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Monday, May 26, 2008


Today LCpl Travis J. Layfield would have been 24 years old. Thank you for your will never be forgotten.

Memorial Day's True Meaning

American Forces Press Service Donna Miles May 23, 2008

WASHINGTON – To many Americans, Memorial Day means a day off from work with picnics, pool openings and barbecues. But for those who have lost a comrade or loved one in combat, the day takes on a whole new significance. Here are some of their stories.

Army 1st Lt. Brent Pounders

Army 1st Lt. Brent Pounders remembers his childhood, reading textbooks about patriots who have sacrificed their lives through the country's history and thinking of Memorial Day as the end of the school year.

"You think about it, but [its meaning] really doesn't hit home or register as much until you lose some of your dear friends and realize that their families are affected by this and what it actually signifies,"he said.

For Pounders, that significance hit home Jan. 20, 2007.

Twelve soldiers died that day when their UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter was shot down east of Baghdad. Among them were three members of Pounders' unit, the Arkansas Army National Guard's 1st Battalion, 185th Aviation Regiment, 77th Aviation Brigade, as well as a Texas National Guard soldier who worked closely with them on a day-to-day basis.

Pounds remembers Maj. Michael Taylor, the company commander, for his great sense of humor as he looked out for the best for his unit and held every soldier to the highest standard. First Sgt. John Brown, the company standardization instructor, was "one of those guys who always had a smile on his face, was always in a good mood and always willing to do anything he could to help."Sgt. Maj. William Warren had a funny habit of adding "and everything"to just about everything he said, prompting the unit to yell out the catch-line in unison just as Warren finished taping a video to send home from Iraq.

Capt. Sean Lyerly wasn't assigned to the unit, but quickly bonded with the Arkansas Guardsmen he worked with in the theater at Company C, 1st Brigade, 131st Aviation Regiment. "He was a really good guy who got along with everybody in the company,"Pounds recalls. "Everybody liked him, and he did a good job for us."

Pounders said the first Memorial Day spent back at home, away from the heavy operational demands of the combat zone, (read more)

RFTW 5/24 & 25 & 26 (Final Post for 2008)

This is the last blog for this year.

Three days, again, as the last two days - blur. 24th - up at 0415 and staging bikes. This is the last day on the road so you can feel a lightening up of the tension. Its about a 260 mile run (3 legs) but not much going on than moving. In Tom's Brook we meet up with the Southern Route group and head off for Arlington. The Advance Group, after getting everyone moving, zips off to Arlington and the staging area. Pulling into Arlington we're greeted by much of the Southern Route Riders, the support crews, and many of the locals. We actually pull into a parking lot across from the host hotel, stage and then in small groups, zip across. Kick stands down, relax, check into hotels and then a half dozen different activities for people. My oldest daughter joins me (along with her husband and my youngest grandson) and we go the Sunset Parade at Marine Barracks. The next morning - one group to Arlington for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - we are the only group allowed into Arlington Cemetery on our bikes. Another group down to Marine Museum at Quantico. And another group - etc. There are so many things for us to do you have zero down time, thankfully. Trip to the Wall is not pretty - 100,000 + visitors makes it difficult but we do our End of Mission - leave our POW flag (we brought it all the way!). Evening dinner at a local church.

Sunday Morning - up at 4, stage ALL bikes. 6:30 - launch to the Pentagon for the 21st Annual Rolling Thunder. I stayed behind as I had some obligations but made it to the Mall at 1200 and The WAllwatched 3 hours of bikes coming by - 400,000 plus motorcycles (latest count). Very impressive and has to be seen live.The Mission is over for this year. The RFTW is an amazing event - well organized - well executed. As a new Road Guard I made a few mistakes. Hopefully I'll be invited back to do next years. What a bunch of people. The leadership has their acts wired. The Run people can not be beat. And the rest of the people - sacrificing their time, money, and emotion - its a huge family that jells perfectly. And, they carry a message that is vitally important!! Its been my honor and pleasure to ride with this group and the staff, all of which are great individuals. A very well trained group that hopefully I will be able to mimic. I hope you all have got something out of my daily postings. Next year, join me on the run.

In closing - tonight I went by The Wall, after dark. Still pretty busy, lots of people, including some kids not being respectful - I talked to a Ranger and they were asked to leave. A woman asked me to pose with her little girl in front of the Wall. I visited the 3 service men statue - on watch and looking to the Wall for their comrades in arms. The Three Nurses Memorial was covered with flowers. I left the two packets (for two different Marines) at their panel's. I saluted. And I visited. I listened, I heard, I saw. In an earlier blog I misquoted something - "Never again will one generation of veteran's abandon another". Not in my lifetime. On this Memorial Day, thank you my brothers and sisters, for your sacrifices. I will never forget.

The Mission Rules.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

RFTW 20/21/22/23

Greetings - my mind is very dead right now. EMOTIONS, EMOTIONS - not to mention the driving. I'm lumping four days together here because that's how it is in my mind right now!!

