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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

RFTW 2009 - Pt 6 (Rich)

May 19th
This segment covers Meridian to Chattanooga. This was one of the few times that breakfast was on our own. However, the hotel had a continental breakfast for free, so once again, free breakfast. As we do every morning we have our meetings. Each morning we also pick up new registered riders. What we do is get all the new FNG’s up front to applause from the rest of us. The coordinator than asks us to look at them and asks us what we say to new FNG’s. We all holler “Welcome!” Then they are told that they are a part of our group and if they have any questions, to ask anyone wearing an arm band of any color. Our job is to get them to their destination, whether it is part way or all the way, safely.

Again, we depart with a gas stop (not free) with a destination of the Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center. As we roll up to an entrance you notice flags lining each side. Then you see the patients lining the walkway and cheering us. Many of them are in wheelchairs and accompanied by hospital staff. As we dismount, we go over and mingle with the patients.

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Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center

While here, we were fed lunch and were able to visit patients in their rooms. I have trouble doing this for some reason. It is something I am working on to overcome my reluctance to visit my brothers and sisters that are bed ridden. The director of the hospital gave a short speech thanking us for being there and making the Medical Center one of our stops.

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Tuscaloosa VA Medical Center Director

After lunch and a visit, we mounted up for the ride into Chattanooga. As a side note, I had emailed and called a guy I served with in the Marines. His name is “Buzz” Griffey. So far he has not returned any email and phone calls. Last year when I saw him, he was not in great health. I haven’t talked to him in several months and I am getting worried. I told him I was doing Run for the Wall and that one of the stops would be Chattanooga. That is where he is from even though he lives in Chickamauga, Ga. He has 8 acres just south of the battlefield. We toured it last year when I was there. Hopefully, he will call me soon.

But back to the story. We stopped outside of Asheville for a gas stop and a surprise snack stop. If you have spent any time in the south, you will recognize the food chain store called Piggly Wiggly!. I swear to you that is the name. I have proof. See the picture!

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Piggly Wiggly! They really exist!

While here, a local motorcycle club provided snacks which consisted of hot dogs and chips. Of course, I had to have something. I couldn’t just ignore that good old southern hospitality, could I. like I said earlier, too much food and not enough exercise.

On the road again and heading for Thunder Creek Harley in Chattanooga. We were warned to be alert because we would be getting there right around the commute hour and that traffic would be horrendous. Once we got there, everything turned out pretty good. Traffic was heavy but our road guards did their normal outstanding job and got us all thru without any problems. We got to Thunder Creek and found parking to be real bad. We were parked on a long downhill driveway. I wasn’t too comfortable with that because my bike is loaded. I managed to pull way over and turn slightly left so that the bike wasn’t pointing downhill. I felt a little easier with that.

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The driveway at Thunder Creek HD. It doesn’t really show its steepness

The HD shop provided supper for us. Hamburgers and hot dogs and all the fixings. They had entertainment set up outside, also. There were vendors and also the Tennessee Veteran’s Memorial Wall. It listed those men and women from Tn. who served and gave all. It is another instance of why I love sunglasses. I can’t look at it for too long.

They did have entertainment. Of course it was country and you know how much I just love country, NOT! But one thing I did do. I found the cheapest pair of gloves I could find. Along the way, Karoni lost one of my summer leather gloves and I lost one of my summer gloves. So all I had was a leather set. I bought a padded, fingerless set that I used the next couple of days. Fortunately, the HD part of the gloves that I paid so much extra for are all black and hard to see.

Monday, May 25, 2009

RFTW 2009 - Pt. 5 (Rich)

May 17th

This segment of the journey covers Weatherford,Tx to Monroe, La. We met in the morning and as usual had our morning meetings. Sometime, either today or yesterday, I don’t remember when, I switched to 2nd platoon. There we ride side by side. One of the biggest advantages is that you also get to refueling earlier and are able to stretch your legs and make a pit stop with time to spare.

Our first stop was the small town of Terrell, Tx. Once again, people were cheering and flags were waving as we pulled into the gas station (free gas) and then staged. The town set up an area where they had snacks and sandwiches for us. After a quick pit stop I got on line for some snacks. They had pimento cheese sandwiches, PB & J sandwiches, and ham salad sandwiches. I tried a pimento and a PB & J sandwich. As we were enjoying our snacks and drinking our water (you got to hydrate) the town mayor started the ceremony. He talked about how much it meant to the town to have us make Terrell one of our stops. We pick up more riders here like we do at almost every stop.

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Terrell, Tx. snacks and townspeople

He talked about our mission and how important it is. He then presented us with a check for $780 to use for gas or whatever we wanted. Then the local Raytheon plant presented us with a check for $1000.00 that they raised. A couple of local MC riding clubs dug in and came up with a couple of hundred dollars also. We were given over $2000.00 at this stop. You may be wondering what happens to this money. You will find out later on this journey.

We head out to cheers of thanks from the townspeople. Why they thank us is hard to get a grip on. They appreciate what we are doing and support us. We should be cheering and thanking them. That we try to do by waving and sounding our horns as we leave. It touches your heart as you leave these small towns. These people are proud of their town and country and our mission.

Our next stop is Longview, TX. for lunch. It is put on by the Longview VFW Post 4002. Another free meal is provided. I thought I would lose some weight during the trip but if anything happens, I will gain some. All the free food and no time to exercise. Not a good combination.

I have to say something here that might upset some of you but it needs saying and it is my opinion. When we returned from Viet Nam, this country turned their backs on us. The best thing that could happen was that people ignored you. At least when they did that, they weren’t spitting at you or calling you “baby killers”. But what hurt more than anything was the lack of respect and support from veteran’s who served before us. An example of that is the VFW. Viet Nam Vets were not eligible to join. After all, we didn’t really fight a “War”. We were shunned by the very same people who should have known better but for some reason chose the path they took. That is one reason I wouldn’t join any VFW today. I know they have changed and realize their mistake, but I still can’t forget. Again, if my opinion, and this is only my opinion, offends you I am sorry. I know many people who are members of the VFW and they do a lot of fine work on the behalf of Veterans.

Our next stop was Monroe, La. We finally made it out of Texas. A big state with some absolutely wonderful people. The scenery was not what I expected. The southwestern part of the state was mostly flat and relatively dry. Not desert but not lush and green. As you got closer to Ft. Worth, it became greener and more trees. My friend Terry Bishop who rides with Star Touring in Orange County once told me that Texas had a lot of hills. I have to admit, there are hills in Texas and it is nowhere near as flat as Kansas.

As we crossed into Louisiana, we were greeted by an overpass of people. Flags flying and waving to us as we have seen many times on this journey. I don’t think I will ever get used to it. But the biggest surprise was that there was an Apache Attack Helicopter hovering about 3 feet off the ground to our right. As we rode past, the prop blast form the rotors hit us and the whole formation moved to the left as we went by. Another thing that happened was that the State Police picked us up as we crossed into the state and escorted us the whole way. They even shut down I 25 so we had the freeway to ourselves. What a site with about 400 bikes plus chase vehicles and many cars and RV’s that were part of our group.

In Monroe, we had another free dinner at the Shriner’s Hall. I found out one major thing about Louisiana cooking. They love fried food. As someone said, if they pick up a piece of food, and the grease doesn’t drip off, it isn’t cooked right!!!! But the meal was catfish.

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Lined up outside the Shriner’s Hall

And in LA, they know catfish. Problem is, fish and me just don’t agree with each other. I ate what other things they had, and left the building quickly. Either that or getting sick was the alternative!

