Southern Route Coordinator Latest News for 2015
27 January, 2015
42 years ago tonight the guns fell silent in Vietnam, or rather, America began what Nixon called Peace with Honor.
27 January, 1973 was officially the last day of combat operations in Vietnam.
27 January 1973, just 16 hours before the cease fire, Commander Harley Hall, Executive Officer of the VF143 Pukin’ Dogs, and his RIO, LCDR Phillip Kientzler flying their F4J from the USS Enterprise came under intense anti-aircraft fire while attacking several trucks and were hit.Both Hall and his co-pilot, LCDR Philip A. Kientzler ejected at 4,000 feet and were seen to land 100 feet apart near a village on an island in the Dam Cho Chua and Cua Viet Rivers. CDR Hall was seen moving about on the ground, discarding his parachute.Only Kientzler was released at Operation Homecoming in 1973. He last saw CDR Hall as they touched the ground. When he asked his guards about his pilot, he was told that he was killed by another.
No other returned POW reported having knowledge of Harley Hall, yet the Pentagon maintained him in POW status for over 6 years, and documents were obtained that indicated that he was indeed captured. The Hanoi government claims to have no knowledge of CDR Harley Hall. Harley Hall was shot down on the last day of the war and was the last Naval Air casualty of the Vietnam War.
This former member of the famed Blue Angels flight team remains missing. His family has refused to accept the presumptive finding of death, body not recovered.
This is why we ride!
So it is the last week of January and the Southern Route hotel list has been posted. I want to thank all the Southern Route State Coordinators who worked tirelessly to convince the hotels that RFTW was NOT some group of rowdies and I really did not need to put my personal credit card down to guarantee YOU guys and gals would not tear the places we stay up! (My cc could not have covered the liability limits anyway… but that is another story!) Each coordinator was tasked with finding hotels to accommodate us AND negotiating improved rates too. Though not always successful at rate negotiation, they did a great job.
I also want to thank Chicken Joe Connors for collecting the hotels and transcribing the information from the state coordinators to the hotel listing and successfully posting it! Good job CJ… what would I do without you!?
Oh, please notice, due to the extraordinary efforts of those SC’s we beat my 30 January commitment cited in my 9 December RC notes!
Right now the State Coordinators are again negotiating with various organizations and dealers to welcome RFTW SR XXVII in to their towns. Our next task is to refine our Itinerary. In some cases it will be similar to years past but we will have some new experiences for you.
Again this year we will be visiting several schools and VA Medical Centers and Veterans Memorials along the way. We are also planning several outreach activities to new places.
And of course we will visit Piggly Wiggly!!
In a past note I mentioned our Volunteers and the fact that without them there could be no Run for The Wall. Please remember to take time to thank the volunteers, whether they are students of a local school or Veterans from the local American Legion or VFW, or some bikers from a local club who just want to support us as we cross America on The Mission. Remember too that the students have worked very hard preparing their projects and entertainment for us. Some of these kids have real talent. Be courteous, respectful and quiet and listen as they sing or recite their poem or story. They are proud to have us visit them and to serve and honor us, please represent RFTW appropriately.
Another group of supporters often overlooked is our LEO escorts. Local Law Enforcement Officers make our travel through their towns and counties safer for us and for the local population. Take a minute and say thanks to the officers. Many of them are Vets too, and they would give anything to be able to make this incredible trip.
On another subject, much has been written lately about The Mission and the ‘list.’ The introduction to the Book Run for The Wall is titled ‘I thought I was going for a ride’ and is a quote from a fellow who joined the Run for one day and ended up going All the Way.
This is a Mission.
One friend wrote that he had seen a distance come between The Run, The Riders and The Mission. We had grown so large we did not have time to even talk to each other. My theory is ‘Every Vet has a story, we just have to listen.’ Our size made that very difficult and not everyone felt part of The Family.
Our mission is to provide safe travel across America for all those affected by War, while reminding America there is a price for the Freedoms we experience on a daily basis. Our mission is also to provide a safe venue for those affected by War to heal. And our Mission is to get YOU to The Wall.
It is an opportunity for Grunts and POGs (Persons other than Grunts) to realize none of us could have been successful without the others.
Someone mentioned The Run could not survive if it were not Fun… Fun? Ten days and ten plus hours per day on a motorcycle seeing only the back fender/tire of the bike in front of me… FUN? Sorry but the riding is not fun! It is hard work, it is long tedious days, riding with people who do not ride as well as you do, and it is an honor to be welcomed home by the America we served for.
The Mission: demanding a full accounting of all those missing in action; to honor the memory of all those Killed In Action from all wars; Healing for all Veterans and those touched by war; and supporting our Military all over the world.
The Run is NOT on your bucket list! A ride across America may be, but The Run is not on your list. Come ride with us, experience The Run and see the America we served for and feel the Healing begin. Experience The Run and feel The Mission and know This is why we ride!
Continue the Mission
11 January, 2015
Greetings from Ft. Worth, Texas and WELCOME to 2015!!!!