Driving - as a Road Guard we see a lot of things people in the pack don't. But at a price. Our day starts at least an hour before anyone in the pack. We get up and out, coffee, and then set up our Road Guards all along their route to the staging area. At the staging area, the staging crew takes over. In theory, we relive each other for coffee, food, head calls, etc - probably the only time of the whole day where that almost works. Then we get divided into two groups - the regular Road Guards that travel with the pack primarily insuring security, continuity, cohesiveness, etc. And the Advance Group - they go out ahead and set up the road/intersection blocks, provide direction at crucial road junctions, and set up at the new area. Both groups spend a lot of time going back & forth or in and out. We probably due 150% more miles and I KNOW we burn up more gas then the pack. We also burn up the roads. Of course, we always hit the speed limit - while accelerating and decelerating. There is no truth to the rumor that I was driving frequently at 114mph. We try to encourage the riders, we compliment the good ones, and give direction to others, all the time remembering that both they and we are here voluntarily.

We see every movement and event thru a different set of eyes. After doing a Road Block where I saw all the participants come by, I then mount up and carefully, following the posted speed - give or take 40 MPH, I go from the tail end to the lead unit - flanking the pack, running in the open lane (or opening the lane), Following other cars, etc. Passing 300 motorcycles doing the limit, smoothly to boot, gives you some very warm fuzzies. Impressive to see that amount of bikes performing, in essence, a ballet. NOT easy for people that have never ridden together to have the confidence in themselves or the other drivers, but everyone learns.

I have to lump these four days together - they're a blur in my mind and anything I saw or felt is not dependent on which city. I will finish this page with bullet type comments -
kids on street corners, overpasses open fields, in their Mom or Dad's arm, held by their hand, leaning out windows - all with parents, grand parents friends and neighbors - all cheering, waving, holding signs, flags and OUR hearts. All saying thank you.

Young Marine Sgt that comes to welcome us and say thank you - just finished his fourth tour in Iraq and is visiting his Dad. We all shook hands - and - Dad had brain surgery and will be gone in 3 months - Welcome Home.

Kids in day care centers waving and cheering. I always want to stop and tell them thanks.

Kids in two towns wanting shine our machines for us.

Bartender down stairs that gives a free round to every Rider!

Free gas in Hurricane for the Road Guards.

Governor greets us in Kentucky.

Free breakfast lunch and diner in every city.

POW/MIA displays in every city.

Beautiful motorcycles.

Got to go - I'm dead.



I found this video & knew it needed to be shared. Tissue advisory!!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Up at 5:15 - I slept in. Over to the staging area in front of the hotel. Cup of coffee times 4 or 5, then flag detail - in this case, waving a flag to show the riders where to stage their bikes for todays Mission. Then some coffee. Couple of oranges. At 0615, a special detail of about 45 bikes (and including me) take off for the Topeka VA. Its about an hour and we'll only spend about 45 minutes with the staff and patients - but its enjoyable all the way around. The patients cover most of the Wars and vary from relatively injured to severely injured. And a pretty good range of ages. And a few riders will go into the lock down wards to spend a few minutes with the less fortunate.

Getting to the VA we had to cover a half dozen intersections one of which was a real pain - main artery. But, we did stop all the traffic and even those people waved and cheered for us. Or with us!! When we leave, we will catch up with our main body and zip thru a toll booth paid for by the townspeople. On the freeway we have a mishap - someone had not secured their hat and off it flies. The two bikes in front of me saw the hat (weren't aware what it was) and did a combination of swerving and locking their brakes. The bike in front of me went down with the driver and passenger. After a trip to the hospital, they both went home with some abrasions and one destroyed helmet.

The rest of the day was traveling to our over nite - Wentzville - where they had a few hundred people to greet us and really really good food. Roast beef, mashed potato's, and al the rest of the trimmings. They have camping at the site, but with the rain and everything, very few decided to take advantage of it. Dozens of intersections with the (what's become) the normal amount of people waving flags, waving their arms, cheering, etc. And kids all over the place, again and again. NO negatives, all positives. Overpasses full of people with flags, constantly. Again, also, in the middle of no where, in towns, everywhere. And they all thank us for doing the Mission, and look for nothing in return.

Falling asleep - take care!!

The Mission Rules,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

RFTW 5/18

5 o'clock reveille again (and again, that's local time - I'm still passing out on California time). Breakfast at the VFW (free - surprise) with lots of fruit and coffee - a bikers staple. There was also a non denominational church service - sounds like 'Nam all over again. But the Road Guards were to busy setting up the intersections, freeway access, parade routes, etc. Met some more great cops - they love this run and what it stands for. Sometimes when we block intersections, we keep them tied up for 20 to 30 minutes - no one ever seems to care.

