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Southern Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 9

RFTW Southern Route 2020 “VIRTUAL” Sitrep Day 9

Day 9, May 21, 2020 — Wytheville, VA, to Lynchburg, VA, 130 miles

We had our morning briefings, prayers, pledges and memorials. They’re something I cannot describe. We had MIA stories including a recovery success story. So many of these stories bring tears to a lot of the folks here. I can only hope that these tears are also providing some healing as they are surrounded by their own kind … veterans, many of whom were not held in high regard.  They’re also surrounded by family and others who care.

And that’s why we’re riding. To bring awareness for those who are MIA/POW. And for getting back the more than 1,500 that are still unaccounted for. They need to come home. This run has certainly raised my awareness and made me want to do more.

After the morning business we got all set up at Withers Park and prepared for the
Spiller Elementary Program school children that were being bussed in. Many of our people had trinkets for the youngsters. Someone gave me a sheet of Marine logos. I passed them out to first and second graders as they came walking down the hill to meet the bikers.

We had songs and poems from some of the older children. It was so touching. They’re learning about their country. They’re learning about patriotism. It was just an incredible morning and emotionally uplifting.

When we were waiting for the youngsters to come into the park, I’d been asked if I’d like to be part of the Missing Man Formation. Absolutely. So after we were finished with the kids and ceremonies, we went to the bikes and I joined the Missing Man group.

I was asked who I was riding for. I told them I was riding for my Vietnam vet because I believe all who come home are missing something, a piece of themselves, of their hearts and souls — that was left behind in the war. I was also riding for all those who are MIA.

The Missing Man formation is at the very front of all the platoons. I rode in formation for 90 miles.  What an exhilarating experience to feel that you are a part of something that has value and yet cannot be truly expressed. I reflected on those lost. On those pieces of hearts that were lost. Of those who are missing and may never come home. It’s a sobering thought to think that we cannot return someone to their loved ones so they have closure.

From the gas stop I rode with the Support Platoon that also rides up front. Yahoo. It was awesome.

Our second stop was at Montvale Elementary in Virginia where we were greeted by children holding up flags and posters. Then we all went inside to have lunch, followed by a program in the gym. These children were amazing. The children and their teachers had a presentation that didn’t leave a dry eye. It was a grand display of patriotism from pre-school to fifth grade. There was a showing of flags for the various branches of the service, poems and wonderful songs by all of the kids.

One of the kids got up and spoke and said this was the most exciting day of the year. The kids love watching, waiting and seeing the bike lights coming down the street and into the parking lots. They love to hear the rumble and thunder from the bikes. And he said thank you for our veterans because our free nation is because of your bravery. From the mouth of a child.

How could you not absolutely love these two stops today to see these kids that are learning patriotism. Are learning that we are a great nation. Are learning that veterans matter.

From there we went a few miles to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. There are depictions of soldiers trying to get to shore and being shot at. I think each day I keep writing that this is the best thing I’ve seen. Then the next day there is something just as good. This memorial is truly spectacular yet it tugs so hard at your heart. The shots fired into the water, the men trying to reach the shore and climb over the wall. Wow!!

On this trip there have been so many memories shared. And from what I’ve seen there’s been a lot of healing by some who felt that they were unworthy. That they were in a war that didn’t matter. They didn’t go because they wanted to. They went because they were sent. They should be honored for being veterans. And we should be grateful for what they do.

This RFTW has shown me something more.  There is hope for America.

The evening ended with dinner at Harley-Davidson of Lynchburg.  Once again, RFTW has been shown nothing but friendliness and generosity by everyone along the route – the people, the businesses, the organizations.

All I can say is if you don’t love your country with your heart and soul, this ride’s not for you.  It jumpstarts your patriotism again.  It fills a hole you may have.  It’s healing.  I could see that all around me.

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  Desmond Tutu

Peppermint Patti