Day 9 – May 26 – Fayetteville, NC to Ashland, VA
There’s something magical about staying at the host hotel. Seeing all your buddies and talking about the stories of the day or relaxing with a cold one with your platoon mates. To others, staying at the host hotel may be a little hell on earth. No close place to park, long check-in lines, card keys that don’t work that you need go back down the elevator carrying all your gear, and cut back in line to get them remagnetized (I think I just invented a new word there). There’s an endless number of things that work against you checking into a hotel that are multiplied at host hotels, so some avoid them. I’m beginning to think they might be the smart ones, but I’ll let you be the judge.
We left Fayetteville and headed for the Falcon Children’s Home. Falcon is a private school that cares for children that have not been successful in the public school system, it’s also a home for school age unwed mothers and those who are awards of the state. Teachers, faculty and children are doing remarkable things at this school, where doors are now open to them that would otherwise have been closed. I think it’s the very special teachers that work with these very special children. We are all alike in the eyes of God.
The children here at Falcon’s provided an excellent program for us. Starting with colors and the National Anthem performed by the choir leader on his trumpet. The choir also sung America the Beautiful. There were some presentations by Bandit and the principal, Mr. Leggett and Hawk had a few words for us and for the children. Then the senior class members were all given certificates from Run For The wall. After this a challenge coin designed by the school was presented to each member of Run For The Wall. What a great gift we were all treated to. The Colors were retired, benediction offered and as we left the school, the children lined the parking lot waving and cheering goodbye to us. Why do they love us so much? Us whom they don’t even know? Is it because of who they think we stand for? Are we who they think we are? God help us be deserving of their love and help us be who they think we are. We most assuredly love these children. We will be back again next year. Count on that.
We next headed to lunch at the Shiloh Pentecostal Church. We received a very warm welcome. Have you ever seen an ice chest filled with spaghetti? How about two? Well we did and it was really good with extra sauce in pitchers to put on top if you wanted more as well as plenty of deserts. So from lunch, we were headed to our fuel stop (the last of the mission) and then to dinner under local LEO escort to the Moose Lodge in Hopewell, VA.
Hopewell. What a wonderful, loving and caring place. I think I’d like to move here. I know, I said that about a few other places already, but it’s true. The people at the Moose Lodge were so nice to us. They spent all day preparing food and arranging tables and chairs for us. First they welcomed us inside the air-conditioned building and gave us water and iced tea, sweet tea, lemonade and water. We were quickly all inside and seated. Soon a children’s choir from Tussing Elementary School Third Grade was singing a medley of songs about veterans and how they are so appreciated. Finally they sang “Thank You Soldiers”. A song they recorded years ago. It’s quite popular on YouTube. Check this URL. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5pfBUUZNbFM I don’t know if there was a dry eye in the place, I couldn’t see to check. Afterward, we stood and applauded. We were all touched, just like each of the three years before this. This song still gets to us all as sung by these children grateful for soldiers and all military. Dinner followed. I wasn’t really hungry after eating a mess of spaghetti, so I sat at my table and browsed through pictures I’d taken on my phone. I had some really good ones. As I continued, I came across my dad’s Navy picture. It took me back. My dad passed in ’99. I took my Missing Man ride with him my FNG year in 2012. I felt it a high honor to ride with him by my side. I miss him. As I sat thinking about him, I reflected on this year’s Run and realized after tomorrow’s visit to the USMC Museum in Quantico, VA we ride to the hotel and the Run is over with only a wake up for the festivities on Saturday. It was a sad feeling and I teared up a little. I think my dad would be proud I participate in Run For The Wall. I love you dad. RIP Gunner’s Mate, USS Colorado BB-45, February 1937 to March 1941.
After dinner and presentations, the quilt made out of a single pair of Diesel’s britches was raffled off. Guess whose name got pulled, yep Diesel’s. Someone called him on the phone so we could all hear his reaction. Bandit said, “You won your britches back”. Diesel laughed. $1570 was collected for this quilt. Now Diesel will get his own britches back, in a better form than when he wore them.
Next was the anticipated time to hand out the coveted zip ties for entering Arlington on Saturday. FNGs were called up by state where they began the Run. Hawk tried to sneak in line, but got caught. Sorry Hawk, only FNGs get to enter Arlington. All FNGs got a zip tie this time. In another couple years, some may get turned away. We had 167 FNGs with us this time on the Midway Route. We hope to get many more in years to come.
**** Number of names on The Wall for Virginia (1305), from Ashland, VA (2) ****
Day 9 is in the books. Tomorrow the final leg.
We Ride For Those That Can’t
Tom “Twotone” Lystrup – Platoon 6 Leader / SitRep Writer / email@example.com