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FNG Story – Tim Gray

Name: Tim Gray
E-Mail: tim.gray@us.army.mil
Your Phone: 915-309-5599
City: El Paso
State: Texas
FNG Story:

I heard about this ride for many years and this was my first chance to take part in it. I knew the guys from the Hydration team and without them I would not have been able to make the run. Thanks to Gary Burd and all of the crew. I didn’t plan well and only went on part of the run, well that’s kinda like saying I only got a two ton treasure as opposed to a ten ton treasure. Every single mile and moment on this run is priceless.

I am still active duty and have done my time in the sandbox. I didn’t immediately relate to the struggles, the hurt and the healing I witnessed from so many. What I wasn’t prepared for was the therapeutic value of this ride. So when it started creeping up on me, you can imagine my surprise. I place a lot more value on this run from my new perspective. I had no idea how strong the bonds of this family are. Within the confines of these riders and the platoons, there is safety to expose pain and suffering, probably long overdue to be let go. And just as important are those individuals that stand shoulder to shoulder with you and won’t let you down.

I lost a friend that I had deployed with numerous times, just a short 12 days before the run — he was 46, and had a lot of hurt inside that he carried with him. I wish he had been with us. And I am sure most of you know why.

I want you to know that I am hooked and excited about “The Run.” My wife is a disabled vet, and she literally broke down into tears when I left. Because we have two little ones and she had to take care of them. You might have seen them — Juan and Morgan. They were giving out the candy and the thank you notes while we ate Supper at Barnetts in Las Cruces. The next morning my wife waved a flag from a bridge in El Paso with tears in her eyes as we rolled through.

So needless to say — she will be on the run next year, if it means I stay home to be Mr. mom. (yeah right!) We will have it planned out and we will both be able to enjoy everyone’s company. She is in for a big surprise! My prayer is that we can do as much for some of you as you have done for others.

Thanks to the road guards who gave me the thumbs up while I focused everything I had to not be the FNG with the brake lights on.

SFC(P) Tim “The Infidel” Gray

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Mario J. Puccio

Name: Tsgt Mario J. Puccio
E-Mail: mjp1975@wildblue.net
Phone: 740-517-1433
City: Vincent
State: Ohio
FNG Story:

I am one of the sore butt guys that rode a sport bike in from Hurricane WV this year. Why did I put myself through the punishment of riding such an uncomfortable bike? I am a 15 year veteran of the US Air Force and the West Virginia Air National Guard and the son of a Vietnam Veteran who was on the USS New Jersey. When I was asked by another buddy of mine if I wanted to do this run this year I was all for it right off the bat. Then I started telling my Dad about it (who didn’t have a motorcycle at the
time). I kept telling him he needed to rent a bike and do this with me. About four weeks later my Dad bought his first motorcycle in about 29 years. We got more and more excited about the run the closer it got and then it was upon us. We joined up in Hurricane and if that wasn’t enough of a sight to see that many veterans and veteran supporters, DC would change my mind forever. My Dad had never seen The Wall nor did he ever really talk about Vietnam that much. I did not know that he had a very good buddy killed there until Saturday, May 23, 2009 when he stood in front of his name on The Wall with tears coming down his face uttering the words I miss you. It was an honor and a privilege to be with my Dad during this time and also an honor and a privilege to ride with all the other bikers on this run. Short of seeing my daughters born it was the most amazing thing I have ever seen or been a part of. God Bless all of you, thank you for letting me ride with you and share this experience with my Dad and I hope to see you all next year.

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FNG Story – Tommy “Ogre” Holdtich

Name: Tommy “Ogre” Holdtich
E-Mail: tholditch67@yahoo.com
Phone: 205-826-6651
City: Tuscaloosa
State: Alabama
FNG Story:

The culmination of a months long wait. I would finally take part in the RFTW. True, I would only be riding for one day but I would be on “the mission.”

Monday, my “navigator” and I mounted up on Veronica to ride down to Meridian to meet the run. Our personal run to the run was just a means to get to the destination, AG Pavilion Meridian MS. Tuesday we would retrace our route, only on Tuesday we would be riding with our family.

After meeting with our new family Monday evening, listening to stories of the road and catching up on the happenings we headed to our hotel, we invited some of our new family who were camping to partake of a nice hot shower. Our new brothers were grateful.

Tuesday morning found us rising early to meet at the AG pavilion. After a rousing welcome to ourselves and the FNGs we prepared to head out. We met with our Platoon (4) and mounted up.

