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FNG Story – Melba

Name: Melba
Your Phone: 270-766-9966
City: Elizabethtown
State: Kentucky
FNG Story:

There are not words to describe what I felt for the days Wed. thru Sun. We were on the run and in D.C. I kept thinking “It can’t get any better than this” and some one new would walk into my life and I would have a new friend, then we would pass another school or over pass and people would be waving Old Glory and cheering, I could go on and on. I have a wonderful friend and my sister who took great pictures and every time I look at them it brings a lump to my throat and my heart skips a beat. I LOVED being around all the guys that served. It was an honor to stand at the wall and at all the memorials with the men who gave so MUCH. I kept seeing a shirt that really hit home for me, it read ” ALL GAVE SOME AND
SOME GAVE ALL. I wanted to hug them all, really hard. I wanted them all to feel appreciated and loved. My dad was a Korean vet I thought about him the entire time we were on the run. Dad has gone on to heaven now but I would like to do that trip every year in his memory and my cousin who gave his life in Nam. I want to be in the presence of these brave men, and be with all the new friends I’ve made and so DEARLY LOVE. See Ya next year. God Bless each one.

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FNG Story – Joel West

Name: Joel West
Phone: 618-781-7064
City: Granite City
State: Illinois
FNG Story:

What an experience. I was able to ride with my friend Ranjet. We picked up the group in Wentzville, Mo. and rode “All the way.” I know to you real riders that rode from Cal. this isn’t much, however, for my first time it was great. Rainelle is without a doubt my favorite. The kids, city, parents, and the volunteers that served us were fantastic. Route 60 East was also a very cool ride from Hurricane to Lewisburg. In Lewisburg we met a terrific individual named Ken, he showed us around and took us to some
of his favorite watering holes. Many thanks to him and the folks at the Bull Frog Inn in White Sulphur Springs. A special thanks to Red 1 Tailgunner, Couch, thanks for making our trip enjoyable. Couch if you read this, email me.

Don’t know if I have the strength and stamina to go All The Way, but would like to try.

As the Ride Captain of our Legion Riders group, we do not advocate riding “Parade Style” and it was very disconcerting to be riding next to someone you didn’t know at highway speeds. I know their reasoning, but still think it is unsafe.

Hopefully I will be able to make it again next year. To everyone, “Thanks for making my FNG experience and the ride memorable and worthwhile.”

Joel West
Heavy Equipment Operator 2nd Class
Navy Seabees, MCB-11
1965 – 1969
Three tours in country

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FNG Story – Webster Dalton

Name: Webster Dalton
Phone: 310-293-9542
City: Torrance
State: California
FNG Story:

I am 72 years old and a Navy vet. Nothing I have ever done has brought me closer to my love for my country than this ride.Thank You to all who made it happen! The Run was the greatest motorcycle experience I have ever had in my life. I started riding in 1949 and love it with a passion. But NOTHING ever came close to that ride and the meaning behind it. God willing I’ll be back next year. Thank You All My Brothers!

Web Dalton

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FNG Story – Diann “Mojo” McKee

Name: Diann “Mojo” McKee
Phone: 432-368-1822
City: Odessa
State: Texas
FNG Story:

To the FNGs – both current & future!

As I read the recent FNG stories, it makes me remember my own FNG year, 2003, and that same awesome feeling I had after participating in such an emotionally charged event. I, too, was hooked on RFTW by the time I made it to DC. Even though I rode that year in honor of some Nam vet friends, the friendships I made & my observations of the run’s riders & their healing journeys impacted me greatly. Doesn’t it affect all of us, though? And that is why I was more than eager to work in whatever capacity I could for RFTW that very next year. Long story short, I’ve been state coordinator for part of Texas for the past 6 years. I’ve also worked on the Advanced Team in the past, back when it was still in the concept stage, and am currently a platoon leader.

As in all organizations, it takes people with various gifts & talents to make “the whole” complete & efficient. RFTW is no different. I surely don’t have to list all the duties—the FNGs saw the work done every day. Some of the workers, though, (and there are over a hundred each year that help make this run happen), have an extra special gift, whether they were on the fuel team, chase team or in merchandising. I’ve seen it year after year. And that extra gift is their ability to make the FNGs feel comfortable in showing their feelings or in sharing their stories. Somehow, despite their hectic, busy duties, these workers stop long enough to help in whatever way they can, seeing that window of opportunity. It could be by lending an ear for even 5 minutes, or to follow up on how the rider is doing later that day. I admire these people that give so much on the run.

