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 www.rftw.org - 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.
Tomorrow, early on Wed May 13, it starts - our trip across our Nation.
The Mission Rules.