I have never ridden with this large a group, yet I felt instantly at ease. I began to immerse myself in the mission. I began to travel, in my mind and heart.

Daddy would have loved this, he would have wanted to do this. That thought kept repeating in my mind as the miles flew underneath me. Then just as we hit Tuscaloosa County it hit me. He WAS riding, he was riding with me, in me and through me. He may have passed away in 1985, but he was there. I saw people on overpasses, they were not waving at me, they were waving at him, for him. A veteran of 3 wars, and 3 branches of military and he was receiving his Welcome Home.

I thoroughly enjoyed my travel, I only regret that next year I will not be a FNG. However…

Next May, Sunday May 22, 2011, me and Daddy will mount up on Veronica. We will ride out to Monroe LA to meet our family. Monday, May 23, 2011 we will ride again, and this time I, his brothers, sisters, and
other children will take him to see his Wall.

Thank you all for letting me remember my father, my hero. Thank you daddy, for your service and for your love and finally I can truly say Welcome Home Daddy.

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FNG Story – Michael “Dadbo” Owen

Name: Michael “Dadbo” Owen, MSgt USAF ret.
E-Mail: mojo95@iname.com
Phone: 805-737-9357
City: Lompoc
State: California
FNG Story:

We have but one short life to live on this earth and many opportunities to live for God and country. But it seems that out of many conflicting perceptions we seldom make good on these moments. I stand here before the Lord, my sisters and brothers, veteran and civilian to give thanks and honor for the unique privilege afforded me by those who made the 2009 Run For The Wall a reality. This was and will always be a significant life experience for me to carry for the remainder of time. I am having almost as much difficulty trying to find the words to express my gratitude and appreciation of the RFTW effort as for those that have died for so many. It would be impossible to convey in this short letter what may take me a lifetime to realize. The selfless dedication, genuine concern for others, love of country, and the love of one’s neighbor is truly extraordinary. I am so grateful to so many people, most of whom I didn’t have a chance to meet let alone thank, that it has taken me awhile to try to express.

I have to admit I was a bit incredulous when Jim Perry and Ross Currie first told me about RFTW. I entered the Air Force in 1975 at the end of Vietnam, and admittedly didn’t feel the same pain as too many had in their return from that awful war. So I took a knee and asked God what I should do and slowly over the next few months it became clear that this was to be call I had to answer. I recognized that there was real need for recognition of the ultimate sacrifice of so many, the service of countless patriots and healing of many who came home wounded in body and spirit. What I didn’t count on was the healing I needed and received at the hands of so many. I didn’t know I had any wounds to mend, or scars to repair. But day after day, meeting hero after hero, seeing the pain in the contorted face of men and women I will forever consider friends, I saw myself and recognized my wounded spirit. In every mile we road, every town we entered, every man women and child cheering us on, every flag, and every salute I had the honor to return that I found the healing tears of God’s abundant love. Every day I melted a little more and accepted those curative tears.

I was on a quest to find what I needed to do to help my fellow veterans, but I found the answer to the prayer I made the day I departed for Rancho Cucamonga. “Lord, guide me to do your will on this run”. The
answer was to accept His grace to rid myself of the scars I had and allow the His therapeutic love to take place in me. Now I have a new prayer and a new mission to find those I can truly aid in their recover, to lend a hand where it can lift another, and to help this country recognize what needs to be done.

This may sound like the incoherent rambling of an FNG and that might be true, but it is the only way I’ve found to express even an infinitesimal portion of what I still can not fathom. “If you haven’t been there…” is etched on my soul and I have for the first time an inkling of what it must be like, and I am proud to call the airmen, soldiers, marines, sailors, and civilians who gave and are still giving,
brother/sister.

Mike aka Dadbo
Green Knights 39 – Road Captain
Patriot Guard Rider
American Legion Rider
Msgt, US Air Force Retired
and now
Run for the Wall / Rolling Thunder

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FNG Story – Greg Quintana

Name: Greg Quintana
E-Mail: gtq5150@hotmail.com
Phone: 505-688-4422
City: Rio Rancho
State: New Mexico
FNG Story:

It is 2010 and we are ready to hit the road again. To start my story off I would like to thank all of you who participate and organize this wonderful event yearly. There is a lot that goes into this event and up until you ride in it you don’t appreciate the hard work.

