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Sitrep for Sandbox, May 30, 2023

Today. Complete a RFTW route. Sandbox Route.  Wall-to-Wall. Four routes, one mission. To promote healing, accountability and remembrance of all veterans.

It was another clear day and we headed to the Indiana Veterans Home. As we rode in, the driveway was lined with tall flags waving gently in the breeze. The grounds had people working and were beautiful. There was also someone hard at work building a gazebo.

My friend, Warren, steered me to a veteran who he had spoken with. Larry is a Purple Heart recipient from Vietnam. He’s now 75 years old as he just had a birthday.

Larry was in the Army and a Combat Tank Commander who initially rose from Private to Buck Sergeant in 30 days. He was in Vietnam 1971-1972. They were attacked during the night and he caught a round in the neck. They wanted to medevac him but he refused to leave because he knew the North Vietnamese Army would gain the ground.

He said he was in the South China Sea, Vietnam and all over. He zig zagged everywhere.

Larry said he’s been in the Veterans Home 3-1/2 years and he gets lots of visitors. He can walk but when he’s outside he likes to use a machine.

Santa Ed presented him with one of the Purple Heart belt buckles and we did a great group photo with so many people. I think Larry loved all the attention.

It was time for presentations in front of the Fallen Soldier Monument.  The sheet metal monument was made by a local artist from Battleground and is believed to be the largest one. It was made in three parts … helmet. Boots. Gun.

The group passed the hat this am raising more than a thousand dollars. RFTW matched up to $1,000. So RC Lurch handed over $2,300 and change.

The ride continued through beautiful green cornfields with new corn about 6-8 inches tall. There are wind generator farms that go on for miles. It’s a good place for them as we had wind coming through.

Our next stop was lunch at the 33-acre American Legion Park. There are so many beautiful parks.

There’s a place where a wreath will be layed and TAPS played. At that moment there was no one else around and made for a photo before the crowd descended.

At lunch we met a Gold Star family … parents Gwen and Scott, sisters Gabbie and Gracie and grandma Karen. There were friends there as well.

Their son, Army Sgt. Jeremy Sherman was killed in a helicopter crash in 2020 during a peace keeping mission on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.  He was 23 years old and had only been there a month. He had  also served in Korea and Afghanistan.

They were presented with a Route Coordinator challenge coin and it was beautiful. Hopefully, knowing that we are saying his name will help this family heal.

I told Gwen we do this ride to remember and honor them. To not forget them. She said, “They do forget.”

Say their name. Tell their story.

Go Go had a scroll for people to sign. It’s been from California to D.C. and on to the MECW. Now it will go back to California to Go Go’s commandant.

He talked about the 22. He said people commit to all kinds of things. But no one commits to suicide. They fall victim to their demons and unseen wounds.

That ties in to a gentleman who spoke at the MECW after we arrived. Bill is with Nation of Patriots that has raised about $2 million. They work to prevent a veteran from being a part of the 22. They give out checks, one time only, to help with maybe a blown car engine, school supplies, a utility bill … stressful things that might push someone over the edge … and they try to do something / anything to help with the financial burden and that might change the course of history for that family.

They have a patriot tour and pass one American flag around the nation to every state. They raise funds when doing this and have done it for 14 years. The organization is run by volunteers and all the money goes to those in need. The current flag has been moving through the U.S. for two years.

He said the best thing is that sometimes down the road they receive a letter telling them someone’s story, how a life was changed and turned around.

The MECW is set along the banks of the Illinois River. Water sprayed up over the rocks making some rapids. It’s such a pretty setting for the Wall.

It was a busy place this afternoon. Riders placed their profiles, maybe a coin or a bracelet. Others that had come before us had placed a variety of items … beer, whiskey in shot glasses, flags. Even a bear wearing a Marine uniform. The list goes on. While not all are extremely emotional about being there, seeing someone you cared for on the wall can bring someone to their knees. There were a lot of hugs, shoulders clasped, stories shared. It’s healing and part of the reason for the mission.

There’s a museum on site and Bucky is the Curator of the Museum. In addition he’s a Jack of all trades, doing whatever is necessary, including moving mop buckets or signs. He used to put all the mementos at the police department but about 15 years ago they got the building.

There were some well-deserved awards and presentations and a prayer to end our day and the route.


Peppermint Patti

Never forget.

Don’t cry because it’s over.  Smile because it happened.  Dr. Seuss

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