May 18th

This segment covers Monroe, La to Meridian, Ms. After our usual morning meetings we head for downtown Monroe for the Veterans Memorial. We are greeted by the Mayor and several other people. At the Memorial, we again lay a wreath and listen to a short speech from the Mayor. We present the Mayor with a plaque of appreciation for having us in Monroe. We do this at many locations to thank those that support us. As we were leaving, cold water was waiting in the main building compliments of Monroe, La. We mounted up and headed down the highway with more bikes. I think we are up to about 300 bikes.

Again we had police escort. The Mississippi State Police picked us up at the La border and would escort us thru the state. We had a gas stop in Tallulah. Ms. These are always the same. How long to they take? Surprisingly we can get those 300 bikes thru the gas line and back formed up in about 20 minutes. How do we do this? We approach the pumps in two lines. We have an advance crew that handles the pumps and collects the money. They tell you how much you owe and they always round up the amount. You get no change. So if you put in $5.25 you would be charged $6.00. The system works great once you have been thru it once or twice. The advance team works hard to make sure we get in and out.

As usual, along the way we see people on the side of the road, on overpasses and across the freeway waving and cheering. It never gets tiring and it does affect us. I still wonder where these people were 40 years ago. But at least they are here now.

Jackson, Ms. is something to see. We stop at the Jackson Harley to a rousing welcome. People are all over cheering. We pass thru a line of people who are dressed in modern all the way to the Revolutionary War outfits. As I pass I get several Semper Fi,s. Once we fuel up and park we are treated to a special meal in the shop.

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Army SOC Parachutist landing at the Jackson HD Shop

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A small sampling of the people lining the road at the Jackson HD shop

When we were done eating, the special guests were brought in. There were two of the Tuskegee Airman, a former POW, and 3 Medal of Honor Recipients. Unfortunately, I can’t remember any of their names. I lost what notes I had with all the names on it.

Outside the shop they had set up what they call the “Trail of Honor Reenactment”. They had displays of each major conflict from the Revolution to Viet Nam. It was here that I ran into the person who yelled “Semper Fi. It turned out that he was in one of my sister squadrons in Chu Lai. He was with VMFA-115. We had a long talk about our experience in Chu Lai.

At this point I was talking to a guy named DJ from Kansas. We decided to leave early for Meridian. Along the way, we once again had people waving to us along the freeway and on overpasses. By now you should know how much this means to me. I am still getting teary eyed when I see this. It is really special and appreciated. After the Sgt. Maj. got to the room he asked me why I left early. I told him I was just tired and needed to do laundry and wanted to be able to relax. He asked if any people were on the overpasses as I went by. I told him they were. He told me the State Police estimated there were close to 700 people along the way. That is a lot more than I saw. But by this time I am tired and needed a little break from everything.

RFTW 2009 - Rolling Thunder (Doug)

Sunday morning was Rolling Thunder - all the bikes come together in the Pentagon parking lot and run to the Wall. The term comes from the Vietnam War and is descriptive of one of the sounds of war and power. When 400,000 motorcycles start their engines, you can hear them for blocks. At 0530 I'm up and ready to go. Off to the Pentagon and find that the lot all ready has a few thousand bikes staged. I take my bike to the "VIP Escort" area as I have the privilege of having a Gold Star Mom riding on my back seat. Their are a hundred or so of us and their are a couple of "deuce and halfs" for the GSMom's/Dad's that don't have helmets. Their is zero shortage for scoots, just a shortage of the required helmets. No shortage of GSM/D''s, unfortunately. We spend the next couple of hours talking to friends from different groups, listen to the scoot noises and basically relax. At 1100, a bus pulls into the far end and off step the Gold Star Mom's/Dad's. The riders sitting on a grassy hillside near the bus stand and applaud. As the GSM/D's start walking thru the assembled bikes, row after row of rider's stand, come forward and form a corridor that the GSM's/D's walk thru. And we cheer and salute as row after row comes to attention to recognize these brave people and the sacrifice they live with.

At 1145 the last of the bikes are staged. It started at about 0430 - over 6 hours. At 1155 a lone B52 does a low fly over and then at 1200, we roll. Many of the participants are Vietnam Vets, but everyone is there for the vets. Being in the Gold Star contingent, I'm out of the lot by about 1208, and passing a Marine SSgt standing at attention, presenting arms. (He had his orders to deploy delayed so that he could be there to render this honor) And he will hold that until the last bike passes. The ride goes a pretty good distance in a large circle - I'd say about 3 miles. 3 miles of 3 or 4 deep people waving, cheering, saluting, holding the signs, being very respectful. One of the largest turnouts I've ever seen. Wanting to high 5, touch, thank, salute - it is a great day for vets of all time. We stage at about 1245 (took that long to go around) and walk over to the Wall (I needed to get a couple of rubbings). We walk over to Thunder Alley, and watch the last bikes come thru to final staging - about 1545. And the Marine SSgt can order arms. An amazing site.

As we drove in the parade, we passed thousands of bikes that elected to sit and watch rather than do Rolling Thunder. THOUSANDS. I have no idea how many veterans were here nor do I know the final count on bikes in and/or around DC and/or the Pentagon.


Memorial Day

"Once each May, amid the quiet hills and rolling lanes and breeze-brushed trees of Arlington National Cemetery, far above the majestic Potomac and the monuments and memorials of our Nation's Capital just beyond, the graves of America's military dead are decorated with the beautiful flag that in life these brave souls followed and loved.

This scene is repeated across our land and around the world, wherever our defenders rest. Let us hold it our sacred duty and our inestimable privilege on this day to decorate these graves ourselves -- with a fervent prayer and a pledge of true allegiance to the cause of liberty, peace, and country for which America's own have ever served and sacrificed. ... Our pledge and our prayer this day are those of free men and free women who know that all we hold dear must constantly be built up, fostered, revered and guarded vigilantly from those in every age who seek its destruction.

We know, as have our Nation's defenders down through the years, that there can never be peace without its essential elements of liberty, justice and independence. Those true and only building blocks of peace were the lone and lasting cause and hope and prayer that lighted the way of those whom we honor and remember this Memorial Day. To keep faith with our hallowed dead, let us be sure, and very sure, today and every day of our lives, that we keep their cause, their hope, their prayer, forever our country's own." --
Ronald Reagan

Saturday, May 23, 2009

RFTW 2009- Last Day & End of Mission (Doug)

Last Day, 238 miles, two stops - Must start earlier as getting into DC can be a challenge. The numbers keep fluctuating but we currently have about 625 pieces of rolling stock with just shy of 590 being scoots. And the Central Route will be coming in close behind. If you ever been to DC, you know what that can mean. DC has a tendency to always have road construction someplace, new roads opening and other roads closed. Not to mention construction on other projects springing up all over the place. And in my opinion, the roads are in really bad repair. Scoots feel every bounce, especially those towing trailers. And the GPS's have problems keeping up with all the changes. Some turns are into the wrong lane so knowing the route that specific day is critical. In order to make things less of a problem, we'll be sending 7th Platoon in ahead of the main pack (scoots with trailers, trikes, etc) as well as all but one chase vehicle (chase being the vehicles that pick up any broken motorcycles - or like we say, the Harley truck!)

