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Southern Route Coordinator Latest News for 2016

May 1st, 2016

 

Good Day SR Riders,

Excitement is in the air, bikes are being tuned up, and new tires are being ordered and installed; service is being completed. We are ready to ride, many have ask all year long "Is it May yet" I can now answer that question.  "Yes it is May!", so lets ride.

The Southern Route Team Leaders are now finishing up all this year’s preparations for the 28th annual Run For The Wall Mission.  The major projects are completed, were finalizing things such as raffle items, 50/50 and door prizes.  Our 50/50, Door Price coordinator “Wild Cat” has been hard at work gathering items for our fund raising.  “Marty $5” has the raffle tickets ready to go and the large raffle items will meet us in Wytheville, VA.  The Finance Team “Not Airborne” and “Pooh” are managing the funds for the Run and the Fuel Team. It is all coming together now.

There are some new things planned for the morning meetings you will not want to miss.  “Wizard” the Honor Guard Coordinator is filling up the Honor Guard for the Wreath Laying at the memorials we visit.  Road Guards have completed the Experienced Rider Courses.

There is still time left to book a hotel if you haven’t already. On Monday the 16th between 1500 and 1530 Alaska Airline’s Fallen Hero’s Cart will be arriving in Ontario at the host hotel.  If you have the time, there will be a flag line set up to welcome the Cart in from Seattle.  It is a great honor for Southern Route to be chosen to escort this Cart to Washington, DC.

On Tuesday the 17th there will be an un-official Ride out to Riverside National Cemetery. Staging for that is at 0730 just east of the host hotel. If you haven’t been to RNC do not miss this opportunity you will be blessed.

As we gather together for the start of this Mission keep in mind, that an estimated 22 Vets commit suicide every day. Some experts think that estimate is too low. There are Vets struggling with drug and alcohol abuse, family violence, and homelessness. PTSD continues to haunt vets 40+ years or more after their discharge from service. We’ll learn more about some of these issues as we ride. We’ll support each other, and touch those we come in contact with along the way. We’re glad you’ve joined with us on the Mission. I look forward to meeting you soon.

 

Keep the Faith,

Chicken Joe

 

 

 

 

 

29 April 2016

 

Southern Route Riders,

 

Many of you have asked for the schedule of the Ontario Meetings.  We have been working on an event that is to take place in Ontario. This year we, Southern Route, have been ask to escort a Fallen Hero’s Cart to Washington, DC to be place at an airport in the area.  This is a great honor and is the first Fallen Hero’s Cart to leave the western United States to go east.  We now have the scheduled time for its arrival.  As you see it should be arriving between 1500 and 1530 on Monday, 16 May 2016.  We are asked to provide a flag line upon the arrival of the FHC.  If you are there please look for the flags and the arrival at the front entrance of the Radisson Hotel.

 

Since this event has been finalized I can now publish the Ontario Itinerary for the Southern Route. Please review this schedule to make appropriate arrangements as needed. We are expecting a great time in Ontario, meeting new friends and renewing friendships with old ones.

 

Keep The Faith

ChickenJoe

 

 

Monday 16 May 2016

 

1300 - 1900 All Routes Registration REGISTRATION ROOMS- EAST ENTRANCE

1500 – 1530 Arrival of Fallen Hero’s Cart

1900 Registration & Merchandise to Close

 

Tuesday 17 May 2016

 

0730 RNC Run Staging. East Guasti Road, the street immediately east of the Host Hotel.

0830 RNC Riders Meeting

0900 RNC KSU

0900 - 2000 Merchandise Open (Closed from 5pm to 7pm) RADISSON FRONT Parking Lot

0900 - 2000 (Closed from 5pm to 7pm) All Routes Registration -REGISTRATION ROOMS- EAST ENTRANCE-

