Our mission today takes us from Oddessa, Tx to Grand Prarie, Tx. We will visit the Permian Basin Memorial in Odessa plus visit the small town of Colorado City, Tx.
Trish Burnett, an MIA daughter, who rode with us last year, is with us again. I have had the opportunity to talk to Trish on a several occasions this year. She has become much more friendly. She is much easier to talk to. As I thought about this and I think I know why. Last year, Trish was an FNG and didn’t really know anyone. Being an FNG can be overwhelming. You experience things you just don’t expect. Your emotions are always running away from you. Being an FNG is a once in a lifetime experience. But this year, Trish knows many of us. Plus she has experienced RFTW once already. So this year she is a lot more relaxed around everyone. It is good to see since she is one of the reasons we ride. She is an MIA daughter who had her father returned a couple of years ago. Her family finally had answers and got some closure.
Once again this year, Karoni Forrester, Mia daughter, meets us in Odessa. That is her hometown and her father’s hometown. He is on the Permian Basin Memorial.
Breakfast was at the American Legion Post 430. The Post donated the breakfast. After breakfast we had a short 12 mile ride to the Permian Basin Memorial. This is a beautiful memorial.
This view is from the back of the Chopper looking toward the main part of the memorial. You may notice the statue in front of the chopper of the three soldiers. They are waiting to the chopper to land since one of them is wounded. Plus the ground around them simulates a rice paddy. For many, once they realize where they are standing, you will see them immediately walk fast to get out of there. They will not go near the chopper again.
As we do at each memorial, we place a wreath from RFTW. Usually, the FNG’s are the ones that get to do this. At this memorial, Capt. Ron Forrester’s little girl, Karoni was part of the ceremony. She got to present the wreath. It could not have been a better choice. It is one of those little things that are done on this mission that mean so much to us
This is a picture of Karoni standing in front of the honored names helping present the wreath. I didn’t ask her, but I am pretty sure she is looking at her father’s name as she stands there. She is such a strong woman to be able to do this, but I know how much her “Daddy” means to her. You can spend five minutes with her and you will also know this. I also know that her “Daddy” is very proud of her. May he rest in peace and may Karoni and her family one day get the answers to all their questions. Never Forget!
This year we did not visit the Big Springs Memorial. I was on the Advanced Team for several days last year and didn’t get to visit this memorial. I was looking forward to the visit this year. I don’t know why we didn’t go there and nobody explained why. Instead we headed directly to Colorado City for fuel and then lunch. Colorado City is another one of those small towns that go all out for us. The whole project is run by local school children. I think they are junior high school age. Once we get there and enter the warehouse there is a lunch at each table for all of us. We go in, get plastic knives, forks and spoons plus something to drink. It is open seating so we can sit anywhere. The meal consists of green beans, potato salad, and one of the best steaks I have had. A local rancher supplies all the beef. While we are there, the children put on a show for us. This year they had a dance group of about 8-9 year old girls. They did a fantastic job with it and got a well deserved standing ovation. They had a couple of singers and of course speeches. One of the things the students have to do is visit a local veteran and make a presentation that is set up in one part of the warehouse. This is just another example of how small town America helps RFTW on our journey across this country.
After Colorado City, we have two of the longest stretches back to back. We travel 116 miles to the next fuel stop. As usual the Advance Team did a great job getting everyone fueled up and ready to go. Of course, everyone takes a break and hydrates. Hydrating is very important when you are riding when it is hot and humid. I drink so much water that you would think I would be spending all my time in the bathroom. But it doesn’t work that way by hydrating, you prevent yourself from dehydrating and be in danger of heat stroke or exhaustion.
Our next ride is 122 miles to Grand Prairie. This is the end of this segments day. When we get to the La Quinta Hotel, there are all kinds of people with flags. They also supply us with dinner some entertainment. The local Dallas Vet Center has a mobile counseling vehicle. One of the really nice things they have done is to make a replica dog tag for everyone who has pre-registered in California. Bill picked mine up for me. They also had these real nice Challenge Coins for us. It was a very nice surprise. As the day comes to an end, we got cleaned up and got ready for the morning. Tomorrow will be busy in the morning. We have to leave early.
As I have said before, there is no stopping for any weather other than hail. But that is just a thought while I am trying to finish this day’s journey. I will take the journal up again in the morning.
Rich 'Yankee' Martin
Viet Nam Vet