We still have out Virginia State Troopers but from here on in we have to obey most of the traffic laws. These guys are great - originally the State said no to an escort so these 6 (now down to 4) were volunteering to do it on their own time, money and expense and use their own scoots. At the last minute, the state said do it officially. They've told us that out of all the groups they escort, we are the most well organized and smooth operation out there. When we do "breakaways" - the road boss sends us individually or in pairs to "impede traffic" - we're normally on our own. Now the LEO makes the signal and the road boss dispatches us with them. Usually we play ketch up as their bikes are Kawi 1000's and have a huge low end and can jump out hard. Some of the RG's have to get told to speed up to catch up - I don't need the direction and I'm astute enough not to try and pass them. These guys move!!Breakfast supplied by a Service Organization and then we form up at 0630. RG's take off for our posts and then we move out. It is smooth until we hit traffic. This section of the interstate is 2 lanes each direction. Sounds like a lot but the traffic tends to pace us and we have to constantly "push" them past us. You really can't blame them - if they don't know who we are, they assume we're the Hell's Angels. I think our average speed is about 45. Thank goodness I'm a RG as we are moving considerably faster as we have to constantly dodge ahead to open the roads, block on ramps, etc. We pull into Tom's Brook a hair ahead of schedule, gas up, pee, hydrate and stage. Final riders meeting with cautions about traffic and the specifics about pulling off the freeway (in DC) and where to park. We're on the road again for the last 86 miles and the anticipation is great. People on overpasses, etc, per usual (and again, where were the "people" when my brothers and sisters came home!) and we still get teary eyed. Very uneventful ride and then into the staging point at the host hotel. We actually send everyone into the parking lot across from the hotel as the hotel wants people checked in BEFORE parking. Its almost like old home week. Most everyone leaves their scoots and head into the hotel to register, have a drink, cool down and start the story telling. Families that flew in or caged in greet their loved ones, some of us hug the ones that are going elsewhere and we might not see again, and some just check in and crash. I take off as I'm staying elsewhere and I'm going to CMC House for a tour followed by the Evening Parade at Marine Barracks. The Road Guards did a fantastic job for 3000 miles.

Never forget!

End of Mission. Not a lot to do today (Saturday). Tomorrow is Rolling Thunder - all the scoots will stage at the Pentagon parking area (the estimate is that we'll have about a half million scoots. But this for another email. Back to today. There are only two official RFTW functions - one is the dinner which I won't attend as I'm going to a Gold Star/Stories of Service event in the same time frame. The other is the group photo at the Lincoln Memorial at 1300. Around 1100 many of us are already in the area. We move around the Vietnam Memorial grounds and visit the Nurses Memorial ( 3 nurses - one kneeling and looking at the ground where a helmet lies - a Fallen Hero died here. Another is giving comfort to a wounded hero. And the third is looking skyward to the sound of a medevac chopper either coming in with wounded and Fallen or going to get some - a non stop occurrence in a war. Then we move to the 3 Soldiers - these are three guys looking towards the Wall where their brothers and sisters are - they like many of us can hear the voices and see the faces. We never forget. Emotions at this time can be overwhelming and often are. Even for me. Then, if we're up to it, a trip down to the Wall a slow walk that many have never been able to make and that some, like myself, have finally done it. I don't know why but its always massively emotional for me - so many of our finest. (I'll put a link at the very end if you want to learn about statistics on the Wall) . Off to the Lincoln Memorial. We have 10 minutes to move about a thousand participants on two the stairs, get seated and get the picture as the Park Police can not leave the stairs blocked. We are asked - "How Far" and as a group, we shout "All the Way". All the Way across our nation to insure that the world will not forget our veterans EVER again. Immediately after we have three ceremonies - one for just Road Guards starts at the 3 Soldiers where we have a short "service - we brought some ashes with us across country - a Marine Master Gunnery Sergeant who served 4 tours in 'Nam and was a Road Guard on RFTW for 5 years. After the service we escort his widow down to a special spot on the Wall where we leave his ashes. Then, on this years RFTW, we had photo's and BIO's of 40 of our MIA's - carried by 40 bikes - and along with some children of the MIA, we take those pictures to the apex in the Wall where we have a short prayer and leave the photo's so no one will ever forget. And lastly, we lay the RFTW wreath and plaque at the apex. We salute the plaque, the wreath, the photos, and our brothers and sisters. End of Mission.

Never Forget. The Mission rules.

Got to go. RFTW 2010 starts in just 360 days.

Coming with us?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Happy Birthday to the Merchant Marines!

The history of the Merchant Marines finds its way back during the Revolutionary war. Private armed and unarmed ships were issued a “Letter of Marque” commissioning the ships to become private spies and to prey on enemy ships. Therefore the men who manned these vessels were history’s first US Merchant Marines. Thus from those beginnings and even up to the present the Merchant Marines have been a vital part of support for the nation’s armed services. During WWII they had transported explosives and supplies across treacherous waters often with out the ability to defend themselves from enemy attacks. National Maritime Day is May 22nd. Each President declares the proclamation of this important day from the first proclamation which was on May 20,1933.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

RFTW 2009 - Days 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 (Doug)

Day 5 - Weatherford, Tx to Monroe, La, 4 stops, 350 miles.

Another great day for the Mission - we've grown some but I'm not sure to what numbers. You can join/register every nite when we stop and for a short period of time in the AM. We always welcome the FNG's has its what keeps us going as an event. More bikes but not really any new style paint jobs.

The Road Guards I'm having the pleasure of riding with are great. Friendly, competent to the max, knowledgeable. Great bunch.

Church service - non denominational (like 'Nam and most conflicts) and then on the road at 0800 (for Spike, who I understand just had a birthday, the big hand is straight up and the little hand.......... never mind). Breakfast was on our own which means I had my coffee and some oranges. Or, I ate at the hotel as it would have been free. We got free gas this AM (RG's only) so another little savings!! First destination is Terrell on I -20. And of course, as we drive, people on the over passes and along the sides of the road. In Terrell we get greeted by about a hundred, gas up, pee stop, water, and we're gone!!! Off to Longview - and we're flying. Heading for lunch and a longer break. I'm wearing summer riding clothes but its still comfortable and I don't have to worry about rain as much. In Longview we're fed lunch by the local VFW. Most meals are BBQ oriented, but they're free. And plenty

of liquids, oranges and bananas. We had an hour some a few got to cat nap, but then swoopin' time is here! And we're off to Minden for a quick gas stop before moving on to Monroe (our nite stop). Yet again, people waving us on. More flyovers from the local Guard (I assume). More and more dedicated Americans. A fairly quick day because of the distance we need to cover although we did have two smaller ceremonies. And everyone is so sincere about it.

Day 6 - Monroe to Meridian, 3 stops, 208 miles.

Ceremony in downtown Monroe. Welcome us and pray for the fallen and MIA. Everyone understands the Mission. I think I forgot to mention that most of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi we have State Trooper escort. No stopping for lites, stop signs - nothing so we are making excellent time. Lunch in Jackson is provided by a Harley Davidson Dealership situated near a Memorial. And the kids again do the lunch and show us thru the Trail of Honor. Again with a lot of emotion for us. Afterwards, off to Meridian. This was is something else. Almost all the way we have one or two aircraft flying around us. Helicopters hovering or fixed wing making flyovers and doing it all very dramatically. Overpasses filled to over filled. People in larger numbers sporadically along the sides. When we crest a small rise and start across a fairly large bridge, we are given the heads up to two rotary wing aircraft hovering at the other end - very close to the ground. The prop wash beats us pretty good but boy does it bring back the memories. Two choppers - one slick for medevac, one Cobra armed to the teeth. Not happy memories, just memories. Then thru the downtown area, a few dozen turns and we're at the dinner/nite stop. Visit with the patients at the VA. More food. More people thanking us, more ceremonies, more prayers. More everything. More emotions. Kids all over the place wanting to touch us, talk to us, have their picture taken with us. Be a part of this. Great kids and awe inspiring.End of Day. The Mission Rules!!
Day 7, Meridian to Chattanooga, 298 miles, 3 stops.

