Day 7 Tuesday, May 23, 2017
Wow this mission is going by fast. Only three days left and the last day is only a half day for the Midway Route. The last day we have less than 100 miles to ride, then a visit to the USMC Museum in Quantico and then on to the hotel. That’s it. I can’t believe we’ve been waiting for so long for our anticipated event for to be over so quick. It’s like waiting in line for an hour or more to ride Peter Pan at Disneyland because your children just have to and you finally climb in your flying gondola, then in three minutes you’re climbing off. Your children are happy and that’s what matters. This ride, this mission just feels like it’s flying by like we were on a Peter Pan gondola. Way too soon it will be over.
Today was a great day for a motorcycle ride. We rode with rain gear on all day, and it rained most of the day, but it was still a great day for a ride. Everyone knows that if you wear or even pack rain gear it won’t rain, but today was the exception. Still we all made it to our destination in one piece and had a great time doing it.
It started with the usual stuff, including the reading of a bio of a fallen hero. These bios were carefully chosen. Diesel requested that certain ones be selected, bios that concerned individuals who were lost or recovered on a date during Run For The Wall. Each one read takes us older veterans and non-veterans back to a time we remember too well and for some a time they still wish they could forget. However, it’s a time to reflect on the life of one that paid with his or her life in service to their country to protect and preserve our freedom and our liberty and we thank God for their service and their sacrifice. This is why we ride.
Mr. Patriot (Michael Hill) was on hand to see us off and he brought some friends. Michael thanked us for coming and honoring him, he blessed us to ride safely and bid us farewell until next year. The mayor of Cookeville also gave us a few words of thanks and encouragement on our journey.
We are riding to Ashville, NC today. Our final venue is Ashville Harley Davidson for dinner. Although our start was delayed because of an accident on the interstate, we soon set off and were uninterrupted throughout the day. As we entered the interstate, the beautiful country beckoned our eyes to look, but we could not. The greenery everywhere, the hills, the canyons we rode through, all were wonderful to see and marvel at but only by passengers. What we saw was the tail end or back side of the rider in front of us. The same view, we’ve had for more than 2000 miles. I think I got that image engraved in my skull. Anyway, the ride today had many sweeping, ascending and descending turns and a few tunnels and lots of traffic. I keep thinking about an eighteen-wheeler passing me on the left just a few feet from hitting me. We can’t always be looking in our mirrors, but sometimes you need to if you want to avoid someone that’s driving too close to the zipper. It happens.
We headed to our first stop which was Knoxville and the East Tennessee Veterans Memorial for lunch. There were a few words from local dignitaries and then a prayer from our chaplain corps. Afterward, a Wreath Laying ceremony commenced followed by cheers and applause. Lunch was served and we enjoyed the Veterans Memorial. I have a few Medal of Honor coins from this memorial already, but I had to have the new coin created for the latest Knoxville Medal of Honor “recipient” (you don’t say “winner” you know) and it ain’t the Congressional Medal of Honor. It’s the Medal of Honor which happens to be awarded by Congress. I learned that from Gene Goldware at the Medal of Honor Memorial at Riverside National Cemetery and you can bet he knows.
Our next stop was the Citgo station where I figured Hawk (AKA Rick McDowell) would be waiting for us and he was. We haven’t seen him for a year, so the first half hour or so was mostly hugs and pictures. Hawk is a lovable guy and no one is more dedicated to Run For The Wall than he is. He is the North Carolina State Coordinator and he is responsible for the multitude of Fire Engines we will see on overpasses throughout North Carolina. (Tomorrow in Fayetteville we will have a very special event he coordinates at the Airborne Special Operations Museum).
Before long we arrived at the Asheville Harley Davidson shop, all in one piece. It didn’t take long partly because we lost an hour when we entered North Carolina. Now we are on Eastern Time. Our excellent Staging Crew got us parked at the Harley shop so we could each get out when we wanted to. Well, some of us anyway. There was a band playing and the smell of barbecue in the air. What a great event. Dinner was excellent and the band was great. They played a couple of my favorite Merle songs. There was also singing of the National Anthem and Presentation of Colors by the Owen High School JROTC. After dinner, Bandit said to all present like he has at most of our meal stops, “What do we say to all these people that fed us?” We answer in unison “THANK YOU”.
Soon it was time for presentations. Several plaques and certificates were handed out. One of the representatives from the VA Hospital spoke some words of welcome and appreciation. Her name is Cynthia Breyfogle and she is the director of the VA Center. A few of the patients that live at the center were on hand. The mic was handed to Staff Sergeant Wayne Carringer, POW, and Bataan Death March survivor now 96 years old. He read a story about his experience and the many lessons he learned about life. He said, “Always be thankful for every meal you receive because you never know if you’ll have one tomorrow. Always be kind and loving to your friends, because you never know if you will see them again”. One last thing he talked about was avoid doing things that you will regret in the future. Thinking back on things we said in anger or hard times we gave to someone will cause us pain in the future when we reflect back on them. I thought the wisdom this elderly gentleman has gained over the years of his life and the unique and traumatic experiences he endured were of particular importance to helping me find happiness in my life, if I’ll remember his words and make them a part of my life.
Last year I reported that I passed Les Williams with a guy on the back of his trike. It was Staff Sgt Carringer and Les was driving him back to the hospital. I wonder if he got a similar ride today.
** Number of names on The Wall for North Carolina (1613) for Ashville, NC (36) **
Day 7 is in the books.
We Ride For Those That Can’t
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer / email@example.com