Welcome to the Sandbox Route and my first Route Coordinator’s Newsletter.
I am Darin “Lurch” Koch, and I am honored to have been selected as the next Route Coordinator (RC) for the Sandbox Route in 2023. I am an Air Force Veteran who proudly served during Desert Storm/Desert Shield and during the Kosovo conflict. My wife and passenger, Tina “Hand-Off” Koch is also a Desert Storm/Desert Shield Army Veteran. I have served as a Tail Gunner, Asst. Platoon Leader, and as a Platoon Leader on both the Southern Route and on the Sandbox Inaugural Run. Focus on the Mission and safety of the riders is and always will be my priority.
The BOD has approved and appointed Cornell “Thumper” Penn as the SB Assistant Route Coordinator and together we share the same commitment to focus on the Mission of Run for the Wall – “To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.”
I originally learned about the run from a co-worker and Marine Veteran Jim Wright in 2008. He was a prior run participant and easily convinced me to ride with him and Jeff “Breeze” Starks, all the way (ATW) as an FNG in 2008. I never knew how much this “ride” would change my life. Sadly, we lost Jeff in 2021, and we recently lost Jim in late July 2022.
We all have our own reasons for riding and participating in the mission. My wife and I have returned every year since her FNG year in 2016 and we both have our own personal reasons for riding. My reason for riding extends generations, all the way back to multiple great uncles serving in WWII with one, US Army PFC 1st Class Bernard F. Thalken of the 39th Infantry Regiment, 9th Infantry Division, paying the ultimate sacrifice on July 31, 1943, while serving in Europe fighting for the liberation of Sicily. Uncle “Benny” never returned home to his family in Nebraska and is buried in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Italy. Never have truer words been spoken, than when one states – FREEDOM ISN’T FREE!
Even today, our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, family and friends still serving in the military continue the fight for freedom around the world and many in hostile environments. Our mission is to remember ALL those veterans, families and friends who have lost their loved ones while they served in the military or that lost their lives battling from PTSD or other medical conditions derived from their service. This is why I ride!
The Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marceilles, IL is dedicated to those who have lost their lives while fighting in wars and battles across the Middle East from 1979 – the present. As of 2014, there were approximately 6,900 names on the panels. Today, there are more than 8,000 names on those panels and in August 2022, 13 additional fallen heroes were added to the panels. This is why I ride!
The review of the 2022 Sandbox Route and AAR’s has already begun as well as the planning and coordination for 2023. We are looking for volunteers to step up into leadership roles in all positions. If you have any interest in volunteering for any position or job, please go to the RFTW.us site and fill out a Volunteer Sign-up form. The same form is used for all the Routes, just select the Route or Routes you are volunteering for!
Remember, “Nothing Great is ever accomplished alone!” Let’s work together to make the Sandbox Route great! Together we will Continue the Mission safely and successfully!
I would like to personally acknowledge and thank a few individuals for their friendship, support, guidance, and mentoring throughout my years as a leadership volunteer on RFTW. Thank you, Billie “Bugs” Dunlap, Robert “Old School” Reavis, Roger “Cowboy” Mead, Kristine “EYES” Wood, Vic “Big Vic” Killion, and Bob “Captain America” Nelson, and Mike “Bonehead” Kyzer.
Darin “Lurch” Koch
Sandbox Route Coordinator