This will be a relatively short ride - a total of only 316 miles (88, then 121, then 107). The middle leg will be a killer - that's pushing the limits on some of the bikes - especially because of how the MPG suffers because of the speed up, slow down, and the numerous on and off the freeway trips. And another time change - move the clock up another hour. Sleep is grossly overated - and I can usually catnap on the ride !! One of our jobs as Road Guards is to occasionally beep at a rider to see if they really are studying the inside of their eyelids. Usually, when the rider gets drowsy, the space between they and the rider in front of them starts to increase. It does happen every now and then.

First stop was for lunch in Oakley - you can assume its free yet again. This time we paid for gas but took less than usual - short run. We stopped in a WALMART parking lot - we filled a third of it and another third were filled by the locals coming to share and talk with us. At every stop they look at you with an expression of respect and curiosity. They always like to look at the scoots with their fancy paint jobs. This year, we have a few where the rider has painted the names of his fallen hero friends on the tank. Always done professionally.

The freeway was interesting today - 2 or 3 construction zones and lots of traffic. Most of the time the cars/trucks will give us a lot of space, let us pass or just generally stay out of the way. And always, the waving, the picture taking, and the thumbs up!! We went under a dozen over passes with crowds cheering, not to mention people off the side of the freeways waving and cheering - usually in the middle of nowhere. For many of us, and other vets, its an emotional upheaval to find that so many people respect AND support the vets, and in this case, the Mission.

Last part of the day was great. When we pulled into the Marriot Courtyard (End of today's mission location), they had the streets lined with American Flags and whole lot of people. A free (surprise) dinner in the convention center - very nice. Parking is great and we're right next to a Harley Dealership which stayed open (Sunday) to service anyone hat needed it, a mess of stores and small restaurants, and a do it yourself car wash. Again, people wanting to do something for us, for nothing. Of course the motels make money, but the free food (and I forgot - the free gas) comes out of some ones pocket.

At 1930 they provided transportation for anyone that wanted to go to Vietnam Memorial for a Memorial Service, - the buses were overflowing so many took their rides rather than getting additional buses.

We now have 4 bikes being hauled (breakdowns) and 4 or 5 getting necessary work (brake lines, cables, lights, other electrical) etc done. I still don't know the final outcome on our rider that dumped his scoot on the way into Angel Fire. What originally looked like nothing more than a couple of broken ribs and collapsed lung, has grown. The morning after he couldn't even stand up so they sen for the medical team - and his bike is definitely toast!!

This year there seems to be more BMW's and Victories then last year. I guess Victory is making a big hit. At least two thirds or more of the full dress bikes are Gold Wings - you can't beat that bike when it comes to full dress. As are the trikes - Honda. A few real interesting "trikes" - triple person "rear" seat, LONGGGG wheel base, etc.

A couple of the Vets got together a little while ago and had their own "candlelight vigil" for those still on patrol. We all take this very seriously.

We're up to 8 platoons of rolling stock. It takes a while to get from the back of the pack to the leadership up front. Most of the time when I'm zipping up and down, the bikers will give us (Road Guards) a thumbs up - they know that its our job to help keep them safe - I'm flattered to be asked to do it - keeping my brothers and sisters safe seems to be a normal thing to me.

That's it for tonight - tomorrow is a long emotional day with a stop at the VA Hospital in Topeka to visit with the people there, and then off to another of the more noteworthy Vietnam Memorials.

The Mission Rules.


A Hero's Welcome

We staged with the Patriot Guard Riders at Harley dealership in Oakland where the parents, Peggy & John stopped by on their way to the airport to say hello. KSU (Kickstands Up) was at 1630. Bikes lines up & we followed em on to the airport. We had a very large group to welcome him upon his return from Iraq. Was he ever surprised when he stood at the top of the escalator & saw us all...salutes & cheers. Handshakes & hugs followed. Then we all headed out to line up for the escort our Hero home. 25 bikes & 8 cages escorted his Parents vehicle the 14 miles home. What a ride!! When we got there the Lafayette Flag Brigade had done there best to decorate the place & the East Bay Blue Star Mom's of which Peggy is a member had a wonderful spread set out to feed everyone. It was a great celebration. Welcome Home Matt & Thank you for your Service to our Country!!

Below is a video of Matt being welcomed at the airport....

Saturday, May 17, 2008

RFTW 5/17

Up at 0515 and on the Scoot 15 minutes later. A very quick run from the hotel to Eagles Nest staging area. CHILLY run for myself and another Road Guard. No one around, mountain road, can't see those pesky speed limit signs, and, feelin' cocky!!

The Staging area is outside the Eagles Nest Community Center - the fire department, VFW, and the city itself have set up a full blown breakfast with plenty of coffee. While waiting for the rest of the riders to show up I have a few minutes to talk to the locals. They ask about my service, about the service of the others, and they very lightly ask about the Memorial - they assume that there is a certain amount of privacy and memories. They seem to understand the Memorial even though many were never directly affected by Vietnam. They are very respectful. Eagles Nest and Angel Fire make a little money from our presence - hotel rooms, a little gas sales, and a little food. But, the bulk of the food and fuel was donated by them. I would think that at best, they break even. And when we form for the ride, they cheer us, wish us God Speed and a safe journey. They thank us for our past service, they thank us for doing the Mission, and they treat us like hero's. Its unreal.