When ever we have a day with about 300 miles things have to move quickly. The average speed so far is about 54. That's actually quite fast but when you're moving this many vehicles it makes a long day. Breakfast at the "AG" Pavilion and then we're gone. We're up to about 450 scoots. Along the way - more people on the bridges cheering and saluting. Its almost the norm. We visit a VA hospital (about our 4th) and they feed us. Good healthy food which actually tasted good. Not to mention, yet again, free. We spend some time talking to the patients - always bitter sweet - we know they wait for this day to come and it makes me wonder where all there families are - but they seem to enjoy our coming and visiting.and then we're off to Chattanooga. In Chattanooga we're welcomed by a pretty good crowd. And then we eat although I have no idea who supplied the food. BBQ, pulled pork, etc is getting old but its free. We say goodnite to our hosts after the ceremonies and head for our hotels.
Day 8, Chattanooga to Wytheville, 276 miles 4 stops.

Departing Chattanooga we stop to lay a wreath at the Confederate Cemetery. Quite impressive. We stop in Knoxville for Crispy Creme - I have no idea who paid, but it wasn't us. My brother in law came down but I was only there for a few minutes. Its a truck stop so its BUSY and we spend some time just dodging trucks. Same thing the RG's do on the freeway. More pushing and cruising. The highways are a lot narrower here so we need to very careful. Its getting more difficult to move the pack and we've grown some. Lunch in Bristol at another Harley Dealer. ThenAdd Image we pick up a Police Escort into Wytheville Memorial Park. We are greeted there by the middle school and they show us around the Memorial and the trucks with unbelievable paint jobs - all honoring the fallen. Off to the Moose Lodge for a steak (STEAK) dinner.In the morning the kids serve us breakfast in the cafeteria and afterwards put on a patriotic show for us. Every kid is smiling and telling there stories. Just wonderful. And very teary eyed.

Day 9, Wytheville to Roanoke, 125 miles, 1 stop.

There is a reason for this very short mileage day. We're headed for the Montvale School for a wreath laying and some stuff from the school. A huge welcome for us. The kids take us inside for lunch and to see that they have hung posters with each of our names on them - we need to sign them and then at the end of day, they take the posters down and put them in their archives. Then the kids put on a show involving some cute skits, military hymns, and singing. You have to be there to appreciate this. The kids are happy and smiling and having a great time with the songs they are singing. It would be wonderful if our politicians could come from this part on the country. America to the max. After the ceremony we get a group shot of the 34 of us RG's and then get everyone ready for the trip to the D Day Memorial. BTW, we are up to 625 scoots and of course we're on the narrowest of roads.

Even with the Virginia State troopers its difficult to move. We're playing bump and run but trying to get back up to the front is difficult. The National D Day memorial is huge and beautiful. There is a wall depicting the Rangers trying to scale to attack the Germans but they're taking a beating. There is a large water area depicting the beach front with a dead soldier on the beach and another struggling thru the water. There is a water system that "shoots" air thru the water making it look and sound similar an actual assault. Very good. At the hotel now. Dinner was on our own.

Tomorrow is the last day of the trip - we get in to DC at about 1:30 which means shower time before CMC House.

The closing of the Mission and my thoughts in a couple of days.

Never forget.

The Mission Rules.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

RFTW 2009-Day 2, 3 & 4 (Doug)

I've gotten behind because of being tired. The heat in the first couple of days just destroys you completely. Since I am behind the narrative might be a little disjointed or I might have an occurrence on the wrong day. Bear with me as it really shouldn't matter.

Day 2 - Phoenix to Las Cruces, NM (390 miles 4 stops). Basically a miserably hot day. But what makes the day another good day is again, the camaraderie amongst the Riders, and the unbelievable support and attitude of all of the people along the way, and, the Mission. Again, 3 gas stops - one or two free or donation only. Breakfast was at the Hotel (included) and coffee, water, fruit, etc at the Staging point somewhere inside a blast furnace. At breakfast we also get our first of many freshly "charged" cooling bandana's - the hydration team keeps a very large cooler filled with water & ice and these are soaking in them. They're a God send!! Off we go onto the freeway with a couple of hundred well wishers waving flags, holding signs, saluting, etc. No matter how many times it happens, its wonderful. Today we run straight to the first fuel stop, and pull in with a warm welcome from the people of the town ( Marana). About a total of 40 minutes for the pack to fuel, pee, drink a gallon or two, refresh their bandanas, poor water over their heads (seriously) and get back on the scoots. Road Guards had about 10 minutes less as we are already deployed to get the intersections blocked and to go onto the freeway and start "pushing". This is always interesting. "Pushing" means getting 4 RG's on the side of freeway before the on ramp connects to the highway. We stand in the traffic lane and gesture to the vehicles to move over 1 lane so our scoots can get on. Then we hop on our scoots and ZIP on up the freeway to our pack. The "zipping" is the fun part. Although we did this 3 times today, we also were waved at by people on overpasses and the sides of the route. We had people in the middle of nowhere doing it, we had people doing it at every gas station. Makes us feel good, proud, and a little dejected - where was this appropriate action when the Vietnam era vets were returning?!

Lunch provided by the people of Wilcox - and not bad. Not to mention the hero's welcome as we pulled into their fairgrounds and the Elks Lodge covered the lunch. After lunch, back on the scoots with fresh water and bandanas. Pushing and zipping, trying to keep the cages from getting into our formation which does not have any room to spare. Same things all day - people treating us very nicely, making us feel very good. At Las Cruces some of the Riders go to the Memorial we will all go to, tomorrow.

The morning Road Guard meeting - day 3

Most of Road Guards-2009 Southern Route (find Doug)
Day 3 - Las Cruces to Odessa (341 miles - 4 stops)- This AM its "breakfast on your own" with free coffee, fruit etc at the staging point. Then off to our Memorial that some went to the nite before. Hard to describe - a statue of 3 soldiers standing together in the middle of a field. As I'm walking towards it I'm walking on a "ridge" of dirt about a foot wide and about a foot high (the whole "park" is riddled with them. It goes thru a field of grasses about 18 inches tall. Then, just as I get to the soldiers statue, I realize the park is (simulated) rice paddy and the soldiers are coming in from a patrol. Most emotional - as the memories flood back, and for some reason, guilt. I go off (as some of the others have) to find some shade and a peaceful place to think - or actually to try and not think. After awhile, we saddle up, debate on rain gear (with general consensus of not necessary) and off we go. And 10 minutes into the leg, it RAINS, I mean it pores and now we're soaked to the bone. On The Mission we do not stop between scheduled stops. It requires a fairly substantial area to park 300 scoots so we just continue on. We get to out next destination, another Vietnam Memorial, and then put dry clothes on over our wet clothes. The theory is the rain stops and the temp goes thru the roof and everything will be dry RAPIDLY. Lunch again provided by the locals, gas again partly provided for - short break, and back on the saddles. This stays the same for the next part of todays run. Rain, COLD, people cheering!! Mile after mile.

When we pull into Odessa, more people. Its an unbelievable trip. So many people that want to say thanks for what some of us did, and what all of us are now doing. I think everyone should make this trip - if not for the healing, it will make you a HUGE believer in Welcoming home all of todays military. And this trip shows you the side of America that our media doesn't and that our politicians apparently ignore.

Day 4 - Odessa to Weatherford, 291 miles, 4 stops. Looks like a dry day but we wear slightly warmer clothing than long sleeve shirts. When moving we can, and often do, poor water over our selves to stay cool and the clothing dry's in a matter of minutes. But you can not warm up while driving so you try to predict what the weather will be like.

Our first stop is a Memorial for all wars but the emphasis is WWII and primarily the Philippines. Part of the Memorial has actual imprints of the bare footsteps of the 89 state residents that survived the Battan Death March. The whole Memorial is just for this state. It a large half moon design with some small walkways to the other conflicts. Very emotional as we are reminded again of all those that went before us and paid the ultimate price. I love it when the idiots in places like Bezerkeley accuse the vets of being war mongers. Vets no what the price of war is, and we know its way to steep. We hear some very moving speeches and again salute the flag and participate in the singing of our National Anthem. We have a wreath laying ceremony jointly with some of our rider's and some of the local vets. Beautiful.Police escort patiently waits (as our bikes cook in the sun, our helmets warm up) and we don't care. No complaints from anyone. Everyone sucks up their water and listens to the speech makers or they walk away in quiet contemplation. Everyone here is extremely sincere. Our emotions run very deep. Its one hell of a crowd.

