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Sandbox Route RC Newsletter – December 2022

Welcome to the Sandbox Route RC Newsletter for December 2022.

Visit our RFTW Sandbox Route web page here.

From a warm and NOT cold and snowy Pearland, Texas. I want to wish the entire Run for the Wall family a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season. This time of the year finds most of us spending time with family, friends and loved ones and is something I look forward to every year. Hopefully you have the majority of your shopping and holiday preparations completed! Also, happy Birthday to all of the other December babies like myself!

The month of December is not just one of the longest months of the year, but many years, it’s the month with the longest and coldest nights. While many of us are looking forward to a well-deserved winter break, many others are struggling with their own mental health. From holiday stress to winter-related anxieties and negative thoughts, December and the holiday season as a whole is a time many struggle the most.  There are many things we can do to help our mental health such as staying active, getting plenty of daylight, keeping a consistent sleep schedule, eating healthy, avoiding alcohol, and even volunteering!

Many of our fellow veterans and friends fall prey to their own mental health year-round, but the holiday season can amplify those issues. If you or someone you know find themselves struggling, please know “I’ve got your 6” and you can contact me at any time if you wish. You can also contact the VA Veteran’s Crisis Line by dialing 988 then press 1 or text 838255 and speak or chat with a qualified responder.

If you know of any other mental health hotlines or contacts, please share that information in a comment for all of us to see, use, and share!

Most importantly, please stay safe and enjoy the holidays. We really do want to see you in May!

Operation Just Cause

Operation Just Cause was the name given to the U.S. invasion of Panama in December 1989 for the purposes of removing General Manuel Noriega from power and extraditing him to the U.S. to face charges of drug trafficking and money laundering. Foreign relations between Panama and the United States had grown increasingly strained during the 1980s. Following the death of Panamanian leader Omar Torrijos in 1981, Lieut. Col. Manuel Noriega, who had participated in the military coup that paved the way for Torrijos’s rise to power, consolidated military and then civilian power in the Central American country. For decades Noriega had served as a paid informant for the Central Intelligence Agency. He also was a supporter of the contras, the counterrevolutionary force that sought to overthrow Nicaragua’s left-wing Sandinista government. It became known, however, that, in addition to monopolizing power in Panama, Noriega had lined his pockets by smuggling illegal drugs into the United States. Moreover, in the mid-1980s, allegations grew regarding Noriega’s involvement in the brutal murder of an outspoken opponent, Hugo Spadafora. In 1988 Noriega was indicted on drug trafficking charges by a U.S. grand jury. The administration of U.S. President Ronald Reagan offered Noriega a deal: if he agreed to relinquish power and depart Panama, charges against him would be dropped. Noriega wanted no part of the bargain.

Despite the presence of international observers, Noriega annulled the results of the May 1989 Panamanian presidential election when it appeared that it had been won by a wide margin by Guillermo Endara, the opposition civilian candidate. In addition to overturning the results of the election and installing a former classmate, Francisco Rodríguez, as a puppet president, Noriega had Endara and his supporters beaten in the streets. U.S. Pres. George Bush dispatched 2,000 troops to U.S. bases in the Panama Canal Zone. In the meantime, having survived a coup attempt in October, Noriega persuaded the Panamanian National Assembly to name him “maximum leader” on December 15, 1989. At his behest the Assembly also declared that a state of war existed between Panama and the United States. Within days an unarmed U.S. Marine officer dressed in civilian clothes was ambushed and killed by Panamanian soldiers.

On December 21, 1989, President George H.W. Bush reported that he had ordered U.S. military forces to Panama to protect the lives of nearly 30,000 American citizens living in Panama, protect the integrity of the Panama Canal, help establish democracy, neutralize the Panamanian Defense Forces (PDF), and bring General Noriega to justice. The total number of U.S. troops, 27,000, was more than double that of the PDF, and they had the advantage of additional air support—in the first 13 hours, the Air Force dropped 422 bombs on Panama. The U.S. gained control in just five days. On December 24, the true winner of the May 1989 elections, Guillermo Endara, was officially named president and the PDF was dissolved. By February 13, 1990, all U.S. forces were officially withdrawn from Panama.

Twenty-three brave U.S. soldiers were killed; in addition, it was estimated that 200 to 300 Panamanian combatants (soldiers and members of paramilitaries) and more than 300 civilians were killed in Operation Just Cause. Hundreds on both sides were wounded.

These 23 service members lost during Operation Just Cause are engraved on the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.

Don’t let them die a second death, say their names, say them out loud. Never forget!

This is why we ride!

Remember the Run for the Wall Mission – “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.”


The Sandbox Route Leadership team continues its monthly meetings and continues to work on updating and improving the Sandbox Route. Logistics of stops is still ongoing in an effort to improve the overall Route. Our State Coordinators continue to do excellent work on getting our stops confirmed and have done an excellent job preparing our overnight stops and hotels and camping accommodations.


The 2023 Sandbox Route Hotel list should be posted on the website January 1, 2023. The list will include hotel names, date, and contact details. Please be polite and patient when you contact the hotels to make your reservations. We want to preserve the great relationships our state coordinators have developed with them.


Let’s meet some more of our new Sandbox Team Leaders! Our Advance Team Leader is Anthony “Goombah” Cercone and his Asst. Advance Team lead is Mikal “No Drama” Brevig. I want to thank them both for volunteering for this challenging position and their work to keep our group safe! I’d also like to introduce our Mission Man Coordinator Ray “Cornman” Cornmesser. Ray will be working to find volunteers and eligible riders to join us in the Missing Man formation.

VOLUNTEER’s – yes, we still need you!

The Sandbox Route continues to be on the lookout for volunteers for all positions. If you have questions about any specific team, please reach out to those Team Leaders to get some insight on what each team does and how you can help! Remember, the same volunteer form is used for all the Routes, just select the Route or Routes you are volunteering for and the position(s) you are interested in! If you volunteer on one of the 3 cross country routes, please consider bringing your experience to the Sandbox Route!

Volunteer Link on the RFTW web page is here

And 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!

Darin “Lurch” Koch

Sandbox Route Coordinator

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