On behalf of the Board of Directors and the Route Coordinators, it saddens me to announce that we are postponing RFTW XXXII scheduled for May 2021 because of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This action reflects the unanimous vote of the Board of Directors, with the consent of the four route coordinators. We determined it would be prudent to make this decision earlier than last year to give all the riders, vendors and citizens an opportunity to cease operations that were being prepared for RFTW 2021.
I do not intend to belabor the issues of COVID-19 and the expansive restrictions that were attached to the virus. Despite the restrictions, the Board of Directors was encouraged during the late summer and fall when cases were going down and vaccine appeared to be on the horizon.
Then, later in the fall, the limited restrictions took a turn for the worse as a new UK COVID-19 strain showed up on the East Coast and would soon be infecting the Eastern Seaboard. With the arrival of this “deadly” strain the eastern states returned to lockdowns and restrictions that prohibited the gathering of 10 – 25 people. Hardly a good atmosphere for a RFTW mission. Moreover, two additional strains located in South America appeared and were reported by the CDC to threaten the United States if they reached our shores.
As many of the states along our routes tightened their regulations, they added fines for anyone or any group who failed to conform. Civil fines vary, but can range as high as $2,500 for individuals to $25,000 or more for organizations who sponsor the breach of emergency regulations. Given the number of states RFTW passes through every Board member realized that those fines sent to our organization could end Run For The Wall. It would also endanger our riders and those who support us on our journey across the nation. Hence, the Board of Directors made a decision to protect all the riders, donors who have steadfastly supported Run For The Wall for many years, and the organization.
We decided we could not intentionally lead our riders into states/counties/cities where they will be intentionally violating federal, state and local regulations.
Route coordinators were asked to contact their state coordinators to brief the Board of Directors at the February meeting. During that meeting we heard the loss of lunch stops and fuel stops in several states – the complete loss of services that allow RFTW routes to successfully complete their mission. The critical mass of closures is in North Carolina, Virginia and Washington DC, although there are significant restrictions in all states. All the states we pass through have continued to maintain restrictions on the size of crowd gathering limiting those sizes to 10-50 people, depending on inside or outside venues.
Here are some of the restrictions we faced in the Arlington/DC area alone, as reported by the RFTW DC coordinator:
- LE Support (affects all routes):
- Northern Virginia State Police Motorcycle Unit: At this time, the Northern VSP Motorcycle Unit will not provide LE escort for Midway Route (@ National Museum of the Marine Corps), Central Route (@ Tom’s Brook) into Arlington or Southern Route entry through Virginia.
- Arlington Police: At this time, Arlington Police cannot provide LE escort for our 400 riders from the Holiday Inn Arlington at Ballston into Arlington National Cemetery. This is due to Executive Order 72 prohibiting outdoor gatherings of more than 10 individuals.
- Wreath Laying Ceremony, Arlington National Cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery has discontinued all public wreath laying ceremonies until further notice.
- National Park Service:
- Permit to park on the National Mall. At this time, the National Park Service (NPS) will not approve a permit for RFTW rider to park on the National Mall adjacent the Lincoln Memorial and Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
- RFTW Group Photo at Lincoln Memorial. At this time, NPS will not approve a permit for a group photograph on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
- Vietnam Veterans Memorial. At this time, RFTW will not be able to gather – in groups larger than 50 – at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
- Virginia and DC currently have restrictions on the number of people that can gather that prohibit RFTW from conducting or completing any part of the mission.
DC also has a requirement that anyone traveling into Washington, DC from a jurisdiction with more than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people:
Get a test within 72 hours of traveling, and if the test is positive, don’t travel.
- If you are a close contact of a confirmed positive case, don’t travel.
- If you are a visitor to DC for more than three days, get tested within 3-5 days of arrival.
- Adherence to the mandatory mask policy, exceptions include vigorous exercise or while actively eating or drinking.
Our Risk Management director left us with this:
“Run For The Wall is not just the board or just the riders – it’s about the mission. That is what must continue. And for the Board to let the Run continue ahead this year despite the MANY restrictions still in states across our country, would most likely bring a devastating blow to this organization and its ability to continue our mission. We don’t need to tell you that we riders are very independent, resourceful and proud. Bucking the local, state or national restrictions may give us a temporary good feeling, but the repercussions that citizens may invoke upon us – not only legally but also publicly – cannot be undone.
Cancelling this year’s Run, after last year’s blow, is a heartbreaking decision for us – more than many of you will ever know. The directors of the Board started just like you – as FNGs, as riders, as leadership. We KNOW what you are feeling, because we feel it, too. But our responsibility is to YOU RIDERS and to this organization – that it will continue for years to come. We are NOT throwing in the towel. We will come back in 2022 and will show this country that we’re still here and that we have not forgotten our veterans. What riders decide to do on their own is something we cannot – and do not – want to control. As was done last year, small groups will most likely make their own trips. While RFTW, as an organization, cannot post any such trips on social media, we certainly cannot stop them from happening. The camaraderie, love and support in our family is too strong for us to be beaten by the current situation.”
It is with profound sadness that we craft this message with a special thought for the FNGs registered this year. We all remember our FNG year and what it meant to all of us, and we remain committed to making sure RFTW will be there for you in the future – know that you are very important to all of us.
I encourage all FNGs to continue reading your route coordinator’s messages and attending any FNG Zoom conferences. Your route coordinators will remain the same for RFTW 2022.
“Courage is the most important of all the virtues because it makes all the others work.” ~ Aristotle
Sometimes it takes courage not to do something
Reach out to someone, continue the mission however you can. We ride for those who can’t.
Les “Easy” Williams
RFTW BOD President