By now I imagine recovery from Christmas and New Years holidays is complete. I hope everyone enjoyed some time with family and friends.
Yea, like I said, welcome to 2015! Between now and 13 May time will absolutely fly by. The Southern Route team continues to put the final touches on the hotel list and I expect to have it complete and posted before 30 January. Yes the other routes have their lists up and we are a bit behind, but that could not be avoided. Several of our state coordinators also support our military and understandably that takes priority! I spoke to one of the coordinators tonight and we have only two or three left to go... progress at any rate is still progress.
Thank you State Coordinators for your hard work. Without you and the other volunteers there would be NO RFTW!
So, it is time to begin getting yourself and your equipment in shape for The Run. That means getting out and riding as soon as the weather permits. Here in northern Texas we typically start riding again in February, and then we ride every weekend possible! Around April I will take my scoot down to the local dealer and have it gone over completely. In the past that has been an oil change, a battery change and one year two tires were necessary.
If you have an opportunity, consider taking the Basic or Advanced rider classes. While not required, I strongly urge you to consider taking these classes. In the 40 years I have been riding motorcycles very little has changed, except the size and speed of the machines. I found that going to the Rider’s Classes reminded me of those things you must automatically do in emergencies. The military has a saying ‘Train like you fight, fight like you train.’ I think that can also be applied to riding a 1600cc motorcycle. I have rarely needed to lock up my brakes and then avoid an obstacle, but it did happen one year… and my training automatically kicked in and saved me!
That is about all I can think of today, so until next time, Ride Often and Ride Safe!
Continue the Mission (Charlie Mike)
9 December 2014
Sunday 7 December 2014 marked the 73rd anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The attack commenced at 7:48 a.m. Hawaiian Time. The base was attacked by 353 Japanese fighter planes,bombers, and torpedo planes in two waves, launched from six aircraft carriers. All eight U.S. Navy battleships were damaged, with four being sunk. All but one (Arizona) were later raised, and six of the eight battleships were returned to service and went on to fight in the war. The Japanese also sank or damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, an anti-aircraft training ship and one minelayer. 188 U.S. aircraft were destroyed.
2,403 Americans were killed and 1,178 others were wounded.
We remember the sacrifice of the brave men and women lost on that day and over the following nearly four years in both the Pacific and Atlantic Theater of Operations.
This too is why we ride.
Now some more news IRT: RFTW XXVII Southern Route
OK, OK, I know you have questions and I have been a bit slow anticipating those questions and posting answers so let’s see if we can make some more progress!
I just posted the Southern Route Leadership positions as I know them today. We have Platoon Leaders and Assistants for eight of nine platoons. This listing will continue to grow as we identify the rest of the team that will facilitate our safe crossing across America.
We are still looking for a Trikes with Trailers leader who has made more than one All the Way trip with us before this trip. It looks like Chicken Joe has found enough Tail Gunners for the motorcycle platoons, so if you volunteered and did not get picked up yet do not fret... we frequently experience changes between the first lists and leaving Ontario, so you may still get a call! As I mentioned in my first note, Run for the Wall XXVII will be leaving from the Ontario area, and BOD President Wish is finalizing the contracts for hotels that will be HAPPY to have the Run for The Wall as their guests. The other awesome thing about these new accommodations will be the proximity to the freeways and the price! Wish is shooting to have the new hotels posted after the New Years holiday.
Top Sarge also tells me she is reviewing applications for a Registration Assistant. This person must be detailed oriented (you have to review every registration) must have ridden All The Way at least one time and should be eager to Welcome grumpy Old Veterans home. This wonderful person must be willing to be up early and stay late at the evening stops. Oh and you need to have a smile permanently affixed to your face cuz sometimes those grumpy old vets forget stuff like Insurance Papers or motorcycle registration papers and forget it isn’t the registration team’s fault! And for those of us who do forget paperwork, let me emphasize (for the first time in 2015) you must bring your driver license, Insurance card and motorcycle registration with you when you come to register for The Run. No Exceptions!
Top also asked me to remind all you grandparents and aunts and uncles that if you intend to have a minor passenger riding with you it will be necessary to have a release form granting you permission to bring them on The Run signed by BOTH parents. I say again, you must have a release signed by BOTH parents or the minor will not be allowed to accompany you on The Run.
Tail Light, our Advanced Team Lead tells me he is still looking for short about 7 to 10 from his Staging team... This job sounds really GREAT: Early risers must be at the morning muster spot before sun up! Wages are very poor for this position but the ladies and gents who do it tell me they love seeing our smiling (?) faces each morning and then several more times during the day.
As I write this note our State Coordinators are continuing the work of getting enough hotel rooms to accommodate us as we make our way across these United States. I have heard for several that change some improvement may be possible so we will continue to wait patiently. Please work with me on this one. I expect to have a compete listing of hotels by the end of January. Yes I know that is later than in past years and if we can have it sooner we will get it posted sooner.
The State Coordinators tell me our route across America will look basically just as it did last year with only minor changes. They are still finding volunteer organizations to meet us and feed us.