A friend told us about the ride and at first I thought how will I be able to take the time out of off of work and life to go on a MOTORCYCLE RIDE. Well let me be the first to say this is NOT a MOTORCYCLE RIDE. This is a Mission and is one of the most memorable events I think I will ever have in my life. I thought of the many men and women who fought for us to have freedom for our beloved country the entire time we were on the road. I rode for my father whom served in Vietnam, and I thank god everyday he returned and is still with me today. I thought of what he and all the troops up until today have and had to endure during the wars.

When you get on your bike and start the mission, your mind is focused on our troops that served past and present.

We rode through New Mexico only being that time away from work for me would not permit me to take a longer leave, but it was an eye opening experience to see the support that my home state has for this event and for the troops. I would have to say that riding into Sata Fe was very special to me being that my hometown, and having the helicopter above us escorting us in to town for lunch. Angel fire was a tear jerker as we came into town as well. All the supporters young and old waving flags and the number solutes we all recieved was overwhelming. The only time I go to Angel fire is to ski. I have never set foot on the memorial till I was on the mission. I will thank the RFTW for that till the day i die.

We will be going one state further this time from New Mexico to Kansas. I hope in the next few years i can go all the way from CA to DC.

Thank you for the experience.

Greg Quintana

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FNG Story – Farrell D. Maichel

Name: Farrell D. Maichel
E-Mail: dutchman@kansas.net
Phone: 785-456-3901
City: St. George
State: Kansas
FNG Story:

The little bike that will soon make its fourth run is up in the shed. Next week I’ll get her out and start getting ready for the 2010 run. I signed up again this a.m. and read through some of the e-mails. Some of the words blurred a little. Must be the dust. I’ll have to pre-register next week.

I have a few things to say that have taken an awful long time for me to be able to do this. It’s time.

Forty years ago Peter Fonda made a little movie called “Easy Rider” with Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper. Golden Gate park was the hottest place in the world to be, and everyone moved around in a VW van. The Beach Boys stopped wearing striped shirts, and the Beatles grew moustaches and got into the ether world. Living was good in the U.S. of A. as the framework of our society was torn apart.

Somehow I missed all of that. I was other places, doing other things. Forty years have come and gone since my last combat tour with the 101st Airborne Division. A lot of water goes under the bridge in forty years and I have done well. Thirty-six of those years were pretty well spent in a cocoon of numbness. You see, I went on and made the Army a career. Maybe just my way of hiding something in plain sight or my way of not having to face something I didn’t want to face. I got along O.K., but
depression and sadness were things that I put up with every day of my life. I retired in ’87 and started another career. In ’96 I hit one of those rough periods of life in my second career as an employee of the state of Kansas. I hung onto a job but I was banished to Wichita. I somehow found a group of guys who got together once a week to share experiences at around the vet center. That began a process that helped a bit. Still the depression got worse, along with the feelings of sadness and loneliness. I was the most successful, depressed person that I knew. I remember feeling that I was somehow totally unique in feeling bad.

A few years later, a friend named Larry asked me to ride along on the Run. A kidney stone attack a 100 miles from home can wreck your plans. But I came back the next year and I come back every year.

I was in Salina, KS a few years ago, having jumped ahead of the pack, and watched Run participants roll in to the park off of the highway. All sizes, shapes, descriptions, and manner of riders. Sort of like the makeup of the combat infantry battalions that I loved so well. Irreverent, proud, noble, independent, warriors who really give no ground, take no insults, and give living meaning to the word honor! The only thing that had changed was some of us looked a little older and we moved a little slower.

Last year I sat on an overpass near Abilene, KS and watched the Run participants stream down I-70 headed into Junction City and then I was back with the tailend rolling into J.C. Just seeing those flags displayed on the overpasses down the route somehow helps every time it happens. Rather I am watching from a distance, reading the e-mails, or riding in the middle of the pack, I can always feel those hard knots of being alone and being sad continue to slowly wash away out of my soul. It took a long time for those to develop and it may take the rest of my life to conquer them, but Run for the Wall helps.

So this year I’ll put my vest on again and hang the old dog tags around my neck; the same ones that were there in the A Shau, the Elephant Valley, the Street without Joy, and other scenic places I’ve been. Seems funny that I never wore those tags after 1970 until I started riding with RFTW. For a few brief, precious days I will again display the 101st shoulder patch, my combat infantrymans badge, and my jump wings in the company of my brothers in arms.

