. Thank God for all these things and for the blessings we don’t even realize we received.
No road guards making it easy for us today. Bandit said it well, “If you can’t get to Arlington just 94 miles from here, how in the world do you expect to make it back home?
We held our platoon meetings like always. I don’t know what other platoon leaders talked about, but I imagine there were lots of thanks passed around, maybe some final words of encouragement and perhaps the common quote “this is what we’ve been training for the last 9 days”. In my platoon, I heard something I was not ready for, “you’ve been talking to us a lot for the last 9 days and now you’re going to shut up and we’re going to do the talking”. I just smiled and didn’t say a thing. They complimented our team’s leadership and then offered some items they had collected over the last several days for each of us. Lastly my platoon handed me a motorcycle flag of the United States Navy which they had all signed. I was stunned by my shipmates’s appreciation. I was speechless. All I could say was, “I don’t know what to say”. They said, “Then let’s get going”. Their gifts, their appreciation and their love will not be forgotten. My eyes were wet when I put my helmet on. I walked back through our ranks and shook hands and hugged all our riders. Now we take our final ride together to Arlington.
We are on our way to the US Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA under LEO escort. I’ve been there before a couple times. Only the Midway Route stops here. I’m so glad they do. It’s a great place to visit. We didn’t have all the time we’d like if we intended to ride into Arlington together, only about an hour. There is a giant leaning spire which is the center of and most prominent object of the museum. This spire represents the raising of the American Flag over the island of Iwo Jima. The museum is not yet complete. There are additional wings in the planning stage. Inside there are exhibits with multiple dioramas depicting battles fought from the Revolutionary war up through Vietnam. Future exhibits will include battles fought since Vietnam. Outside there are also some pathways around the grounds of the museum. When I walked inside I noticed right away a righteous looking chopper dedicated to the United States Marine Corps. While inside, I saw an armed Marine walking around the building observing. I asked him if I could talk with him a while. He said for a short time. He told me he was assigned to protect the museum and the people inside. He told me that the Commandant of the Marine Corps considered it only right that there should be Marine Corps presence inside their museum. That sounded completely appropriate to me. He was a sharp young man, willing to answer a few questions and very polite. He said there has never been any threat at the museum, but that if there were he and others with him were ready. He resumes his patrol.
I talked with a couple docents there. One asked me if I had been there before and I told him a couple times. He said that I’d probably seen most of what was here then except one thing and he pointed to a plane, an SBD Dauntless. This is a scout, dive bomber plane that was used during WWII, but this one was recovered several years ago from the bottom of Lake Michigan where it was used in training. My attention was focused on this man as he told me the story of repairing and hoisting the Dauntless to the position it now rests in. The story about this Dauntless Dive Bomber is here: http://potomaclocal.com/2016/02/09/plane-marine-museum-aircraft-lake-michigan/
In the center of the room there was a company of friends and family there to honor the retirement of a Marine Corps Master Sargent. It was an excellent service. Not long and it was time to depart. We got to our bikes and followed our LEO support. All traffic was blocked from the US Marine Corps Museum all the way to the host hotel in Arlington. We received this treatment last year and were grateful then, just as now. It was an amazing ride on the HOV lane of I-95 and the 66 to the hotel. Not a single car was on the highway anywhere. When we rolled into Arlington I announced over the CB “Charley Mike”. We rolled in and parked. More hugs and thanks were passed around our platoon. The ride was complete.
Later the Southern Route came in and then the Central Route. I went down to the main floor and found my buddy and great friend Joe “Gump” Hudson former POW OIF. More hugs.
Last year I wrote the following about my seeing Joe in the lobby. Standing next to him was a young lady in tears. Joe asked me if I had heard the story. I shook my head, no. He said this woman is a dear friend and he introduced me to her. Gump said this is one of the nurses that cared for me after I was rescued in Iraq. She recognized me here and came up and introduced herself to me. This is the first time I’ve seen her since I was released from captivity in Iraq. I hugged and thanked her for being there for my friend Joe.
Tomorrow is the day. A hard day for many of us. FNGs, ride to Arlington National Cemetery in peace. Remember it is a place of honor and hollowed ground. Reverence is the attitude of the day.
****Number of names in the wall for Washington D.C. (242) ****
Day 10 is in the books.
We Ride For Those That Can’t
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer / firstname.lastname@example.org