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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

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.

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