After awhile we're back on the bikes heading east (more or less). RG's blocking intersections, rolling road blocks on the on ramps, weaving in and out of traffic to insure the ease of flow. The people in the pack have it harder than the RG's. Droning along while we can actually change up, run off the freeway change speed, etc. I enjoy what I'm doing - getting a large group of bikes to the East Coast.

We stop in Colorado City for lunch. The middle school kids serve us our lunch (taco's with all the trimmings - bring the food to our table). While doing that, the middle school band is playing and doing one heck of a job for any age group. The middle school kids go table to table asking us what else can they do for us. Then like every stop, they have the ceremonies honoring us and all vets. To be honest, I don't hang around for these - way to emotional. But what you see and hear from the kids in these towns is not rhetoric, not something they've memorized. Its their beliefs. And they are sincere. We have a future in America because of these kids and their parents. The hope that America will remain free and strong is right there in front of us. I've never felt that you have to be obsessive about our country - you can and should disagree when you don't like something, but never forget the good in this country.

On the road again. People again waving flags, honking, yelling. Middle of nowhere, on overpasses, sitting under an umbrella with no living spaces within site. More and more American's.

And that's it for tonight. I'm literally falling asleep as I type.

Never Forget.

The Mission Rules

RFTW 2009-PT 4 (Rich M)

May 16th
Today covers Odessa, Tx. to Weatherford, Tx. The first days of this journey all the way to Odessa have been very hot (100+) and dry. That is about to change on us. We had breakfast and staged at the American Legion Post 430 in Odessa. And yes, it was free for us.

After breakfast, we had our usual meetings and instructions and then departed for the Permian Basin Memorial Site. This is another very nice Memorial. Part of what was at the memorial is pictured below. It depicts three soldiers waiting for an evacuation helicopter. They are in a simulated rice patty. That was extremely hard for some of the riders once they realized what they were looking at. It was here that a wounded Iraqi War Vet talked to us. He actually thanked Viet Nam Vets for the legacy that we left and hoped that his generation would be able to carry on that tradition. he thanked us for all we do to show support for his generation of Veterans. He also promised that his generation would make sure that the next generation of veterans would not have to endure what we did. I have probably shed more tears on this trip than on anything else I can think of. Shiloh’s words, once again started the tears flowing. At least I am not alone because every vet standing there, felt the same pain remembering 40 yrs ago that I felt. We also felt the pride in what we did and what we have passed on to men like Shiloh.

Part of Permian Memorial

A little about Shiloh. He was injured by an IED that killed 3 of his brothers. His driver and he survived. He has been in recovery for a long time. For the first 45 days, he was put in a coma to help him recover. He had terrible burns and lost most of the fingers on his left hand. He had a bandage on his nose because the tip of his nose fell off about 2 days ago. That was a good thing, according to him. It is all part of the recovery. And he was thanking us. This country owes men like him a deep debt of gratitude for what he has done.

After the ceremony, we mounted up to continue our journey. We started with about 200 bikes in California. We are up to about 250 bikes now. People join all along the way. They must be registered to ride with us.

Our next stop was the Big Spring VN Memorial. We were told that there were scattered showers and that we should miss them. WRONG!!!! It started raining almost as soon as we got on the freeway. Of course, nobody stops. It doesn’t make any difference how hard it is raining. The mission comes first. Then the rain stopped. I was dry again in about 5 minutes. Just a few miles from the memorial, it rained again. This time we got soaked to the skin. We didn’t stop until we were all there. At this point, I put on my rain gear.

This was another very nice memorial in a small town. We laid a wreath and were welcomed by several people. After I went to the detaled map of VN and found Chu Lai. That is where I spent most of my time in Nam. One of the people who welcomed us was a man wearing a Navy Hat that said Corpsman. When I see one of these people, I try to ask them the same question. I knew the answer in this case before I asked it. I called out “Doc” and he immediately turned. I knew he served with the Marines. I shook hands and asked him if he served with Marines. He said yes. I gave him a hug and told him he was as much a Marine as those he served with. Then I said Semper Fi and before we knew it, both of us were hugging and crying in each other’s arms. I told him how special he was and how much men like him mean to Marines. Even though it was overcast, I was so glad I had on my sunglasses. They sure do keep out the sun!

We finally mounted up in our rain gear. Even though we were soaked on the inside, and now dry on the outside, we all had a warm feeling in our hearts from this visit. It was special to be there. More and more I am glad I am taking this journey. This is only the 4th day and I can’t imagine what is coming. Everyone says “you ain’t seen nothing, yet!” we headed for the small town of Colorado City, Tx. Once we arrived, we were treated to lunch again.

This time was different. Middle school students prepared everything. They set the tables and actually served us. Lunch was beef taco’s and cookies. They were great. We got to hear from several of the kids who spoke for the school and city. They all did a great job. Part of what the kids did was to make murals of each of the members of the town who had served. They went back to WWII. They had pictures of each person and a small history of what they did in the service. The students had to gather the pictures and do the research for whichever person they did the mural on.

(Photo added here later)

This is an example. I chose this one because of what it says. He was a WWII Vet who would like to see the New York Yankees. There is a man after my heart. They had done quite a lot of these. They were all done tastefully and for those they paid the ultimate sacrifice, with a lot of dignity. These are all middle school children. The future of our country. Seems like the next generation will turn out pretty good.

We left Colorado City and headed on to Weatherford. After a fuel stop we arrived in Weatherford for dinner at the American Legion Post 163. After dinner, we headed to our hotels.

RFTW 2009-PT 3 (Rich M)

May 14th

This leg of the journey covers Phoenix to Las Cruces, NM. This was another hot, hot, day. We all drank a lot of water and at times poured water over our shirts to cool off. After our first gas stop in Marana, we headed on to our lunch break in Wilcox, Az. Again, you would be riding thru the desert and all of a sudden you would see people on the side of the road or on an overpass waving flags with signs. Forty years ago, people would probably be throwing rocks at us. Times have changed and Viet Nam Vets are starting to be appreciated. It feels so good.

As we were riding along 4 Apache Attack Helicopters appeared. They ran from one end of the formation of about 300 bikes, and down the other side and back around about 2 more times. After they left, we saw 4 Warthog attack jets coming toward us. They did the same thing only much faster and about 5 times. As they came down the sides of the formation, they started wiggling their wings. There was no doubt about why they were there. What a total adrenaline rush that was. The present day military shows Viet Nam Vets in many different ways that they understand what we went thru and that they understand the legacy that we left for them to carry on. Again, I am sure glad I had sunglasses on.

As we pulled into Wilcox, a small desert town that made Blythe look large. We were given free gas again. Then it was on to the local American Legion Post for lunch. That was also free of charge. Every stop that we make for lunch has either been at an American Legion Hall or VFW Hall. We have a small ceremony and then present thank you plaques to the local people who have worked so hard to plan and set up our lunch.

But this leg of the journey has been mostly riding. No Veterans Memorials or Hospitals to visit. We just road on and waved at people as we passed them holding up their signs.

May 15th

Today’s leg of the journey covers Las Cruces, NM to Odessa, Tx. Again, a lot of heat during this leg. We have been in the desert since leaving Rancho Cucamonga. It is starting to get to people a little bit.

