Today is a short 221 mile journey. But today is a day we all look forward to. That is especially true of the FNG’s. That is because today we stop at Jackson, Ms. This Harley dealer does an amazing job for the week leading up to Memorial Day Weekend. More later.
The hotel we stayed in had a continental breakfast set up in the lobby. I had several muffins of different kinds and a couple of glasses of orange juice. Then I headed over to staging. I got out my flag and started directing bikes to where they had to be for each platoon. Once that was done, we had our RG meeting where our duties for the day would be explained to us.
One major difference from last year, I was a RGIT last year. It was here that the Road Guard Captain presented us with our second yellow sleeve and we were no longer RGITS. It was a special moment for those of us that were RGITS. This year, there were no RGITS. We were not supposed to call the new Guards RGITS for some reason. They were given both yellow sleeves at the beginning. I really think they missed out on a nice presentation in front of the whole formation.
As we got underway, something else changed. The last two years, we would go downtown Monroe for a ceremony with the Mayor and other city officials. For some reason, this year we did not do this. I wish we had but the upper leadership makes those decisions.
Our first fuel stop is only 59 miles. It is a Loves Truck Stop in Tallulah. We do open registration here for anyone that wants to join us for the rest of the way. Top Sarge works real hard doing this. She has to make sure the riders all have the proper identification, insurance, registration, and endorsements. I don’t know how many additional riders we picked up but we have grown every day we had registration. I think we have about 400 bikes right now. That is just a guess on my part.
This was another fairly quick stop. We only stayed long enough for fuel, snacks, and/or facilities use. Jackson is our next stop and we are all anxious to get there. So we left after a stop of about 40 minutes for another short 65 mile ride to Jackson Harley Davidson.
This Harley Dealership is incredible. First of all they empty the showroom of all the bikes they are selling. Then they put up tables for all of us to eat the donated lunch they provide. But that is not all. They have what is known as the Trail of Honor behind their shop in the woods. They have displays covering every war.
They also have displays of weapons many of which can be used and they shoot of several of them. That can be a problem. When they shoot off the civil war era cannons they make one heck of a lot of noise. They are supposed to yell “FIRE IN THE HOLE” before they do this. I understand that they do, but since I am hard of hearing, I don’t get this warning. Neither do many of us. First time a cannon went off, I almost had a heart attack. I jumped so hard and my breathing became so ragged I swear my heart skipped a beat or two before I calmed down. Then they did it again from another direction and I jumped just as much. You could actually feel the cannon going off. They had machine guns, rifles, and at time would fire them also. I always looked toward the firing but was able to deal with it. The cannons just were not that easy to deal with.
As we got to the end of the walk, they had a half size replica of the Wall. I knew from last year it would be there. I started walking along it. People sitting at a table asked me if they could help me find anyone. They had all the names and locations in a book. I told them I didn’t need help because I knew where those I wanted to see were. As I walked along, I got to where the apex should be and looked for Ray’s name. I stared at it for a little bit. I was lost in thought when Bill walked up to me. He was having a real hard time but I couldn’t really help him like he did me last year. I was lost in thought and had a hard time to connect with him. I do apologize for that. I should have been there for him but wasn’t like I should have been. Sorry Bill. I did the best I could. I wish it were more.
There was also a parachute demonstration by the local Army Special Operations Group. Not only that, they gave Huey Helicopter rides to anyone who wanted them. Not for me. The sound of a Huey is the sound of Nam. It is distinctive and you heard it all over the country.
But back to lunch. I don’t really remember what was served but what I remember is some of the dignitaries that were there. The Governor could not make it so he had a State Senator who headed the State Veterans Committee. (I am pretty sure that is what he said but I can be wrong) Then they introduced the true stars. There were two Medal of Honor Recipients, some Tuskegee Airmen, a WWII Pow, and a survivor of the Battan Death March. These men were there for us. They wanted to show us they cared for what we were doing and the POW/MIA issue. Several speeches were made by some of the dignitaries. Some of them were really good and well worth listening to. It was after lunch when I started down the Trail.
It was now time to leave Jackson. We may be reluctant to leave but we are also anxious to continue our mission. The mission is the most important thing. Each of us will remember Jackson. We will all remember it differently. This was my third year here and my memories are different from each year. But that is what this journey is all about. Each year you take it, you see things differently. You can see the same thing as the year before but you will see it differently. Just like when you see something, the person standing next to you will see something different from you. It is one of the things that makes our journey so different for each of us.
Our last stop for the day is in Meridian, Ms. It is the longest leg of the day, only 97 miles. As a RG I got to do several things. The last thing was to stop along the road before a light and slow everyone down. There were a couple of quick turns to make here and slowing down was important. After everyone got thru, I headed for the Agricultural Center for another donated dinner. I was one of the last to arrive.
For dinner there was two choices, either pulled pork or catfish. The pulled pork was already gone so I grabbed catfish. They both came with fries so I thought I would eat that for supper. Well, as I grab my meal, one of the other RG’s comes up to me and asks if I could do him a favor. Of course I say yes. He needs to take two meals, two desserts, and two drinks to the Merchandise Trailer. They are open and working and never get to eat. So I grab another meal, scratch gets the two drinks and another dessert and we head down to where the trailer is. We give the ladies their supper and they were so happy. Like I said, they usually don’t get to eat until late on their own. So back up we go. I decide to just have the dessert which is banana pudding (delicious) and skip the catfish.
One other thing they do for us here. They collect all our dirty laundry and by the morning, they have it cleaned and folded and ready to go. I didn’t get it done. I would have had to walk down to my bike to collect it all then walk back up the hill. I just didn’t have the energy.
SgtMaj and I headed to our hotel. I had every intention of getting something to eat but by the time we got back to the hotel and settled, you guessed it, I was too tired and didn’t eat. I will take this up after the next leg of our journey.
Rich 'Yankee' Martin
Viet Nam Vet