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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Run For the Wall May 25, 2011

Once again we are getting ready to head from Chattanooga to Wytheville, Va. Wytheville is one of the top stops on the journey. For me this was completely different. I will start where I left off last time.

If you remember, it was dark out and I was parked with my lights flashing directing bikes to the staging point. I was there for about 1 ½ hrs. Next, I was staging with the other RG’s with my lights still flashing. We went up to the usual morning meeting.

After that we head over to the Silverdale Confederate Cemetery. This is the final resting place for over 150 Confederate unknown soldiers. In 2009 the place was a disgrace. It was overgrown with weeds and you couldn’t even walk in there. The state of Tennessee, the City of Chattanooga, and none of the local veteran’s organizations wanted anything to do with it. Finally, some local vets decided they would clean it up and even try to identify the unknown soldiers.

In 2010, the grounds were clean and looked much more respectful. Plus, eight of the unknowns had been identified. In 2011, the grounds have been well taken care of and in fact 13 more of the unknowns have been identified. This is incredible news. These men fought for what they believed in and paid the ultimate price. They all need to be identified. I don’t care if they were Confederates. They are Americans and could have relatives that lived in the north or could have been from the north. They are honored dead like any American soldier that gives all. That is my opinion and you may not agree with me and that is okay.

What really makes me proud is that Run For the Wall actively supports these efforts. Without the money that we give to the organization, most of this work would not have been done. Without our continued support, most of the rest of the soldiers may never be identified. Someday I hope to enter the cemetery and know each of the soldiers buried there.

Now we are done and getting ready to get on our way. Remember what I said about my lights flashing. It has been about 3 ½ hours that they have been on. Guess what! I try to start the bike but there is not enough juice left in the battery. So we push start it and I am good to go for about 30 seconds when the bike stops again. Now I am done. Can’t push it up hill and no time to try a jump start. Short Stack brings a charger over to try jump starting the bike. Unfortunately, it is almost dead. They forgot to charge it last night. So up on the chase trailer I go. I find out where the local Honda dealer is and they take me there. The Chase driver stays with me until the shop opens and we get the bike inside. He has to leave to catch up with the group.

I told the service manager, Bill, what the problem was and what happened. He said they would test the battery to make sure it was good then they would charge it. A ½ hour later, Bill told me the battery tested good but needed a charge. He also asked it I knew the right light was out. I did and asked if he could replace it. No problem at all. So I went inside and sat on a chair. Next thing I knew I was sleeping. I woke up and one of the employees suggested I go over to a couch since it would be more comfortable. I did and fell right back to sleep. About 1130, Bill woke me up and said the bike was ready. I think that what they did was just let me sleep for a couple of hours. They must have figured I needed the rest. (I did) so I pay the bill, which was not that much, and start out. By now it was almost noon so I figure I would get something to eat. By the time I got on the road, it was close to 1245. A side note here is needed. Just as soon as we pulled into Chattanooga, we entered the Eastern Time Zone. That means we lose an hours sleep right off. That is one of the reasons I was so tired.

Today’s ride was only 280 miles so I figured I could catch up someplace along the way. Looking at the schedule, I thought if I was lucky, I could catch up by Blackwolf Harley in Bristol, Tn. I was flying down the highway trying to catch up. I got to Bristol, and I knew they were gone. I checked just for the heck of it and nobody was there.

Back on I81 I went. It was only 66 miles to Wytheville and I didn’t want to miss anything there. I got off at Wytheville in time to see some RG’s heading to the park. As I saw the entrance, I saw the tail end of the last platoon heading into the park. I made it. I caught up with the pack and wouldn’t miss anything. I was real pleased about that.

In the park we have the opportunity to meet some of the townspeople. They have been waiting for us. Mayor Crowe, talks to us and introduces several people who were involved with setting everything up for us in Wytheville. In case you don’t remember, this year the Mayor road all the way with us from Rancho to DC. This was the first time he had done that. In the past, he would meet us wherever he could with the time he had and lead us into his town then go the rest of the way to DC. When I was an FNG in 2009, Mayor Crowe road next to me from Baileyton into Bristol. He was more concerned about his riding and if he made me nervous that anything else. Of course, at the time I just thought he was just another rider. He has great riding skills and I told him. Later on I found out who he was. I have the Wytheville pin he handed out when we got there. It sits proudly on my vest.

That night at the local Moose Lodge, we are fed a steak dinner. It is here that many of the awards and plaques are given out. Preacher calls up the different groups up. He starts with the Ambassadors. Then the platoon leaders and tail gunners. Everyone cheers for these people. They all deserve all deserve it for the hard work they have done. Then they called up the Road Guards. We got a tremendous ovation from everyone. It was kind of embarrassing but appreciated. After all the introductions, we headed back to our hotel room or rest before we took up our mission in the morning.

For me, this was an easy day. I got a couple of hours extra needed sleep and made it to Wytheville in time for everything. By the way, if you notice that I don’t have many pictures this year it is because my camera stopped working. The new battery would only work for about five shots and the older one maybe an hour. It drove me crazy so I just stopped taking pictures. The last two I downloaded from Karoni’s facebook page. I will be getting some from another rider and also Bill and Tim. So all is not lost.

Rich 'Yankee' Martin
Viet Nam Vet

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