I’ll ride down the highway, two abreast, knowing there may be safer ways to do this. At the same time, the feeling will be just like riding into the A Shau on a UH-1 out of B Co, 101st Aviation Battalion with my legs hanging over the side, just enough danger to keep my adrenalin level pumping high and my nervous system at high port. As I ride down the highways of our route, the physical part of my being will be right there with you. But the memories will be of another time.

I’ll see a Marine and mentally thank the good Lord for having marine artillery at the Rock Crusher in III Corps. Those guys could put a battery six into a buschel basket when the Infantry needed it. I’ll see an Air Force vet and feel the after effects of a pilot hitting the gas after dropping flaming hell on my flanks. I can almost smell the jet fuel fumes of the four Marine four aircraft that circled a “basketball” in the A Shau, broke through the clouds and fog, and came to our help in the worst possible of circumstances in the worst possible type of weather. I’ll see a Navy emblem and remember the feel of the deck of the battleship New Jersey as she steamed through the Panama Canal en route to the Gulf of Tonkin. I’ll remember the Seabees and the Red Horse battalions bringing working facilities and defensive perimeters out of swamps and hills.

Tonight I may recall the odor of the South China Sea coming in at full tide as I sat on a helmet during the night, back to back with another infantryman sitting on his helmet, both in water past our hips. Around daybreak, I will probably conjure up old memories of an airborne trooper, a south Georgia boy (CPT Bill Phillips) whose name is on the Wall. Bill went down with the 173d Airborne Brigade. I’ll remember the nurses and medical personnel at the 85th Evac hospital in Phu Bai. A few years ago I couldn’t even watch an episode of “China Beach.” Now I can remember and appreciate the magnificent efforts of those wonderful people surging to a Medevac bird in a dead run, without going into a cold sweat.

These and a thousand other memories of my time in the Nam will run through my head out there on the highway, riding with others just exactly like me. And it is sweet to know, after all of this time, that I will not be alone, I will not be by myself, and that we do this for honor, for brethren and, in the process, for ourselves.

This year, my son rides with me. We’ll probably meet RFTW at Goodland and catch the beautiful scenery of Kansas going east. By the first of June, with the support of your presence, I will have reclaimed a little more of my soul back from the abyss. I’ll have a few more funny stories and a few more scary stories, but most of all I’ll have a little more of my innocence and trust restored.

So American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard riders, Run for the Wall riders when you look in the mirror tomorrow, stand a little taller and throw your shoulders back a little farther. We still have burdens to bear and duty to discharge. You are, each and every one, just like the boonie rats back in the ‘Nam – absolutely magnificent.

See you out there.

Nighthawk

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FNG Story – Rich Martin

Name: Rich Martin
E-Mail: 209pres@comcast.net
Phone: 408-489-7156
City: San Jose
State: California
FNG Story:

As I sit here and write this story, I keep thinking of the people I met along the way and those that I was going to try and and visit at the wall. People like Karoni and Cowboy and CJ. All the Road Guards and Advance team. I got the ride the first Missing Man Formation with Karoni. I shed more tears than I thought I would ever shed in my life. Each stop was more emotions and incredible people. The “Wall” itself just overwhelmed me. It took me three trips down the walk before I could even look at it. I couldn’t visit with my brothers this year. I had a women give me a heart pin to help heal my broken heart. How do you deal with that. All these months since I have been trying to explain it to people and can’t quite find the words. Many times I break down thinking about this incredible journey I took. It is amazing how everyone is there for you. You are not alone and yet you are alone with all that you see. It means a little different for everyone who takes this journey. I can’t thank the SgtMaj enough for convincing me that I should take this journey. It has helped with the healing from Nam and our so called homecoming. I will do this as long as my health/money holds up. Thanks to all that put this together. I
just can’t adequately put this into words.

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FNG Story – Charlie Allen

Name: Charlie Allen
E-Mail: charlie.allen@us.army.mil
Phone: 251-709-9004
City: Grand Bay
State: Alabama
FNG Story:

It is hard to explain how I was feeling as I drove from Mobile, Alabama to Monroe, Louisiana. I was riding in a driving rain storm most of the way, but that was not what was on my mind. I had been around him many times but didn’t really know him very well. He had stopped in Mobile several times after the Run For The Wall. We always visited and went to movies and he would make his way back to Los Angeles. He was the reason I bought a motorcycle so I could do this “Run For The Wall” with him. John is my
father in law and frankly he helped change my life.