What I hope to convey to the FNGs is this—some of us are better at the “mechanics” of the run than with the helping of the riders & the emotional healing side. This is not to say that we don’t care—because we do! I feel that I am a “mechanic.” I take very seriously my job of making sure the stops in my area of TX run smoothly, yet are ones that the riders will remember with fond & healing memories. Likewise, I work to make the platoon an enjoyable and safe one. When we platoon leaders have to get stern with the group or individuals about an issue, please know that it is for the safety of not only that person but also for the whole group. At other times, I know that I am running around crazily trying to get things done, not having time to stop & chat.

During my FNG year, I could not tell you anything about the platoon leaders that helped lead us along the way. But that doesn’t mean that they didn’t do their job, which was to help get us from Point A to Point B. I definitely remember the Road Guards, and I gained an immense respect for these men who put themselves on the line to keep us safe. I remember Papa Smurf, the route coordinator. And I remember making friends with the riders, and seeing that I had found a new family. It didn’t matter that I was civilian—I was accepted. What I’m saying is that even though not all us workers are able to help relieve shoulders of burdens, we are there working because we want you to find that healing
like we did. We care, because we remember how much our first run helped us, whether or not we remember who worked it. Many of us want to return that gift. We want you to return home with healing in your hearts & minds, and with a sense of pride and accomplishment of your journey. But most of all, that you have, indeed, found a new family.

Diann “Mojo” McKee

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FNG Story – Don “Bullet” Pierce

Name: Don Pierce “Bullet”
Phone: 541-580-6006
City: Roseburg
State: Oregon
FNG Story:

Sort of an FNG, been since 95 since my last Run, so here goes… Russ’s wife asked that I do an after action and try to compare this RFTW to the first one and any suggestions I have/had. So here goes.

RFTW has had the same effect on me over the years, it is cleansing, emotional, fun, dangerous and I have gotten to meet the most incredible people ever. It was the same in 89 as it was this year. So, the Mission has remained the same and I am happy that it has.

I was fortunate enough to be accepted as a Road Guard and we get to see the Run in a far different perspective and I have to tell you that it was ALL GOOD!

You folks have fine tuned this to a well oiled machine stocked and staffed with some incredible people and it shows every step of the way. People like Russ, Gunny, Ross, Spanky(Sparky) Santa and a wealth of others, The Fuel Crew was amazing and vastly under thanked, The Advanced Road Guards performed well and the leaders are fantastic! Talk about fast thinkers, things changing every second and Ross and Sparky took it (sort of) in stride and made things work. Talk about thinking on your feet!!! And they all have it in their heads, the entire route, fuel stops, exits, on ramps and it goes on and on. I listened in awe to them talking about last years problems and how to deal with them this year and it was all off the tops of their heads.

I want to thank Gunny for letting me be a Road Guard and keeping track of me while I learned how you do it now, talk about different! And it worked, over and over and over. He even sprang for the arm bands himself. How fortunate you are to have him.

The state coordinators did amazing things. Come on, an Apache Helicopter!, Navaho Code talkers and dancers?? A Huey?!?! Police escorts? Free Food, Free fuel! These folks all did an amazing job and with little thanks in proportion to the work they did. Wow, You people have it TOGETHER!

The Chaplain’s, amazing and I was very happy to see them there, that is a NO-BRAINER and a major plus to the RUN, I thank them all. The Staging Crews there every stop, putting it all in order until the next stop, flexible Registration people and the Missing Man Coordinator, all important jobs done by great people whose only interest is making it work!

So, differences? In some areas a lot, others none, all of it positive. There was nothing I would have done different and certainly nothing I could have done better.

Change? Only one and only because I have not heard the most recent arguments against it.

I like the NUMBER 1 (Hammer Lane), it’s worked before and worked well despite the Law Enforcement folks not liking it, lots less danger and lets the traffic flow free for passing and for off ramps. Like I said, I have not heard the latest against, but obviously it was visited over and over and found it to be lacking.

What I really liked is the adaptability of all those involved, free thinkers, get it done, not many things carved in granite, changes and decisions made on the fly when needed and made at the level needed, by who was there at the time. And it worked over and over and over.