Our first stop was the Perriman Valley Veteran’s Memorial ( sorry, no pictures here. My camera died because I forgot to charge it) in Las Cruces. It was a very nice place that had the names of all the local residents that served in the military. Those that perished, were identified on each plaque. Many names for a small population. While there, we placed a wreath at the base of the flag. The local Marine Corps League were the color guard and did a great job of posting the colors. Several people spoke here and at times I had tears in my eyes again. I just wonder sometimes why it has taken this long for this country to embrace those of us who served in Viet Nam. I just have to keep saying to myself that it is better late than never. There are times when that is so hard to do.

It was during this leg of the journey, “Mustang”, went down. It was scary to see. Mustang is a couple of years older than me. As we were riding along, he seemed to be drifting off his line. Finally, he went over the white line and hit the rumble strips that roused him and he came back on track. Well, it got worse until he actually went off the pavement and into the dirt. Surprisingly, he brought the bike back under control. He did it again and everyone was trying to get him to stop. He kept slowing down and by the time I got past, his head was hanging down and he was just staring ahead.

One thing has been made clear to us. Do Not Stop for a bike that breaks down or if a bike crashes. Only the person closest to the crash stops. We are on a mission and if someone crashes the mission goes on. There is a medical team following the bikes and they will stop and take care of any injuries.

The next morning, Mustang, was with us. It seems he got stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction. As he said, his heart was beating a mile a minute, he was having trouble breathing, and once he stopped the bike layed over on its side. He said the medical team told him he was griping the bike so hard that they had a hard time getting him to let go. They got him to the hospital and treated real quick. He was back with us the next morning and telling us not to all stop for an accident. It really was a relief to see him. The rumor mill had him near death with a heart attack and even worse.

Once again, everywhere along the route, people would be waving flags and cheering as we went by. It really does get hard to ride sometimes. Your vision gets blurred when they well up with tears. When I see these people, especially when there are young children, I sometimes find myself drifting and thinking about things I do not want to think about. I snap out of it when the bike next to me starts to move up on me because I am slowing down. But I will get to the Wall. I am on a mission and I will not fail. Keep me in your thoughts as I go on this journey because at times it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Without the support of those riders that have done this before, at times I am not sure if I could continue.

When we got to Las Cruces, we were fed by Las Cruces Harley Davidson. We also got free gas again. The Harley shop stayed open late to feed us. They did make some money on parts that people bought. Is that a Harley joke waiting to be told???

Again, we had free gas at least twice on this leg. We were fed lunch and supper free. These small towns really go all out. It is nice to see and even more humbling to experience. Why do they do it? I don’t really know. Maybe it is their way of making amends for what happened when we came home. They may not have had anything to do with that period in time but maybe they want us experience what our homecoming should have been like when we were young.

Tempers did get a little frayed this evening. It seems the Days Inn (where Sgt. Maj. And I had reservations) cancelled a lot of the reservations. I went over and sure enough, no reservation. What they say happened was that one of the buildings lost power and water. It was being worked but they could not use it. They transferred our reservation to another hotel that was under renovation. In our room, the bathroom worked and the beds were ok. We were good to go!

No pictures to send with this. I either let the camera go uncharged or flat out forget to take them. My emotions are so strong that I sometimes forget what I am doing.

Monday, May 18, 2009

RFTW 2009-Day1 (Doug)

Wed, May 13, the beginning of the Run, of the Healing, of the Welcome Home, of one of the most memorable and emotional things anyone, ANYONE, can do or experience. Be warned about two things - I do not remember what I wrote yesterday, and I write from the heart.

Last nite, the last thing before I crashed, I said "see you later" to Rick Pittman. A very special friend and who came down to this event because I asked him to. Very fitting for a veteran of his stature, and our era, to see these many people heading out on this Mission.

0 Dark 30 (somewhere around 5:30 AM - to dark to see the time). The Road Guards met in the Base Camp parking lot, finished insuring tight bindings on everything on our scoots, and headed over to the staging area at Victoria Gardens Mall. Hot food and drinks, fruit, cereal milk, you name it - all donated! Even though you know we had a mess of sign ups, you don't see the magnitude until this. As both Routes stage initially at the same location, its awe inspiring - about 550 scoots, some with passengers, and many cages that will accompany us on this years Run. Over 40% are FNG's. Rider's from Australia, New Zealand, Great Britian, and half of our States. The patches tell the stories - patches honoring our Fallen from all of our conflicts, some names, unfortunately new. Some of the vests actually tell the story of this persons life. Some, are bare as they might not have "traveled" the world. Old, young, and in between. All ages. And the scoots !! Every brand and probably every model. And of course the bulk are Hogs (we know because our chase truck driver meets most of them!!! I had to squeeze that in there.) The conversations at this point center around last years Run, who brand of bike is best, this years ride, old friends seeing each other for the first time in many many years. And, of those that have left us. We know that this year the Central Route will not see Robley Rex - he died 4 days short of his 108th birthday. A lot of us will seek out the FNG's - FNG's keep the Mission alive.

Morning prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, National Anthem and then the morning meeting. Welcomes all the way around. All the FNG's are spot lighted so we can hug and welcome them. Then everyone reports to their assigned platoon. The lead element has the Route Coordinator and 4 other bikes. This is our Missing Man formation - 5 bikes - two in front, two in back, and the middle bike rides on the left keeping the right side vacant. The Mission is ready. Its 54 degrees. We start the engines - do you know what 500 (counting both Routes) roaring engines sound like!? The Road Guards go out to block traffic with the help of the LEO's, all the way onto the freeway. Behind them comes the pack - 7 platoons with the 7th being the scoots with trailers, trikes, etc. We have a few hundred people waving at us, cheering, flying the colors of our nation, military flags, signs applauding us, you name its there. And for many of us, the first of the tears and chills. As we pull out to head for the freeway, I actually relax. As the bikes pick up speed the engine noise becomes a thing you can actually feel. We start on to the freeway at 8:00 AM (0800) - and its shut down for us with many civilians and LEO's standing at attention saluting along with members from the local military organizations, service organizations, Motorcycle Clubs, and the Patriot Guard. You feel good and some emotion as you realize you are being honored. Once on the freeway, we increase speed slowly as we cover close to 3 miles. Road Guards start earning their keep - keeping the scoots 2 seconds apart regardless of how they are riding - side by side or staggered. Making sure that there is no loose gear. Things flying off into a pack of motorcycles at freeway speeds is not good. And a couple of RG's take off with the fuel crew to get them set up at the gas stop in Coachella. This you have to see and experience. We put 300 plus bikes thru the gas station in 20 minutes. Cruising on the freeway is different than normally. We have people along the sides of the road waving, holding flags, banners posters, cheering, etc. And on the overpasses, and on the balconies of some of the highrises, in the windows of passing vehicles. 94 miles later, a short break with head call and visiting the hydration team for our free water and cooling scarves, and of course, fuel. The latter occurs at every stop. Then we're off - Advance Team (Fuelers) and then the RG's, about 5 minutes in the lead, then everyone else. We already have some RG's out, posted at intersections, gore points, etc. Everything to make it easier for us to get the Riders to and from. Along the way, more people on the overpasses sides of the road,etc all waving flags etc. Saluting us, cheering us, reminding us that we are not forgotten, that the veteran means something. Amazing it seems, I'm in the company of vets and civilians, old and young - all with one purpose - Never Forget. The patriotism is something you can feel and is shown over and over again. At almost every stop - Pledge of Allegiance. No one has to be told to stand, to remove their covers, to be quiet. The Pledge, over and over again. And when they play the National Anthem, same thing. And many are teary eyed.

RG's job while underway consists of many things - the scout stays out ahead and looks for vehicle issues, traffic jams or congestion, lane closures, traffic entering the freeway (we get in front of those cages to slow them down). We make sure the cages don't pull into any gaps in our formations. We make sure all the bikes are registered with RFTW.