1100 - 1200 4-Wheeler’ meeting All Routes Salon 1 & 2

1430 - 1545 SR FNG Orientation Meeting Salon 1 & 2

1615 Blessing of the Bikes RADISSON Parking Lot Chaplain Corps

1630 Presentation of KIA’s RADISSON Parking Lot

1650 Presentation to Casa Colina RADISSON Parking Lot

1700 - 1900 DINNER- Meet & Greet MAIN BALLROOM ALL RIDERS attendance

1745 Presentation of the Colors Marine Corps Color Guard- MAIN BALLROOM

1800 Presentation of Combat Hero’s Bike Build Project. MAIN BALLROOM

1930 Interdenominational Prayer Time RADISSON Parking Lot Chaplain Corps

2000 Registration & Merchandise Close

 

Wednesday 18 May 2016

DEPARTURE SCHEDULE

ONTARIO CONVENTION CENTER Lot ‘D’

 

0545 Registration Opens

0630 Registration Closes (Riders with clipboard “in hand” at 0630 may complete registration.)

0645 Riders’ Meeting chaired by Greg “Pied Piper” Smith, President, BOD

0645 Opening Prayer

0648 Presentation of Colors by American Legion Post 262

0651 Pledge of Allegiance

0653 National Anthem

0656 Why We Ride:

 “We Ride for Those Who Can’t”

 “Honoring All of America’s Warriors”

 Remembering the KIA/POW/MIA from Vietnam

 Remembering the KIA/POW/MIA from Iraq/Afghanistan

 0700 Taps

 0702 2016 RFTW RIDERS WELCOMED by Greg “Pied Piper” Smith

 Recognition of:

 FNGs

 Active Duty Military

 Medal of Honor Recipients

 Blue Star Families

 Gold Star Families

 0706 Introduction of RFTW Board of Directors

 0708 Recognition of Volunteer Leadership

 0710 Introduction of SR, CR & MWR Route Coordinators

 0712 Rider Orientation/Safety Briefing (Smith)

 0718 Closing Prayer (Burd)

 0720 Riders Dismissed to Platoon Leaders. Briefings at platoon staging areas.15 minutes –Guaranteed!!!

 0735 Midway Route Departs

 0750 Southern Route Departs

 0805 Central Route D

 

 

 

 

 

2 March 2016

 

Good Morning Riders,

 

Well I have been a little slow in getting out my RC Notes for February, so to solve the problem I will incorporate them into March’s notes.  The teams have come together and we are finalizing the major projects for RFTW Southern Route 2016.  As you may have noticed we now have the 2016 Southern Route Itinerary up and ready for your review.  This is a preliminary copy, there may be some minor changes but for the most part this is what you will receive where ever you join the Run. 

As you already know the time is getting closer before you will be heading for Ontario to join up with the Southern Route to start Mission 2016 across this nation.  I would just like to remind you that this is a Mission as stated in the Run For The Wall Mission statement.  First, to promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends. Second, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA). Third, to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars. Fourth, to support our military personnel all over the world.  We take these four statements very seriously and if you are going to ride this Mission in 2016 we also ask that you takes these statements into your hearts and remember what we are here for.  This is not your bucket list ride, this ride is difficult, to ride in a platoon formation for a little over 2800 miles if you start in Ontario. There can be sand storms, temperatures over 100 degrees or down to 30 degrees, rain or hail. Even through all the hardships there are also times of blessings, when you find a total stranger that will place his or her arm around you and say, “I understand, I’ve been where you are”.  You will find folks on this Run that do care and want your healing to come, as it did for them.