So, thanks for everything everybody did, water crews, fuel, staging, Road Guards, Chaplains, Platoon Leaders, Tail Gunners, et al. and ad nauseam. Another memorable ride, as usual.

Don Pierce

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FNG Story – Ron & Frances Wrenn

Name: Ron & Frances Wrenn
Phone: 575-808-0392
City: Ruidoso
State: New Mexico
FNG Story:


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FNG Story – Andy Stierwalt

Name: Andy Stierwalt
Phone: 785-823-1019
City: Salina
State: Kansas
FNG Story:

Two years ago, with my bike ready to go and money in my pocket for Run for the Wall, I sprang an oil leak which put me in the shop instead. I thought I would never have another opportunity. RFTW 2009 briefly came through Salina on Sunday… I didn’t get to serve you breakfast at 4am… and Missed seeing you come and go in Junction City. On Wednesday afternoon I packed my bike and sailed to West Virginia by 9:30 the next night and 1100 miles. I appreciated being able to ride into DC with you. I appreciated being able to sit on the Lincoln Memorial and speak with a few of you fellow brothers and vets. I may not be able to ride with you again, but, know that as I stand to at every vet’s funeral in Kansas, I
will think of you and the honor you do all of us.

Kansas Patriot Guard Member, Andy Stierwalt

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FNG Story – J. Lee Gorman

Name: J. Lee Gorman
Phone: 785-230-4456
City: Scranton
State: Kansas
FNG Story:

I’m a veteran that served from June 1971 to June 1974, so yeah I knew guys that went to RVN. I heard a co-worker (Monty) talking about doing the Run For The Wall in November of 2008 and after talking it over with the wife said I would ride along as well. I called my little brother (Patrick) and asked if he wanted to ride along and he said, “sure!” so we were set. We started planning and buying stuff for our trip in January 2009. Monty and his wife (Fay) had their hotel reservations set by the first week in
February. Pat and I decided we would camp along the way so I borrowed my older brother’s bike trailer (necessitating buying a trailer hitch and wiring). Pat and I worked out the camping stuff by April and started packing the trailer. By May we were set for the trip.

Junction City Kansas is where we met RFTW 2009 and got our FNG buttons and ride packets. We attended the morning meeting and climbed onboard around 8AM. I was in Platoon 7 (Trailer Trash) and Pat and Monty were in Platoon 6. We started the ride with high expectations and much enthusiasm. For the next 5 days we got great weather, super-slab highways and nerve wracking riding. This is not a bad thing, but if you aren’t used to close order formation riding, you’ll be frazzled pretty quick. You have to develop a level of trust for the rider in front and behind you that makes you believe you aren’t going to get creamed if you go prompt stupid for 3 seconds. Your throttle lock or cruise control is only decoration because you aren’t going to get to use them, you’ll have to be constantly making adjustments to your speed, rowing the gear box, off-throttle, on-throttle, clutch, and STAY OFF THE BRAKES. It’s the most I’ve ever worked on a motorcycle in 35 years of riding, period. Through it all safety of your fellow riders is paramount.

Then you remember, this is a mission, not a ride to eat, not a Sunday breakfast call, not a poker run, not a joy ride. It’s a mission to honor those that went before and those that didn’t return. So a little discomfort is OK, a little work is in order because that’s what says you really care. Riding with 700 other people working just as hard as you are says you want to be there, doing what you are doing, which makes those crowds on the streets, the banners hung from the over-passes and the flag wavings from the kids that much sweeter, that much more meaningful. Until you know the sacrifice and pain of this
ride, you can’t appreciate the out-pouring of support you’re being given. The free gas, the free meals, the free camping, the hugs by burly bikers saying, “welcome home,” wouldn’t mean as much without your effort to be there.

During the ride we stopped at Veteran Hospitals to meet brave souls, Vietnam Memorials to pay respect, met the Governor of West Virginia, and eventually got to Washington DC and the National Vietnam Memorial. All the aches and pains of this trip, the right hand cramps, the lack of sleep, the blur of the road, the heat and sweat, all disappeared as we walked to the Wall, mission accomplished. We were home.

