This is day three of our mission. Now the platoons are starting to shape up. Most of them are riding together a little better. There are still problems since we have so many FNG’s. But with practice, they will all get better.
Like everyday on this mission we have a mandatory riders meeting. We cover any changes that are made to the day’s ride. Sometimes a route has to change because there has been construction that might become a problem for a group as large as this. Plus we pledge allegiance to the flag and say a non-denomination prayer. And also have a 50/50 and raffle off some items.
Breakfast this morning was donated by VFW Post 10124. It is nice to get donated meals. It helps cover some of the expense we have when we make this journey. At 0800 or thereabouts, we have been running behind this mission, we depart for a short ride over to the Las Cruces Veterans park. This is a short ride from our staging. Well this year was different. I was determined not to break down. I did pretty good at that.
This Memorial is dedicated to the 1800 New Mexicans on the Battan Death March. Of those 1800 only about 900 survived. Last year I had a problem here. I saw something that set me off. That happens on the mission to everyone. But it doesn’t matter. If people see you struggling, they will come over and give you a hug or words of encouragement. That is what the mission is all about. We are all there to help each other thru each day and get us all to the end of mission.
At the Memorial they had a man speak who was involved with the project to build this Memorial. I was unable to here all his words but mainly he told us that the statue of the three soldier’s faces were of his father and an uncle. The third face was of Phillipino who he knew. I can’t remember that name but it was someone he knew, also.
As I was walking back to the bike, I saw my friend Tim. He is an FNG this year. He was obviously in trouble. I went over to him and he said to the effect that he finally understands what I have been saying all along. I told him it was ok and that he needs to take several deep breaths so that he could focus on riding his bike. Our other friend Bill, who was an FNG last year was there also and talked to Tim. It seemed to help Tim and he was ready to go after that.
Our next stop was just a fuel stop. It went well and we got in and out of there without any problems. As I sit here and try to write all this out and get my thoughts down I need to apologize to all of you. I have been unable to keep this up. Usually, I do this before going to sleep at night. I have found that I have not adjusted well to getting up at 0-dark thirty hours everyday. Today is actually the end of our sixth day as I put this on paper. I am three days behind.
One thing this mission does to you is drain you physically and emotionally. Right now I am having problems with the physical part. Of course I am affected by many emotions. That is because each time you ride down the highway or visit a memorial or some small town, you may see the same things you saw the last two times you took this journey. However, you may not see them the same way. Or you may see something you really didn’t see last time. Each time I have taken this journey, I see something that I didn’t notice or I see something a little differently than last time. That affects you. As I have said in the past, you just don’t know what or why something will get to you. You just have to not fight it. Everyone on this mission at one time or another will shed tears. We all know it happens but nobody will laugh at you or think any less of you. We all know that we could be next. It is really one of the things that make this mission so special for all of us.
My words do not do justice to this at all. You have to experience it yourself to truly understand what happens. I know about four of the FNG’s on this year’s mission. Most of them thanked me and SgtMaj for inviting or convincing them to do this. Guess what! It wasn’t us. We try to express how this mission affects us. We haven’t invited anyone. All that joined us this year made the same decision we all made in the past. It was time. We had to make this trip. It was time to try and heal ourselves. It was time to try and visit with our brothers and sisters on the Wall. My words are inadequate to really describe to you how this mission helps many Viet Nam Vets with healing. It has helped me in many ways. Each mission will help a little more. The pain of Viet Nam and what happened after will never go away. That will be with me for the rest of my life. But I do believe that I will heal a little each time I go on this journey.
Once again I have digressed from this year’s journey. But in some respects when I do digress, it is because of this journey we take every year. Those of us that have done this for multiple years know what I say and will understand it. We really are a big family. I look forward each year to seeing everyone again. It is hard to describe the emotions and feelings I get from this journey. Bill M. is on his second year and understands more than last year when he was an FNG. Tim M. is an FNG so his experience is completely different from anything that Bill or me are having. But I try to see them as much as I can but am too busy to spend as much time as I can with them. Ken K. and Tom from Sac. Are just overwhelmed by what they have seen. I have talked to Ken about things but haven’t been able to see Tom too many times except when he is on his bike. Being a Road Guide keeps me extremely busy but it also is something that helps me on this mission.
But back to the mission. The next stop is for fuel in Van Horn, Tx. My wife and son stayed in Van Horn when they took their cross-country trip in 2010. They absolutely love the place. NOT! They stayed in a hotel (unnamed) when it was about 90 out. Well guess what? The A/C in the room did not work. I guess the hotel was not very receptive to my wife’s complaint and took some time to agree to put them into another room. But that was not our experience. We had a fuel stop then sent everyone to another donated lunch at the convention center. Many of the RG’s and I decided to just eat at the McDonalds that was right next to the fuel stop.
Once again, the Southern Route Coordinator Richard “Preacher” Moore did the presentation of plaques after lunch. I have seen this many, many times and that is probably why I choose to buy lunch instead of taking the donated lunch. I would have had to stay for all the presentations. We then saddled up and headed for our next stop. We had a police escort all the way to the freeway and many townspeople outside waving flags or just waving to us. Again, for me I have mixed emotions about this kind of thing. It is very nice to see but I sometimes still say to myself, ‘Where were you 40 years ago? What did we do to make you despise us so much? What is so different now that you try and make yourselves feel better by greeting us in this way now?”
Once again I digress. Our next fuel stop is in Pecos, Tx. On the way here we leave I10 and transition to I20. By the way, we have another time change in Van Horn. We are on Mountain time instead of West Coast time. Lose another hour of sleep. Pecos was a pretty quick stop. Just fuel, quick run to the head and back on the bikes. Our final destination of the day is Odessa, Tx. Ray “Too Tall” ? is one of the owners. His company supplies us dinner. They put on a great spread. But as you ride up the freeway, you first see this gigantic US Flag flying. We exit and cross over the freeway and turn down the frontage road to his business. Many people and flags to greet us. The local PGR is out in force and many townspeople are there. As road guards, we direct all the bikes in and show them where to park. Once everyone is parked, we get to join in the festivities. For me the best part is this is where Karoni Forrester joins the mission. If you don’t remember, she is an MIA daughter. Her Marine father was shot down in 1972 when Karoni was just about 2 years old. I first met her in 2009 when I was an FNG. I had the privilege of taking her to Phoenix on my bike. She is such a special person and I am glad I have gotten to know her.
After dinner, we were done for the day. We all headed to our hotels where we checked in and got some sleep and thought about what tomorrow’s day will bring. Each day gets better. The FNG’s hear this all the time from us and by the end of the mission, they will all realize how true that is.
I will try and catch up daily but don’t bank on it. I guess I am feeling my old age and have to sleep a little more than I did in the past. Not matter, tomorrow will be better and the mission is what is most important, anyway.