The accounting of all our POW/MIA are also very important. The numbers from the wars since WWII are staggering.  Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) is working diligently now to bring about the accounting of all our POW/MIA.  We see military personnel repatriated and brought home to their families several time a year.  From WWII there are 73,515 MIA including 851 civilians, Korea has 7,823 MIA’s. Today 3/2/2016, Pfc. James M. Smith remains were brought home from Korea.  In South East Asia we have 1622 POW/MIA’s left.  As of February 22, 2016 there are 1264 in Vietnam, 302 in Laos, 49 in Cambodia and 7 in the South China Sea.  I guess what bothers me most is the 501 listed as “No Further Pursuit”. It is out Mission to remind this country that we cannot set back and do nothing, but to remind our politicians to bring our people home. On this Mission you will see and talk to family members of those MIA’s, they will be wives, sons, daughters, sisters and brothers.  If you have an opportunity listen to what they are doing to remind this country that they have loved ones not accounted for.

This year Southern Route has the honor of escorting a Fallen Hero Cart to Washington DC to Rolling Thunder XXIX, then on to one of the airports in DC.  This is a very cool thing Alaska Airlines mechanics, baggage handlers and others have been doing on their own time to show respect for the KIA’s that are flown into airports around the nation.  This is the first FHC to go east and you will get an opportunity to see this cart as it travels with us across this nation. You can read about the cart in the 2016 Southern Route Itinerary.

Now for a little business, we are looking for a few good men or women that have been on the Run at least once and are going ATW that are interested in volunteering for a couple of jobs on this Run.  We are looking for one Quartermaster and four Leadership Support folks.  You may be busy at times with the duties assigned you but you will find them very fulfilling.  If you are interested contact either myself or Ghost Rider the Assistant Route Coordinator.

Finally, I want to welcome all of you to the Run For The Wall XXVIII, it is hard to believe this little recon ride that James “Gunny” Gregory made in 1988, then ran in May 1989 has become what it is today. 16 years ago the Southern Route was formed and as you travel on this route you will find some organizations and stops that have been with us all these years and continue this year also.  There are many but I would like to introduce you to Rolling Thunder, Tennessee 2 who has provided a meal for the Southern route for 16 years and Willcox, AZ that 16 years ago brought riders of the Southern Route sack lunches in the park and this year will continue to provide a meal for us.  It is amazing to me and I hope to you also what has been happening across this country as the Patriots come out to welcome us to their towns.  This truly is Three Routes, One Mission.

 

Keep The Faith

ChickenJoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 January 2016

 

Ladies and gents:


Well we only have four months to go before we start our trek to Ontario, California. It is time to be thinking about what you are going to carry with you, especially the FNG’s. If you go to the RFTW webpage you will find a tab that is an FAQ. This tab has a lot of information. If you have not been there I suggest you visit it. Now if you are an old timer like myself I go back there to review things I may have forgotten, so take the time to visit the FAQ.


Just a little update concerning the Southern Route planning. More than seven hundred volunteers are working hard to make sure things go smoothly. State Coordinators are in touch with folks at every one of our stops. Fueling and parking logistics, meals, hydration, police escorts, and special programs are all being worked out. Without these volunteers and the many hours they put in, we could not make it across this country in ten days.

During the Run there are opportunities for Riders to help fulfill our Mission. At the front of the Pack, leadership ride in the Missing Man Formation. Riding side-by-side in the first row are the Route Coordinator and the State Coordinator or other VIP, the second row is a Rider from the pack, and an open position representing the Missing Man, and riding side-by-side in the third row are the Missing Man Chaplain, and the Missing Man Coordinator.
Flame is our Missing Man Coordinator and is ready to take your requests to ride in the Missing Man position. You may email her at  RFTW.Flame@gmail.com and provide her with this information:


1. Your full name, including road name (if you have one)
2. Your starting point/your ending point (Example: California to DC / Odessa, TX to Monroe, LA)
3. Are you an FNG (first time rider on this Run? If not, when was your FNG year?)
4. Your cell phone number
5. The name of the person or unit you are riding to remember/honor
6. If you have an interest in a particular leg, and why

FNG’s are given preference, as are Gold Star and MIA Families. Please remember you must provide the above information so Flame can get you on the segment you desire