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FNG Story – Jim Grafner

Name: Jim Grafner
Phone: 303-506-3054
City: Longmont
State: Colorado
FNG Story:

As an FNG I had no idea what I was getting in to. My experience was far beyond any words I can put in this letter. I had the entire gambit of emotions during the 6 days I rode with all of you from Burlington to DC. Next year, God willing, I will make the journey from coast to coast. This year was dedicated to my best friend, Thomas Paul Ray, who was killed in Vietnam on October 10th, 1967. I took him to the wall with me and the enormous hole I have had in my heart for over 40 years has finally started to heal thanks to all of you. I felt so much love and brotherhood that will now stay with me the rest of my days.

I hope the next year brings all that you wish for and need. Thanks you!

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FNG Story – Cheryl “Raven” Norman

Name: Cheryl “Raven” Norman
Phone: 830-688-1718
City: Bandera
State: Texas
FNG Story:

Wow what can one really say after riding for the first time in RFTW! There are many thanks to go out to folks but I will mention a few. First a special thanks to my husband Claude “LawDawg” Norman for his willingness to make this run not only for the mission but for himself and his own mission! A huge thanks to Greg “Pied Piper” Smith and his leadership and encouraging words of wisdom!

I remember standing at the chain fence at the end of the Wall Saturday and LawDawg said to Pied Piper, look what you did! His reply was something like ya I made a big mess. LawDawg said no you made this possible pointing to the Wall and all the people coming down the walk. Without Pied Piper and
Too Tall and the SR team it would have been impossible to make it “ALL THE WAY.”

A special thanks to all the Road Guard for all of your hard work and direction. The advance team, the hydration team. What all these folks do behind the line of sight make the day safe is just beyond words! A special thanks to Pocket for your smiling face and hugs each and everyday. You truly are a blessing to be around. I will also thank the chase vehicles for being there even though I did not need you (see I ride a yamaha not a harley!) but you were there in case I needed you and Short Stack I don’t think anyone worked harder that you did. I once saw a posting by Pied Piper that stated that if you are going to be a new person on the ride in 2009 it will be an experience you will never forget. It is an experience that you will never forget and it is an experience that you can not explain! I have tried and I just can not find the words to explain it. I need to also thank Mojo and Wicked for a safe trip from Weatherford TX to DC. Even though I had been to the Wall and to The Tomb Of the Unknown before this time it was so different.

I am not a vet, I am the wife of a vet that I support with all my heart. I also support all vets. I really don’t know what it means to a vet to go to the Wall, I see the pain but as I am not a vet I really can’t understand the meaning of going to the Wall. Not that I don’t try, I cry every time I go there because I see the pain in others eyes.

This year we went back to the Wall Saturday evening and went back to panel 38E where the name of my husband’s best friend is and as we walked away I saw a young girl sitting on the walk about 2 feet from the Wall writing a letter. I just could not bring myself to ask her whom she was writing to but it
touched me deeply of someone sitting in the dark writing a letter to someone on the Wall by the light on the sidewalk.

Seeing the folks of the roads showing support is something you will never forget. The vet centers is for me the heart stopper. When you talk to the men and women there and you tell them Thank You for your service and the tears fill his or her eyes. That is a sight that jerks at your heart and makes you wonder how can this happen, how can it be that in the last 3 months that I have thanked 2 different vets for his service and welcomed them home and tears fill the eyes looking back at me, how can it be that one guy told me that he had never been told Welcome Home before and I sat with him and cried with him.

Thank all of you that made it possible for us to make the ride this year. We did not go all the way this year, joining in Weatherford and going to DC however next year we will go all the way. We met so many
wonderful folks that we will never forget. We truly feel like we have extended our family by hundreds! We have been back for five days and I can’t wait to go again. A friend at home asked how the ride was and as I tried to explain the folks on the road, the schools and the vets goose bumps came up and I found that I just could not tell her enough.

What an honor it was to be part of the Color Guard, and what an honor it was for Pocket to as if I wanted to ride MMF, I did not as I thought in my heart that I did not want to ride in a place that a vet should ride in. So many times the tears just flow. We did give a few bandid for the heart pins out to folks that we felt could really use it. I know that many of you that were on the ride should have gotten a pin. Just know to all my new vet friend and family that I say to you Thank you from the bottom of
my heart for your service and for what you gave up in serving and Welcome Home, it has been a long time coming! An FNG no more, now just a babe looking forward to riding with you all next year ALL THE WAY!

Thanks to everyone!
Cheryl “Raven” Norman