Time to leave. It's cloudy, there is a light mist, its pretty chilly, and the road out is like the road in. Twisty, delightful, but dangerous so we take it slow. We pass a herd of Buffalo, and a herd of what appears to be Moose. The police escort have lights flashing but out of deference to our request, no sirens - the country is to beautiful to be awakened - its serene. And Angel Fire needs to stay that way.

We pull into another small town where we stop for a ceremony welcoming us home and on our Mission - and again with praise for us. We literally don't even put down the kickstands, we just listen, watch and wait. This town has not benefited financially in ANY way as we are just passing thru. It appears that every resident is out to wave flags and cheer. In all these stops, ALL the police and ALL the fireman come out - not only do they cheer, but in all cases, they salute us.

Then down the highway to Raton and free food and again, fuel. And again, we are not spending any money there. It a pure thank you to us, again. Police escort, parade, and then back up on the freeway for a100 mile run to our next stop.. We will do a total of 346 miles today - its a fairly long run as we pretty much stay on surface streets and OLD highways that take us thru small towns and communities. With the same "results" - people cheering, waving flags, touching us - that's the part that gets to me. They want to touch us - its a sign of respect, a sign of sympathy I guess, and all very sincere. On the surface streets the civilians love the sounds of the bikes so we rev a lot, lean on the horns and sirens, and flash our lights. On the freeways, when coming up on an overpass, it looks like a line of flags. When you get closer, you see that each flag is being waved by both kids and adults. Thumbs up, cheering, waving, applauding - ALWAYS the same. I wish I could film the whole thing and make it mandatory viewing in places like Berkeley, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, etc. Heck, put it on national TV, show it overseas.

On the highway, the Road Guards will come out of our own pack and cruise up and down the group keeping everyone spaced properly and moving at a constant speed. We also look for trouble spots - construction, garbage on the road, cars and trucks pulling into our formation or spending to much time next to us (taking pictures) and possibly drifting into our lanes. I think the Road Guards do about 150% more mileage. When we road block on the surface streets we then have to catch up and we ride lead so it can take awhile. But driving past the length of the formation, you really feel proud to be riding with these men and woman - there a great bunch of people, all pretty friendly, all sincere in what they're doing. I saw many of these faces a year ago but we apparently get about 25% new faces.

Finally, we get to Burlington, Co. Again a parade and free food. The gas was off set - it only cost $ 5.00 a tank full. The VFW had a huge dinner for us, a band, and the almost normal crowd of patriots thanking other patriots.

The motel I stayed at (most of us stayed at) was interesting. The rooms were huge. They did smell a little, when I asked for ice, they gave it to me in a plastic bag (no ice buckets), the wifi in the rooms didn't work, the wifi in the lobby worked if you sat in a specific place, the showers were a single controller BUT you had your choice of scorching hot, or freezing cold - if you had a hand free and moved the lever back and forth quick enough you could actually take a shower. I noticed that water was leaking from the top of the shower head but when I tried to hand tighten it, the duct tape came off in my hand!! OOHHRRAAHH - lets put this place in for a Michelin 5 star rating!!

An emotional day - all the well wishing and pats on the back make you remember what so many did not receive. It makes you think about what caused this to begin with. I'm not being unappreciative - its a very warm feeling. None the less.

Off to bed - long day, time to sleep. And tomorrow, the Mission rules.

After a long day, it was at least nice to sit without ear plugs!!


Armed Forces Day
Saturday, May 17, 2008

President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country.

On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense.

Friday, May 16, 2008

RFTW 5/16

Good God I'm not only alive but I'm awake!!! Up at 4:15, 7 hours of actual driving, 3 hours of boots on the ground doing the road guard stuff. Started the day in the dark with a half dozen large cups of BLACK coffee standing next to a drainage groove near the staging area - virtually impossible to see from a scoot. My job was to slow them down before they got there. The local ABATE, local church, and the VFW had a breakfast set up, including lot's of COFFEE. And it was COLD. I had on my plug in jacket at max, my heated hand grips at max. And I was COLD. I have a "black ice alarm" on my bike and it didn't turn off until noon time (I think it froze to death). I think the only rider that approached not being too cold was a lady riding with her dog stuffed in her jacket.

As we left Gallup on Route 66 there was a surprisingly large group (cold group) waving flags. And then we were SWOOPIN'. 106 miles to our first stop (Exit 140) for fuel, and COFFEE, because it was COLD! My job was to get the pack off the freeway by blocking the ramps from the cars and trucks. Now think about this. It's drizzly, its windy (especially next to / on the freeway. I'm supposed to use a large red flag to wave our people on to the ramp, and wave away the other traffic. Did I mention I was cold and wet? I have two hands (I won't point out that wet leather gloves provide zip warmth) and a choice - a flag in one hand, and a cup of coffee in the other, or a cup of coffee in both hands and being a big guy, use my body as a direction beacon and blockade. Pretty stupid to even consider not using the flag. And yes, I drank both cups!!! I have no idea where the damn flag flew off to when it drifted up into the sky.