I was nervous as we drove to the starting point in Monroe. I had not been riding very long and was not sure I had the skills for this ride, but I went anyway. When they called all of the FNGs up to the front of the crowd, I assumed it would be for some sort of hazing as we were the new comers. Boy was I wrong. I have never heard a group so small in number sound so large with a resounding “WELCOME.” It only got better from there. From that moment I honestly felt like part of the southern route family. I was even fortunate enough to lay the wreath at the memorial in Monroe.

From there we began the journey that would not only lead to knowing John much better, but knowing myself better as well. I have been in the Alabama Army National Guard for nineteen years. I am active guard now as a battalion career counselor, so I had been around military folks for quite a while. Never before though had I been around so many combat vets. Being around the men and women made me think about my experiences in Iraq and how they had changed me. I saw many vets that had come to terms with their experiences and many that had not. Probably the most memorable experience was during a fuel stop in Virginia. I was walking out of the store after getting a cup of coffee when the guy in front of me was stopped by a guy walking in. The guy coming in said “Are all of yall vets” and the other guy said “Yeah mostly.” The first guy said “I was in Viet Nam in 68.” At that point, the guy in front of me hugged him and said ” Welcome Home.” The guy broke into tears and said ” I never got that before.” I left but I did see that they chatted for several minutes.

John introduced me to several of his friends and I am sure I will remember them forever. All of them accepted me as one of their own from the start. John and I talked throughout the trip . We got to know each other well. He prepared me as best he could for Arlington and The Wall. As an FNG, I was honored to be allowed to ride into Arlington. There is no way that I can describe the emotion I felt. Then came The Wall. Memories of news casts when I was a kid came flooding back. It was very difficult to stand there and see these men and women grieving and being helpless to help them. Then, it was like the V8 commercials! Just being there and one of them helps. I thought long and hard about my experiences in Iraq and they were nowhere near the stories that I heard on the trip, and I realized that its okay to relive those times and talk about it with those that will understand. I was so honored to be able to share those moments with John and others.

I will never fully be able to explain my feelings about this “Run” to those that have not done it, but I know that I am a better person, vet and soldier for having been there. Thanks John and company, I really
appreciate it. See yall next year.

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FNG Story – Stan Martin

Name: Stan Martin
E-Mail: smartin7@comcast.net
Phone: 601-720-6080
City: Ridgeland
State: Mississippi
FNG Story:

I just want to start by saying AWESOME!!! Never would I have thought that I would be able to be a part of such a wonderful and meaningful event. I never knew that I could join up and ride with the group until a friend at work told me. Me, my wife, and my buddy Sean caught up with the group in Monroe,LA and rode to MS. The show of patriotism during the ride was awesome. I will always remember coming across that MS River Bridge and seeing that Cobra Helicopter hovering at the MS State Line.!! I have been on the RFTW site several times since the ride checking in to see when I can register for next year. I have already informed my wife that I am going “All the Way” next year (well from Monroe that is).

I have been in the Air National Guard now 24 years and have served in Desert Storm, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and the Global War on Terrorism. I have been to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan and seen all types of things. I will have to say though, without a doubt, that this ride just brings back home the reason we are the GREATEST Nation in the world!! Sure I have had the hometown support on each of my deployments and it has been great but to see the thousands of people that come out to support this ride and show their true colors for their country makes me that much prouder that I can serve and protect Her!! I can’t wait to meet up with all the riders next year in Monroe to start another honorable ride!!!

LtCol Stan Martin
183AES MSANG

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FNG Story – Bernard Remson

Name: Bernard Remson
E-Mail: b.remson@hotmail.com
Phone: 909-889-8470
City: San Bernardino
State: California
FNG Story:

This is the second time I’ve started this letter. My ride started in Long Beach, Ca. What can I say but wow. It was a very happy feeling to see so many other riders and meet new friends. My brother said that he was planing to go and I told him he could not go without me. I was overwhelmed by all of the love shown to all of the riders along the way.

I shed many tears along the way at seeing people on the overpasses and along the roadside, showing their gratitude for the veterans. The three places I enjoyed the most were Angel Fire, Junction City and Rainelle. The highlight of the trip was Rolling Thunder on Sunday, May 24, 2009. My brother and I left Arlington on Monday, May 25, 2009, heading home by way of visiting relatives taking the route of I20 and I10 West, arriving home two weeks later.

We are looking forward to the 2010 trip!