On the road again, and heading for Blythe - roads are wide open. People sporadically along the freeway and on the overpasses. At one over pass - 200 plus bikes from the Patriot Guard and American Legion Riders. On some, civilians and LEO's. On some, bikers. And kids all over the place waving the flag so vigorously you're afraid they'll lose them. American's who remember what America means and is. American's that remember the sacrifices made by our vets.

Stop in Blythe (101 miles) for lunch paid for by one of the SO's, gas virtually free. Free lunch at the parking lot we stage. Greeted by a crowd waving flags and then into the Fair Grounds for lunch. We walked thru an Honor Guard (with Swords) with non stop applause. A little decompressing and then the ceremonies - Salute, sing, prayer, dedications, listing the names of the local Fallen Hero's. Then back on the road, this time to Tonopah (94 miles) for gas and fluids, before heading into Phoenix ( and its now 110 degrees ) to meet vets at the VA Center and to drop off Karoni Forrester. All the way with hundreds cheering us on.

Finally into Phoenix - with the LEO's supplying traffic closures for us. Dinner served at the Radison - free. We are the hero's for doing what we've done and what we are currently doing. The veteran's are being remembered as they should always be remembered. We are all drained physically and some emotionally. Wait.

Never Forget.

The Mission Rules

Saturday, May 16, 2009

RFTW 2009-PT 2 (Rich M)

Here is a Pre-mission photo I found...that's Rich on the right. I'm gonna try to Stalk him & Doug across country.


Here is the next couple of days taking us up to Phoenix. As I send this, We have already been to Las Cruzes, NM. Odessa, TX, and Wetherford, TX. I will try and catch up but it is extremely hard to write without stopping. The emotions have been running wild.

Southern Route 2009 All the Way

May 12th
Today we started out by visiting the Riverside National Cemetery. At the cemetery we visited the Medal of Honor Memorial. Every listed Medal of Honor Recipient is listed there. We were greeted by three MOH Recipients. Remember, you don’t win the MOH, you are a recipient of it. Greeting us were Col. Millet (Army), who was a WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam Veteran. He was awarded his Medal for actions in Korea. Also John Baca (Navy), a Viet Nam Vet. Also there to greet us was Rick Pittman (Marine), who was awarded his Medal for actions in Viet Nam. I have met Rick before.

To meet these men is, for me, a humbling experience. These men put their lives on the line in a manner that most of us can’t or won’t do. They epitomize the reason this country is so great. As I walked around the Memorial, I spotted names that I
knew. William F. (Buffalo Bill) Cody received the MOH. There were legendary
Marines, like Dan Daly and Smedley Butler who were both awarded 2 Medals for
actions in two different campaigns. I saw John Basilone, who received the Medal
for actions on Guadlecanal and instead of staying safe in the states, said he wanted to be with his men. He did not come home from Iwo Jima.

(Photo added later...)

After that we went to the MIA Memorial on the grounds that was designed and built by Col. Millet’s son. He told us about the Memorial and what it means to him. It is touching to listen to him. Thank God for sunglasses. Part of the Memorial is something that was written. The government would not allow what he wanted (by the way, he did the work on this gratis) and made changes. In the part that says,” and some were lost, gone forever from their families…” should have said, “and some were left behind” A minor change of words but a major change to the meaning.

Master Sgt. Rick Pittman

After that we went to the MIA Memorial on the grounds that was designed and built by Col. Millet’s son. He told us about the Memorial and what it means to him. It is touching to listen to him. Thank God for sunglasses. Part of the Memorial is something that was written. The government would not allow what he wanted (by the way, he did the work on this gratis) and made changes. In the part that says,” and some were lost, gone forever from their families…” should have said, “and some were left behind” A minor change of words but a major change to the meaning.

(Photo added later...)

The statue itself was inspired by a POW. I can’t remember his name but the face of the statue is the POW’s face. This man saved the lives of at least 2 other POW’s. They had given up until they saw the torture that this POW had endured. He was the only POW that not only attacked his guards and escaped for 4 hrs. by crawling away, but he also told them he would kill them. The other 2 POW’s both decided to try and live so that they could tell his story. They did. That is how we know this. Here is the statue and remember, the face is his face.

The statue and the sculpter

One of the things you can notice is the brown color on the chest. The statue is bronze and used to be all brown. He is kneeling in water. Over the years everything has changed color but the chest. As we were told, his heart is still beating strongly for all POW’s. Inside his chest are six suspended stones in a heart shaped container. Each branch of service is represented plus the sixth is for the civilians killed. Hearing this was incredible. I know I had tears streaming down my face. So did many others.

After returning to the hotel, I had the distinct pleasure of being introduced to Karoni Forrester. She is the Texas State Director of the MIA Families. Her father was shot down in 1972 over N. Viet Nam. He is still Missing in Action. She was heading to Phoenix and I had the honor of having her ride with me.

May 13th
Today, we headed out on the first day of the journey. I had Karoni on the back of my bike. Getting out of Rancho Cucamonga was real difficult. A lot of traffic (what else) so we had a lot of stop and go. Most of the drivers knew who we were so they tried to stay out of the way. But it was still taxing on the nerves. Plus I was told by other MIA families that I had “precious cargo” and to get her to Phoenix in one piece. Just what I needed but it sure helped me stay alert. Plus I asked her if she felt comfortable enough would she take pictures on the road. She was and she did. I still haven’t had the time to look at them. Everyone on the ride was great to her. Since this ride is to remember the MIA’s of all wars, the riders all talked to her whenever we stopped.

As we are progressing along Rt. 10 in 100 degree heat, we get off the freeway in the middle of nowhere. After a few minutes I start wondering what is going on. Nothing, nowhere to be seen. A small airport comes up and I think we are going there for a ceremony. Not there! Then all of a sudden, there is this woman standing by the side of the road with a flag waving at us. Then we see some buildings and more people. They lined the streets of this small town. We pulled into a gas station to fill up and the gas was free! This happened in Blythe, Ca. a small town in the middle of the desert. They supplied gas. But they were not done. All along the main street, people where standing and cheering and waving flags. How do I describe the emotions running thru me. I can’t really do it justice. All I can say is that I wish every Viet Nam Vet could experience the absolute chills this gives you.

Again, Blythe was not done. We went to the fairgrounds where the town fed us lunch. But they didn’t just feed us. As we walked into the barn ( that is what they call it) the local High School ROTC was there. We got to not only walk through a column of raised swords, but the people who were putting this on, were cheering and yelling and telling us welcome home and thanks for what we were doing. I am getting teary eyed just writing this down.

Of course, they had a ceremony. They introduced the people who worked to put this on. Then, our Southern Route Coordinator whispered something to the MC. Remember, Karoni was there. Next thing you know, they call her up and introduce her to everyone. They explain who she is (the daughter of a MIA Marine aviator) ask her to say something. I don’t know what she said at this point because I am trying not to just start bawling. She came back to the table and you could see the tears in her eye. Later she told me that it is never easy for her to speak but if she knows it is coming she can prepare herself.

We headed out onto the freeway again with a lot of memories of this wonderful town. As we headed to Phoenix, there were some incredible sites. I was told I would see this but it was still a thrill. You would be in the middle of nothing, and all of a sudden, someone would be off the freeway or on the overpasses waving and carrying an American Flag. It may be one person or many people. Nothing around but these people. We got into Phoenix after a long, hot ride. Tommorrow is another day.

The last segment of the ride, we started using a “Missing Man” formation. It consists of a formation of 5 bikes. The sixth bike is missing from the formation. It symbolizes the missing warrior. Well, I was asked to participate in this. It was an honor that was special since Karoni was my passenger. We lined up next to the missing man. Karoni was just blown away by the experience. It is something she will remember for the rest of her life.