Gas was free (Harley Davidson Dealer ship paid - an average of 3 gallons of gas times 400 bikes, trikes, and trucks. Not to bad. But the coffee was also free - I bet they took a bath on that!Then off to Espanola - 112 miles - free lunch, huge turnout all the way from the freeway to the Vet's campground, free gas (another HD Dealership), and the temp went all the way up to 42 degrees - we were dying from the heat!! And a huge turnout at lunch - local everyone and two Gold Star Mom's thanking us for our sacrifices in making this run. Thanking us for our sacrifices.

Then off to Angel Fire. 68 miles of twisting, turning, climbing, dropping road following a very picturesque stream. Motorcycle Police escort of course although they pretty much let us run the show, set the pace etc. I had blocked an intersection so I had to play catch up. I love the road. One of our Platoon Leaders felt a little hinky going thru a turn and hit his brake. He will probably be rejoining us in DC but the word is that his bike is toast. The country side is beautiful as you climb to the 9000 foot level. BTW, snow on the ground and its COLD. All of a sudden you go over the crest and there is the Valley - one end is Eagle's Nest, the other Angel Fire. Up on the side of the hill is the Memorial. Even then, its quite throat tightener. The approach is up a "blind hill" onto level area where for the first time you see the gull wing Chapel and the chopper brought from 'Nam. The walk in is always emotional - a garden dedicated by the Blue Star Mom's, a plaque with an engraving from a Fallen Hero, Dr. and Mrs Westphall's graves, etc. Down to the Chapel, the small amphitheater, and the main building. I went to the Chapel first to say a prayer and to listen and look. And they are still there. Then over to the main building with its mock monuments, photo's, quotes from various people, letters home donated by families, and then of course, the emotions. There are some that can not go into either place, there are some that have done so before that are having a hard time doing it again. For whatever reason, those of us that can go in, are not ashamed or afraid to show our emotions, and/or to help a fellow vet deal with the grief. Some will sit outside and look over the Valley at the airstrip that brings back memories of our airstrip at Danang or Dong Ha, some will look at the forest and see the rows of trees that are our fallen standing guard, some will hear the voices in the wind, or see the faces in the clouds. Some will cry, some will say a prayer, some will just sit quietly and remember what we are all trying to forget. But all of us, will never again let the rest of this country forget their American Hero's.

The Mission rules.

RFTW 5/15

After rereading yesterdays blog, I saw why you don't write when you're so tired you can't see straight!! Sorry!!

Today:I've had a few "what is the RFTW for" questions? So here is the official and most descriptive.

The Mission: Promote healing among all veterans and their families and friends.Call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War & those Missing In Action (POW/MIA)Honor the memory of those Killed In Action (KIA) from all wars.SUPPORT our military personnel all over the world.

Americans still MIA this Memorial Day 2008
WWI 4452
WWII 74384
Korea 8178
Vietnam 1763
Cold War 125
Desert Shield 12
Desert Storm 2
Iraq 5

Hope that gives a little explanation. But there is a lot to it. Today, a young woman asked me if I liked riding to the Wall alone. I explained to her that I was far from alone as exhibited by just the 300 riders with me on this day. She then asked why so many of us were riding on our bikes by ourselves. I explained to her, none of us are riding alone.

Pretty nice start this AM. 40 degrees, and DAMP!! The land out here is either heavily wooded or fairly sparse, and both beautiful in their own way. You can see for miles - and this year I can actually enjoy the view a little more. We watched the storm clouds for part of the day - the other part we couldn't see thru our face shields. It RAINED. You learn very quickly how to hold your head up at an angle so the wind blows the water off your shield with the added benefit of it getting blown right down your neck and getting a bath. Since we were already on the road, we didn't have rain gear on. The good news is now we have at least one set of freshly washed clothes!! And the color's won't run.

I don't think I ever get over what a beautiful country this is - those that don't travel are missing an experience. Just like the song says "From the mountains, to the oceans", etc - I love this country - each part has its own unique beauty.

We only went 250 miles today (thankfully, with the weather we're having ). But again, as in most days, people coming out of nowhere to wave, salute, applaud, touch our hands or arms, older people, younger people, kids, people I'm not to sure of.