That reminds me, please remember the towns we stop in and the groups who host us look forward to our visit with the same enthusiasm we look forward to the overall Run. In all cases our hosts have spent significant time and money preparing for our visit. The only expectation they have of us is we will treat them with honor and respect, which should include listening to their programs and speakers. Each year a few of us forget how generous our hosts are and we leave before the kids or the speakers or the program has been completed. Please begin now to prepare yourselves to stay that extra fifteen minutes or so and upon completion of the program please show your appreciation.
So now you know just about everything I know about our 2015 Southern Route Run for The Wall and the little bit more I do know you are probably happy to NOT know!
Please have a very Merry Christmas and a safe New Year.
With great Love, Honor and Respect
28 November, 2014
Greetings from Ft. Worth Texas, where Will Rogers said’ The West begins!’
I trust everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving and enjoyed the company of family or friends and maybe even a few of our warriors who missed their own families due to operational commitments. If you had a Service Member in your home and shared your holiday meal yesterday, Thank You!
I’m stoney. I am humbled and honored to be the 2015 Run for The Wall Southern Route Coordinator. Here is a little more about me:
My parents were both WWII vets. Dad was a Forward Artillery Observer with the 220th Field Artillery in Europe and Mom was a Marine, trained to work on F4U Corsairs, but stationed at Pendleton as a driver for a China Marine named Colonel Sturgis. In 1971 my dear mother had the good sense to refuse to allow me to enlist in her Corps and so after failing at college I became a Blue Water Sailor in HC-1 Det 2 aboard the USS Midway from October 1973 thru October 1975. My wartime experiences were very different than those of Combat Veteran brothers and sisters. I have never heard a shot fired in anger, but I have lost friends in defense of freedom.
Honorably separated as an E5 in 1977, for the next thirty plus years my enlistment was often referred to as a ‘Million dollars worth of experience I would not pay a nickel to do again!’ Military Service was not something we discussed with anyone who wasn’t a Vet, and most of my Vet friends were trying hard to move on too!
My first trip to The Wall in 2000 had picked an interest I did not understand, then in 2004 I was in DC at a training conference when I discovered Rolling Thunder. With no motorcycle in my possession I announced I would make RT XX and around me friends and family just smiled and looked away.
I started my Run for The Wall Odyssey in 2007 when two vet friends in Kalifornia had to back out of our trip to Rolling Thunder XX. Tadpole answered my email on night one coming out of Rancho and told me to find him when they pulled in to Weatherford. That first Run was 8 years ago and at the time I only expected to ride once or maybe twice!
Little did I know that RFTW XIX, and specifically the Run for The Wall Family would also begin to help me with ghosts I still do not fully understand.
Most who know me remember me as a Road Guard, a role I loved from 2009 thru 2013 exclusively, and all I ever wanted to do with The Run… but The Run had other plans! As all who have ridden more than once with RFTW know, it gets in your blood. It bores into your heart and it will not let go. The Run first gives back to each us, but then she grabs us and points to brothers and sisters who also need comfort and The Run never lets go again!
For the 2015 Southern Route I am honored to be accompanied by Chicken Joe Connors as the Assistant Route Coordinator (ARC) Jim Drieth, Tail Light, as Advanced Team Leader, Ray Ghostrider Wyatt who returns as our Road Guard Captain and Laurie ‘Airborne’ Clay as the Southern Route Finance Leader.
We have identified all but one Platoon Leader (still need one for Trikes and trailers, Platoon 8) but I am confident we will remedy this before we get to Ontario.
That’s is correct, Ontario, California will be our starting point in 2015 so don’t make your reservations at the old hotels in Rancho Cucu unless you want to commute in lovely LA traffic to enjoy our company! BOD President Ken ‘Wish’ Hargrove is still communicating and negotiating with the new venue so we aren’t ready to announce it yet. We can tell you we will have much cleaner access to the Interstate as well as much more parking for our three Routes. Hotels will be announced and will begin accepting reservations sometime after the first of the year.
This year We have chosen Continue the Mission as our mantra for RFTWSR XXVII. I read somewhere, or heard it from someone who knew it, that ‘Charlie Mike’ used over the radio indicated a team would Continue the Mission.
Over my eight years on The Run I have heard more than one person being reminded that we are all on this Run for one reason, The Mission! There are times when that rider next to you, or behind you, or in front of you, cannot keep their interval; when that rider cannot keep up or is too close or clearly has no riding skills, or upsets one or many of us for a reason that they are probably unaware of and most of the old timers don’t care about. It is times like this we must remember why we ride over 3000 miles in ten short days.
Our Mission is ’To ride for those who can’t; to remind America that there is a cost of Freedom and to call for a full accounting of those left behind as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action; and to promote healing among All Veterans and their families and friends.’
By keeping The Mission first in our hearts We will find a way to Continue the Mission not just for ten days in May, but until they are home.
As an aside… when I met Gunny Gregory in 2009 I told him he had given me back something I had tried very hard to forget… and I told him I would serve again in a heartbeat and would proudly pay much more than a nickel for the privilege to do it all again!
Continue The Mission