This is also the end of Karoni Forrester’s journey with us. She had friends pick her up in Phoenix and the she was flying home. Before she left, she told me how much this meant to her and that she was just overwhelmed by everyone. Many of us felt the same way about meeting her. She was really an incredible young woman who, we all hope will someday, get her “Daddy” back.

Texas State Director of the MIA Families
Karoni Forrester

The link below will take you to a location that has my SPOT account and the
tracking map for this leg of the journey.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Run for the Wall (RFTW) 2009 -- Rich's story

One of the PGR Ride Captains that we know, a good friend of ours, is making his first "Run for the Wall"....something he's wanted to do for a few years now. He was having some issues with his bike so almost didn't make it but he headed down south a couple days after the rest & will also be sending me updates of his trip across this great land of ours.
Run for the Wall

May 10th
Well, I decided to take a chance on the bike and head on down to LA. I did some heavy testing on Friday and Saturday without a problem so it is time to leave.

I was on the road by about 8:00 am. It was cool out but then I got on the freeway and it became a little colder. I decided that if it was any colder some morning, I would need a warmer jacket. So back home I went to get one. So it was 9:00 am by the time I actually started.

My first gas stop was in Santa Nella. All the way down there, I kept waiting for something to happen. For those of you who don’t know, my bike was in the shop for over a week waiting on a part from Japan. It would still be waiting but I have the shop put a fuel pump in. Since the problem acted like it was running out of gas, I told them to replace the pump. Everything else in the fuel system was The bike ran great. I filled up and started heading for LA.

It was real hot and about halfway down 5, I stopped and took my jacket off and just had a long sleeve shirt on. I took my time getting there. Cruise control was set at 80 MPH and I tried to relax. What I found was that I couldn’t stop thinking about the trip and my brothers that are on the “Wall”. I have found excuses not to go for several years now and this year, I ran out of reasons. So I am going. It is kind of a relief now that I am starting on my way. I guess I am looking for some kind of closure but I am not sure if I will get it. Only time will tell.

May 11th
Today was a pretty quiet day. I got to have lunch with an old manager of mine. We worked together as young men and watched our families grow and each other get old!! We spent about 1 ½ hrs at lunch. He is still working as a Regional Manager for a company. We had a good time talking about what we have been doing and how everything is going.

After that, I just took Rt. 66 back to the Hotel. I spent the rest of the day, meeting people, registering for the run, and getting a few patches. I actually, met a lot of people from all over. Since I am an FNG, I get to wear this nice PINK button. At first I didn’t want to wear it but several people convince me that I should. What it does is identify you as a first timer and many go out of their way to talk to you and welcome you to the ride. It is pretty nice. Since most everybody is a veteran, you feel pretty welcomed anyhow. Some nice stories are told about past rides and about their service. It is great to be a veteran and I am so proud to be one.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Run for the Wall (RFTW) 2009 -- Pre-mission

As he did last year Doug Lyvere (SgtMaj, USMC ret.), Assistant State Captain, California, PGR, will be sending reports from the road as he and the riders make their way from California to Washington DC during the "Run for the Wall". I know ther were many reader who followed this last time & have asked if I was going to post it again this year. I will also get updates from one of our local PGR Rider Captains, Rich Martin, also.

Please, enjoy their commentary and impressions as once again, patriots and veterans come together - remember they ride for those who can't.

A couple of things - first, please remember that I said that its very difficult to remove names from the mailing list temporarily. So if you don't want these 6 to 12 emails, put in a filter for the subject line containing "RFTW" (or just don't read them). 2nd, although I say "I" a lot, its only because its my experiences - many others did the same work I did. Its just the actual experiences may be different. Since Rich Martin is on this Mission, and MIA family member Karoni Forrester does the first leg, I will ask them to give me a copy of their notes/comments so that I can forward that on
also. And for those of you that don't have a clue to what I'm talking about and for those that do, go to - after logging in and reading about the Mission, and why we do it (IMPORTANT) look for the "sit reps" and photo's - and this year I'm a Road Guard on the Southern Route.

The RFTW, culminating with Rolling Thunder, is a vastly emotional trip and experience for everyone. A large portion of the participants are veterans, mostly of the Vietnam Era. Many are employed so this is "vacation" time. We visit VA Hospitals, schools, American Legion and VFW Posts. We meet veterans from all the wars, including our current ones, and we lend an ear. HOWEVER, that's the easy parts. We also go to many memorials, mostly Vietnam or at least partially Vietnam.

I arrived at the "Base Camp" (Hilton Garden Inn in Rancho Cucamonga) on May 10th as I had some classes to attend. Being a Road Guard for 3000 miles for a couple of hundred bikes is a little different than PGR Missions. In these classes we're briefed on LEO issues - all the way across our Nation. Our job is to get several hundred people to DC - safely - and although it sounds like plenty of time (10 days), its not. If you read the email you'll see why time is short.

When I pulled in there were only about 30 scoots (motorcycles, trikes, some with trailers, some scoots with side cars). Fantastic paint jobs. And the Riders. Leather or denim clad OF COURSE, some covered with patches and pins for where they served, or for past missions. Men and woman, some with spouses or significant others, but all with the same Mission - NEVER FORGET, never compromise our service man and woman again, and never leave any behind. And never ever forget the way we treated our Vietnam Era Vets. A 3000 mile parade and healing is starting.

Monday, May 11 - more bikes start arriving. Old friends (I've known them for a few years or just seconds - doesn't matter - its a band of brothers) that I have not seen for awhile. The names are sometimes descriptive and telling - PegLeg, Tanker, Honey Buns, Straight Arrow, Biker Girl, Hogwash, Doc (Doc's are Gods to many of us) Wrong Way, Cowboy - I can go on forever. Hugs, handshakes, maybe a few drinks - no one gets rowdy, sort of a quiet tenseness waiting for the Mission to start. Reminiscing about those that didn't come home, those that did but have since left us, the normal complaining about the lack of medical care for us and our brothers and sisters. And at this years pre-run meeting are Dianne Layfield (Gold Star Mom and a very phenomenal person in her own right), and 3 Medal of Honor recipients John Baca, (Army, Vietnam), Col Millet (Army, WWII, Korea - where he earned the MoH - and Vietnam), and Marine MSgt Richard A Pittman (Vietnam). We spend the day doing registration and welcoming more participants. And of course some classes for all the leadership. Quiet times to talk and laugh.

Tuesday, May 12 - Registration, testing for Road Guards (and we lose a RG when he dumps his bike in the parking lot during skill evaluations and breaks 5 ribs - bikes ok), classes, and the FNG trip to Riverside National Cemetery. At the RNC, the FNG's first go to the MoH Memorial and see the names of every MoH recipient (some TWICE), and meet "our" three. Then a walk past the "Leave No Man Behind" monument. An upright slab of black granite with a single soldier lying on top (and I believe looking skyward - for the choppers that never came back for him). Never Forget. And finally the POW/MIA Memorial along with the designer, the Col's son. He explains the meaning and what you would not know if you weren't told - the
inscription which says in part "and those that were lost", changed by an ungrateful government - from what he wrote "and those that were left behind" or they would not allow the monument. But the face of the bronze figure is that of either our first POW or MIA (I can't remember) - the government didn't catch that. This bronze figure is of a man in nothing more than a loin cloth, kneeling on a pile of rocks arms bound behind him - a POW, and MIA. Inside his bronze chest (you can not see this) are 5 softball size rocks, hanging on individual chains, but in a cluster, representing the service academies (2 for the Naval Academy of course). The symbolisms is that you can bind the man, but his spirit and heart remain free. And his face IS
looking skyward, for the choppers that have YET to come, but he still has hope.
Never forget.

Tomorrow, early on Wed May 13, it starts - our trip across our Nation.

The Mission Rules.
Doug Lyvere