The beginning of today's run, like every day, they announced who we're riding for - someone that died this day or became an MIA today (sorry, this day during the Vietnam War). Then the Advance Team took off. We ride like the pack - two abreast, 2 seconds from the bike in front, 5 mph below the speed limit. RIIGGHHHTTTT. Two abreast but 1 second from the bike in front of you, and 5 mph below the speed limit if you're talking about the speed limit of the Space Shuttle. Two problems today for our Team - we were clipping at about 85 when we noticed the hood of an auto smack dab in the middle of the freeway lane we're in. We were in an area where only 2 lanes are available so the right hand column wiggled around their side while the left hand column almost did the same. One of the riders went across the shoulder, into the gravel and grass, and about a 1/4 mile later back up on the freeway. Never even slowed down. One of the other riders circled around and pulled it off the road so the main pack wouldn't have a problem. And then while I was directing traffic (blocking one lane of the freeway for my brothers and sisters), my battery died. Recharged and hopefully its ok - I'll know at 0430. At our first gas stop, some guy filling his tank paid so much attention to us, he overflowed about 5 gallons onto the ground. We gassed and then went on to Holbrook, AZ where they fed us - this town doesn't have money to do this. They mostly live in trailers, and I mean trailers, all single wide. The spread is all hamburgers and hot dogs with potato salad etc. Delicious !! Water and soda up the nose. Of course, after they do this they do ask if they could have a picture of them standing with us!! And shake our hands, or touch our arms. The sacrifices we're forced to endure!!

Then on to Gallup and the welcome from the Navajo Nation. Between the speeches, patches, Native American dancing, the bulk of what you heard was "holy crap" from the FNG's!! As in last year, the "dance" is a serious, non tourist dance. I couldn't join in this year as I was trying to get warm, drink some fluids, get warm, and pause to get my picture taken with what appeared to be every Native American that wasn't dancing. ALL the police and fireman came and shook every hand.

At the end of the ceremony we feed. And I mean feed - wasted on me as I don't eat much, but the pack was talking later about being stuffed with multiple hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken, potato salad, etc.

My first duty today was getting the riders staged as they came in to the area at about 5. Its close to 11 (PST) but I'm getting up tomorrow at 4 local (changed time zones).

Tomorrow - Angel Fire. And the emotion. the Mission Rules.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

RFTW 5/14

Here we are - end of a LONG day. 410 miles, in saddle for about 5 hours, directing traffic and bikes (on foot) about 3 hours, being confused - all day. This year I'm a Road Guard on the Advance Team. We have various "Teams" to make things go well. You have the "Fuel Team" - they, along with 4 Road Guards zip on ahead of the main body and move into whatever gas station(s) we're using. When the mail body gets there, they get in line, 2 abreast to each pump. They will have one or two pumps put aside for credit cards. (And you can also elect to go to another station if you wish). You (two) pull up to the pump, the Fueler hands you the hose, and you fill your tank. The fueler than passes the hose to the rider next to you. While that person is filling, you dig out your cash, only bills and there is no change. The fueler will tell you what you owe rounded UP to the nearest dollar. You pay it and move out and another rider takes your place. The extra money goes to fuel the support vehicles. You have the Road Guards - there job is to "shepherd" the packs from point to point, block intersections, etc. You have the "Pace setters" - their job is to do nothing but concentrate on the desired speed with the incremental increases as you pull onto the road. The Advance Team zips on ahead - usually about 15 minutes ahead - and we man the turning points, block the intersections and whatever (until the Road Guards take over), make sure the route is free of road obstruction, warn the pack of road issues, construction, etc. We also get into the towns first to establish the staging areas and to tell the scoots how to park (TIGHTLY). Try parking 400 bikes in a small area sometime. And solve other problems like irate residents - again, 400 bikes make some noise.

Today I had the honor of having the Missing Man formation to move into formation. Just like the MM flyovers, it honors those that are no longer with us although we use it just for the MIA's. The MM Formation leader today was former Marine "Honey Buns" - Vietnam Vet. He lost it completely trying to explain to a civilian what it represents (as most of us do). When we have a police escort, no matter how many or how few police there are, the MM Formation gets its own Police Escort. We supply a front and rear Road Guard. To be able to ride in that formation is considered to be a great honor. And it manning changes every day. When I'm directing the pack (afoot), and the MM Formation comes by, I render a hand salute. I can't for the general pack as I'm using my hands to direct traffic or whatever.

We went under a mess of overpasses today - all with people by the dozens waving flags , holding signs, cheering, etc. Heck of a great feeling.

Today I got up at 3:30 - really couldn't sleep - and when I got to the staging area in Rancho Cucamonga, it was 57. At our first refueling stop in Barstow, 78. Next stop in Ludlow, 83. Needles was 96 (thankfully - last year that whole stretch was over a hundred and Needles was 115. Kingman was back down to 77. As we approached and then pulled into Williams, 50. And this morning they had snow and an ice storm. No phones. We have to layer when we ride and there is virtually no time to take off and put stuff away - we get pretty efficient, or freeze, or roast. Tomorrow, its supposed to be 42 when we meet at 0600, and stays that way thru Flagstaff. Then chilly and possible rain all the way into Gallup.

