Chattanooga TN – Wytheville VA, 285 miles
My laptop is in the shop getting repaired (I hope it’s repairable). Now that I am home and have a working desktop computer I thought I would add what didn’t get in the original sit-rep.
After the morning briefing, the riders walked behind the Harley Davidson dealership to the Silverdale Confederate Cemetery. I have a serious soft spot for cemeteries. Could be because I used to be a funeral director. Anyway, every year the caretaker of the cemetery is on hand to meet, greet and discuss his beloved Silverdale. Jerry Wormesley began caring for the cemetery in the early sixties. He was still working full-time so did not have a lot of time to devote to it’s care. As time went on and he had more free time he became more diligent in caring for the cemetery and it’s inhabitants.
A brief history of the cemetery: A field hospital used to be in the location of the new hotel just behind the cemetery. When a soldier died at the hospital, he was buried in the adjacent cemetery. All the medical records and interment records were burned when Sherman burned Atlanta. To quote Jerry, “Sherman was very careless with matches.” Which according to Jerry had just been invented. The cemetery fell into the hands of a local farmer. When he passed away it went to his wife. In 1904 the property was purchased by a Veteran’s group for $75. In 1946 the stone arch you see in the photo was erected. By 1962 the woods had encroached on the cemetery. About this time the cemetery came to Jerry’s attention and he began clearing the trees and brush from the grounds. In June 1979, the cemetery came to the attention of the Chattanooga Area Relic and Historical Association (Jerry is a member) and the United Daughters of the Confederacy (Lynne Fouraker) is a member. Both groups began to care for the cemetery.
Jerry and Lynne are the movers and shakers that connect the cemetery to Run for the Wall. Santa Ed was given the task of auctioning off the last cemetery patch but instead he passed a hat and requested donations for the cemetery, $1,300 was donated by riders. I asked Jerry what he would do with the money. The first thing he mentioned was paying for subscriptions to Ancestry and Fold3, both on line genealogy services. He needs them to continue his research in identifying the unidentified 116 soldiers interred in the cemetery. Stay tuned for next year, I have it on good authority that there will be a new cemetery patch for sale.
Jerry has been very successful in his research. Thus far he has identified 39 of the 155 soldiers at Silverdale. This is painstaking work. Researching the doctor’s records of who was in the hospital and who might be buried in the cemetery. Once he has confirmed that a soldier is in the cemetery he begins the painstaking work of finding a living family member. Only a living family member can request a grave marker from the U.S. Government. Without a family member there is no money for a marker. In lieu of markers, Jerry had these two tablets made with the names of the 39 identified soldiers listed on them.
One success story Jerry is very happy about is that of William Youngblood. After identifying Mr. Youngblood as being interred Jerry began the search for his family. Jerry found a living grandson, yes grandson, in Texas. The grandson requested the grave marker and Jerry had it placed at Silverdale. In January of 2015, Mr. Youngblood’s grandson, great grandson and great-great grandson came to Silverdale to meet Jerry and to pay their respects to their grandfather. How is that for a great story! We ride for those that can’t, for POW’s and MIA’s. The soldiers interred at Silverdale Cemetery have been MIA’s for well over 100 years. A big thank you to Lynne Fouraker and Jerry Wormseley for giving riders this unconventional way of fulfilling the Run for the Wall Mission.
Once again it was time to mount up and ride the leg to Knoxville Truck Stop, a 79 mile seemingly easy leg and then on to Greenville, Davy Crockett truck stop, another easy 89 mile leg. HAHAHA, it proved to be anything but easy. After we pulled out of the Thunder Creek Harley, it began to rain in earnest. We thought it was raining before, little did we know what lay ahead. It rained cats and dogs, lightening and thunder. It rained so hard it was difficult to see the bike right in front of you. The pack slowed down and moved to the number three lane. About that time, trucks and cars came between the number one and two platoons. This split the pack into two groups. I happened to be leading the 2nd platoon and consequently the entire back half of the pack. Remember my road name “Wrong Way Eyes”. I was laughing hysterically, if they only knew who was at the front. Luckily we were able to catch up to the front of the pack and made the proper turn at the transition. Well, 5th platoon was a little further back and did not see Road Guard, Wicked frantically waving his arms at the transition. Yep, 5th platoon took a wrong turn. Luckily they were able to right it rather quickly. At one point the pack was split into three groups. Riding in the rain certainly offers new challenges. By the time we pulled into Greeneville and the Davy Crockett Truck stop, the entire pack was safely back together.
When we reached the Davy Crockett Truck stop riders were told not to leave their bikes that we would be pulling out as soon as the last bike fueled. At that time a severe weather warning alert came out from the weather service. Riders were then told to get inside the Davy Crockett Truck stop. Yep, 500 soaking wet bikers squeezed into the Davy Crockett truck stop. I felt so bad, their floors were a sopping wet disaster. We sheltered in place in the store until it appeared that the worst had passed. Then we got on our bikes and rode right into the storm. ⛈????????
We stopped for lunch at the Bristol-Black Wolf Harley Davidson shop. We normally eat outside on their back lawn. It’s a beautiful stop and a beautiful shop. This year we were huddled under the tent set up in back, trying to dry out before it was time to saddle up. We rode on into Wytheville, riding into the same storm for the third time. Any normal, sane person would have taken shelter for the DAY and not rode into the same storm three times. As you know, Run for the Wall doesn’t have that option so we ride on! There were no accidents or mishaps due to the weather. Just goes to show when we are all paying attention and at the top of our game, we can do it!
After the riders dried out a bit they were treated to a delicious steak dinner at the Wytheville Moose Lodge. Ghost Rider thanked the volunteers on the Southern Route, (170 of them) Fueling team, Ambassadors, chaplains, finance team, registration team, out reach team, $5 Marty, 50/50 team, daily raffle team, sit rep writer, Quartermaster, medical team, route photographer, honor guard coordinator that helped make the run possible. I am hoping next year we can get group photos of the various teams. Ghost Rider also announced that Santa Ed was selected to represent RFTW at The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Wreath Laying Ceremony. My heart melted ❣️, what an honor.
Rider’s retired early for a hot shower and much needed rest. Everyone trying to figure out how to dry their gear.
I will add to the last two days of the run as life permits. I have videos of Montvale and coming into Arlington. Be patient with me, other responsibilities beckon.
“America without her soldiers would be like God without His Angeles” Claudia Pemberton
Mission > Self
Kristine “Eyes” Wood