Today we will be leaving Wytheville. But the town isn’t done with us yet. First, starting at 0600 they feed us breakfast. Some of the parents bring their young children to eat with us. That is always a treat. This year I ate early (RG duties) and didn’t get a chance to meet any of the young ones.
We all stage at the park again this morning. We are waiting for the school kids to join us. Everyone is anxious to see them. The FNG’s only know they will be there. Some of them know they will be putting on a show for us. Even though we have to be there early for meetings and the normal morning ritual, the students will arrive at 0900. We say the pledge of allegiance and are just waiting for the young students. We have pencils and beads and pins to give to them. They are all students of Spiller Elementary School in Wytheville. This is our eleventh year in Wytheville. The students in Spiller learn about Run For the Wall as part of their curriculum. Isn’t that amazing. They learn why we show up every year and what the Run is all about.
At about 0900 the students start arriving. We all go over to them and give them whatever we have. I have beads and pins. I hand them to the students and they hand me a paper star with their name on it. Some of the stars just thank us. Then a young girl gives me a rose. I told her I would leave it at the Wall for her but she didn’t say anything. After she walked away, I walked away from the rest of the children. I was real glad I had sunglasses on. As I have said many times, you never know what will set you off. It just happens and you have to deal with it.
After the kids all assembled at the Veterans Memorial, we did the pledge of allegiance again with the kids. It was time for the kids to entertain us. After a couple of short speeches the kids took over. They sang a couple of songs for us that made you feel good. These young grade school children really work at making this special. They do succeed and we appreciate every bit of it.
I had to leave for our RG meeting. Cajun gave out our assignments. I was assigned to his team. What we were going to do was block roads as we headed to our next stop. Our trip was going to be mostly on surface streets so we needed to make sure the platoons would all get thru. Otherwise, it would take us forever to get there.
Our first stop was in Montvale for fuel. Everyone filled their tanks and staged. From Wytheville, this was a 94 mile leg. We would only go 150 miles today. But we would be busy. After fueling, we headed for our next stop that is the Montvale Elementary School that is only 2 miles
As we pull up to the school all the children and their teachers are standing outside cheering. They have been waiting for us. As we dismounted our bikes the students went back inside. They wanted to get back to their classrooms. Our lunch was donated by the school. What we got to do, was go to different
classrooms to eat lunch with the students. This is special for us. As we eat, the students come over to us and ask us for our signature and where we live. I really enjoyed this a lot. I have a lot of fun with these young boys and girls. They make us feel special but in fact these young children are the ones that are special.
After lunch we go to the gym for a show put on by these students. They all sing songs and really entertain us. Like Wytheville, the youngsters really put their hearts into it. But after that we must leave for our next stop.
We are heading to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Va. The question always is, why is the Memorial in the middle of nowhere. The answer is pretty simple. The small town of Bedford, Va. suffered the highest rate of casualties on D-Day. This Memorial was built with private funds. No government money was used. The Memorial is beautiful and something you don’t want to miss if you ever get to this area of the country.
We only have a short amount of time to spend here. One thing we did do is made sure that everyone paid to get in. Everyone donated $5.00 to the Memorial. The people who maintain the Memorial say our group always gives them more money than any other group that goes there.
Once we are ready to leave, the RG’s once again leave first to set up at intersections to make sure everyone can get back on the highway as a group. As when we came in, the local Police worked with us to make this a much easier task.
Our final stop will be the Salem VA Medical Center. It is only 42 miles away so it didn’t take a long time. While there we will be given another donated meal by the VA. Once we got everyone there, several of the RG’s went to a restaurant to eat. We ended up in a pretty nice restaurant that served mostly seafood. Seafood and me don’t get along but I decided to see if they had something else. I ordered a steak that turned out to be real good. One of the things I like about being a RG is the camaraderie we all have. The dinner was really good for us. I don’t know about the other guys but it sure was nice to sit down, relax, and blow off a little steam. After dinner, we found out that SgtMaj forgot to turn his lights off. Actually, there is a problem someplace in one of the bikes switches. We were able to push start him and off we went. We checked into our motel and got ready for the next day.
It is kind of funny about the last day of our journey. You get so close to so many of the people on the Run that you almost wish it wouldn’t end. You wish you could just keep going and not end it. But tomorrow is the last day and we will be at our final destination. I will continue this after the final day is over.
Rich 'Yankee' Martin
Viet Nam Vet