Easy day emotional - the well wishers made us teary eyed and feel good. In Needles, the local "ABATE" and service organizations fed us and shook everyone of our hands. Here in Williams, a huge welcoming crowd and they fed us at the VFW Hall. Tomorrow our send off is with the local Blue and Gold Star parents, and a local middle school. Holbrook and Gallup. Tomorrow the emotions really get triggered.

Apparently we have around 400 riders (but I'm not sure).

But as I like to say, the Mission Rules.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Run for the Wall-2008 (RFTW)

Be warned that the first "blog" can be fairly boring - we don't leave until Wednesday morning.

After a week of getting my Iron Horse serviced, new front tire, the GPS programmed, the CB Radio CBing, and packing and re packing the bike, I got on the road. Early on 5/11 I roared onto the freeway and headed south. I love going down highway 5 on my scoot - you can cruise at about 85 to 90 for miles. I stopped about every 125 miles for fuel and food. I already had the "camel Back" set up so I could take fluids as I rode. A couple of munchies, an orange or two, and a can of coke - we're living now!! I got to the hotel Rancho Cucamunga at 2:30. The Host Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn, has two other hotels flanking it. Sunday nite, when I got in, there were about 50 bikes, trikes and "I have no idea what you'd call it concoctions, at each of the three hotels. When you pull in all the bikers come out to see if your one of the "family" or a new guy. I think its impossible to not find old friends, and new friends waiting to become old friends. Its almost impossible to explain the bonds that form or have formed. All military have a built in camaraderie, a family of like minds. Each branch of the military will tell you how they can identify fellow service members (same branch) most of the time. And then you have the Corps - we can ID each other with out eyes closed. And we are all brothers and sisters. Of course, on the RFTW it doesn't hurt that we're all wearing leather or denim vests that have our service patches, tour and unit patches, and messages. And its not just former and retired military. A few active duty are here to see their Mom's and Dad's off, or maybe a brother and or a sister. Civilians that have never worn a uniform but ride the Mission for the purpose of the mission - let no one forget what our fallen have done for this country. We will have some Blue Star and Gold Star parents riding all the way as well.Sunday nite I ran into maybe a dozen that I rode with last year. I met a few new friends, and had a chance to do a little remembering. We looked at each others scoots and of course made the appropriate comments Harley owners picking on the Honda, BMW, etc bikers for not buying American, etc, and those of us riding the other brands asking the HD owners if they have their GPS set for where they will be breaking down. Its a gimmee. One of the more humorous riders is going out to the parking lot at about 2 AM to put some rice on all the Honda's ("Rice Burners"). All in good humor. Since most of the Bikers here Sunday came in that day, we pulled the plug at about 1AM and crashed - need the rest.

Monday - up at 5:30 (trying to climatize as we will go thru 3 time zones - each one getting us up an hour earlier than PST zone we're acclimated to). Free breakfast paid for by a doaner (real breakfast) and after a quart of coffee, out to clean up our rides. I met with the Road Guard Captain and immediately about 6 of us went to the staging area (for the Wednesday departure) and figured out the parking and the breakdown of the platoons - estimated 6 40 bike platoons, 1 platoon of trikes and bikes with trailers, plus the chase vehicles. Back to the Hotel where my job is to set up all the Road Guards with ID decals for the bikes, traffic flags, arm bands, ground radios (CB's are for when we're underway), special gloves, and hats. I can lock the stuff up every now and then as everyone will not be in before 2PM Tuesday. And I needed to go "sign in" - sign in for the RFTW is very formal - you show your license w/motorcycle stamp, proof of insurance, registration and give them your next of kin info. After that its back to the truck to issue a few more items and relax.

Just as I was putting things away, a mess of old brother's and sisters arrived - Pegleg (left a leg in 'Nam), Sgt Rock (left an arm in 'Nam), Finger's, Cannon, Brain Dead, Fodder, Mary Sue (a guy), Undertaker, FlyBoy, Grave Digger - all names have meanings, some way to meaningful. I know these guys and I can tell you - a conversation with these guys can tell you more about why veteran's hate war, and why vet's support the troops, than anything can. As the days go by, the conversations will get a lot more specific - the names will start to come up, the guys that were great, the guys we only miss because they're from the brotherhood, the guys we will never forget. It's the first of many days of memories, welcomes, and tears. Many of us even tonight had to leave some of the conversations.

Time to crash - the Mission Rules form here on.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Update on my life....

Hello there! I hope someone is still out there to read this as I've been gone so very long. Guess you could say I have been living life instead of writing about it. Have been very busy.....many events the past few months. We joined the Patriot Guard Riders (hubby more so than I as I was still representing Operation: MOM at funerals & homecomings) and participated in many, many homecomings which of course are absolutely my most favorite things to do. Thankfully I have not been to many funerals which are my least favorite things to do. We visited the Vets at the VA Hospital in Palo Alto for Christmas & Valentines. Celebrated Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentines Day, St. Patricks Day, Easter & Mother's Day. Steve & I have both had birthdays as have some of our good friends. The biggest event & most life altering was that my husband had a heart attack on March 26th. We were at the airport in San Jose to welcome home a soldier when he collapsed in the flag line. Luckily 2 of the people who were with the welcome group were nurses & took over. EMT's were there in moments & we were 5 min from O'Connor Hospital. He had an angioplasty that evening (by Dr. who is only in ER 2x's a month) .....and all is well now. Our son came home for 2 weeks on emergency leave which was great. We are slowly getting back to business as usual & life is getting busy again tho we are taking it a little least for awhile....trying to only do 1 event a day.

Major changes happened with Operation: MOM too in that time I was MIA. Back in March both the President & VP resigned due to health/personal reasons so positions were filled by the co-founders of the group. March packing was postponed so I mailed Easter cards out to contacts I had in Iraq & Afghanistan. I packed up Mother's Day cards to a Marine unit, a hospital & other contacts in Iraq & Afghanistan to be distributed. Shortly thereafter I was told that Operation: MOM felt that they needed their focus to be on family support & would not be doing large packings anymore. They would send packages of cards for me tho but it would be bulk mailings. I felt that our cards couldn't take I looked for another way to get the cards overseas & to individual soldiers/marines/airmen/sailors. A couple weeks ago I went to a packing for Operation: Care & Comfort I decided it would be a good fit for this project. They send packages every month so I can send out as I get the cards in....this way I won't have them around my house for 3 months or so. I also will be able to send out special holidays in packages....I have been sending some out myself as there wasn't a packing at the time. I will start sending cards out thru them in July. Father's Day cards will go this week thru Operation: MOM.

I'm sure there will be more I need to tell you as I think of it but for now this will be my 'getting back into the groove' post. Next week I will begin posting for a friend who is heading cross country on his motorcycle to DC on the "Run for The Wall" (RFTW)....he will send me posts daily...not sure if I will have photo's or not yet. I also want to tell ou all about a run we attended in memory of Cpl Michael Anderson,'s too. Hope everyone has a great Mother's Day.

Soldier Gets Iraqi Girl New Legs

I actually read this in MY paper !!

May 10, 2008
Knight Ridder

BAGHDAD - Staff Sgt. Luis Falcon, 38, was patrolling the streets of Baqouba, north of Baghdad, when he saw Shahad Abbas. The 11-year-old girl was in a large decrepit wheelchair, and the stumps of her legs where her calves should have been were crusted with dried blood.

Falcon couldn't just walk on, so he stopped to talk. He came back the next day and the day after that, then every day for six months, bringing her toys, gauze for her legs, a new wheelchair. Anything she asked for, he would bring.

In a war that Falcon no longer really understood, Shahad became his mission. So when she asked for legs, that became his mission, too.

On Friday his dream and hers came true, just three weeks before he's scheduled to leave Iraq. Shahad was fitted with prosthetic limbs in a U.S. military-funded clinic in Baghdad that normally provides artificial limbs for wounded members of the Iraqi security forces.

"We created a bond, and I didn't need a translator to interpret the bond we had," Falcon said.
With no little girls of his own, he thought of Shahad as his daughter and carried a picture of her smiling in the shoulder pocket of his uniform.

Iraq has one of the largest populations of amputees in the world, though a (Read more...)

Thursday, May 01, 2008


May is National Military Appreciation Month (this is the 10th year) (California is reviewing whether to recognize Silver Star Banner)


We are pleased to announce that to date 44 states and 89 cities across the country are joining in to declare Silver Star Day. Many cities and states have made Silver Star Day a "permanent" day to honor Wounded. Five state s have recognized the Silver Star Service Banner as their Official symbol for the wounded and ill.

The Silver Star Families of America's mission is to remember, honor and assist the wounded in any way we can. We primarily do this by issuing thousands of Silver Star Banners and Certificates to the wounded or their families. When someone sees a Banner in a window or a Flag flying, we want them to remember the sacrifices made for this country. Many of our members have wounded children or have been wounded themselves . They are dedicated to this cause and they are dedicated to the wounded.

Please join us by honoring a wounded Hero with a Silver Star Banner, visit a V.A. Medical center; a veteran’s home; a military hospital, drive with your lights on where permitted; say a prayer; requests Banners at: or Sponsor a Silver Star Banner for a wounded Soldier .

If nothing else at 5:00 PM central, stop and REMEMBER. Remember those that have shed blood and given up so much for you and I. Remember those who have been affected by the horrors of war.

It is all about our wounded kids and the more we reach - -the more we can help and honor . This has been an all-out team effort. We are also asking all veteran organizations to join with the Silver Star Families of America to say thank you to our wounded. The SSFOA honor and respect all who support our military.Please let us know how you support our Wounded Heroes on May 1st Silver Star Day and throughout the entire military appreciation month of May.

Steve Newton, Founder

Silver Star Families of Ameri ca, 525 Cave Hollow RD, Clever, MO 65631 -6313

Check out The Gratitude Campaign

Now you do have the time to let them know how you feel.....