.
At a number of our stops we lay a wreath at War Memorials. Our Honor Guard includes representatives from the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, and a Civilian.. Wizard is our Honor Guard Coordinator and is preparing the list of folks that want to participate. Again, preference is given to FNGs. If you are interested contact Wizard at rftw.wizard@outlook.com


I would now like to speak to the Gulf War Veterans. There has been a study by scientists at Baylor University concerning Gulf War Illness (GWI). A link has been found between a variant gene (BChE) and an anti-nerve gas pill called pyrdostigmine bromide (PB). At least one in four of the nearly 700,000 US vets that served in the 1991 Gulf War could be affected by this complex medical condition. Studies indicate that GWI effect 25 to 30 percent of veterans who served in the 1991 Gulf War. For more information concerning this information please see Baylor Communications.1 Health information of interest to all Veterans can be found here.2
Medical info and red tape is always challenging, but it is important to stay informed.


If you have noticed the Hotel information is now on the Southern page. If you have not made your reservations there is plenty of time to do that. In most cases you have to around April 20 to get a room at the RFTW rate. I do recommend though you get a room sooner than later. As for as the 2016 Itinerary, it will be published on the website around February 1st 2016.

Keep The Faith
ChickenJoe

 

1.  http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=151171
2.  http://www.publichealth.va.gov/

 

 

 

                                                          

 

5 December 2015

 

 

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, the Run is coming very quickly now and we are about to see the close of 2015 and I have been trying to figure out where this year went, it seemed to have flown by. Even Ghost Rider the ARC for 2016 commented this week that we only have 5 month until we are in Ontario preparing to hit the highway. This Mission will be a big one just as each and every Mission of the past 27years has been. We are looking at up to 1400 riders leaving Ontario next year. A huge undertaking for Run For The Wall but we all have outstanding Team Leaders that have picked up the ball and are running for the goal.

This year we have Ray “Ghost Rider” as the Assistant Route Coordinator, he knows everything I know and probably even more. Lisa “Chrome” Russell as our Road Guard Captain, and from her input at our Leadership Meetings she has everything under control, I count on her Road Guards to get me where I need to be. I am really glad she is on the Southern Route. Next is Jim “Tail Light” Drieth the Advance Team Lead, Curt “Stitch” Bancroft the Fuel Team Lead and Jon “Speedy” Witmer the Staging Team Lead. These guys are going to get us fueled and staged at every fuel stop and guide us in to our morning, lunch and supper meals. Without these folks we could not keep the pace we need on the route. I have actually seen these folks fuel 500+ bikes in 19 minutes, what a crew. The Ambassador Team Lead is Pete “Baron” Nolen, I have known Baron since I have been on the Run and he actually Road Guarded for me for several years when I was the 7th Platoon Leader, he has picked a crew of folks that will touch the overpasses even before the Pack arrives these folks are awesome. Then there is the Chaplain Corp and the Senior Chaplain is Gary “Shepherd” Burd. Gary and I have know each other for some time and I have a huge amount of respect for him. When our Senior Chaplain Wes “Hailstone” Alveraz could not make the Run in 2016, his daughter’s graduation and several speeches she is giving, then Gary came off the Mid Route to fill in for Wes. Because the Southern Route is a large operation it was up to him to pull this off for us. Just a little information on the Chaplain Corp, they are not only our Spiritual help, if you request it, but Gary is also in charge of the Chase Teams, the Hydration Team, the RMO Team and the Nurse Team. As you see he has a big job. These are the major players on the Run. Iin January I will write on the other teams and folks involved in Run For The Wall Southern Route.

Some of you have been asking about Hotels, well we are still waiting on a couple of State Coordinators for finish up the 2016 Hotels, there are new hotels or hotel changes which create a little issues in timing, we are on track to complete those and publish the hotel information on or about the 4th of January. Do not worry you will have plenty of time to make a hotel reservation for 2016. For the campers we are also on track for additional camping areas in a couple of overnight stops.

Just a reminder, this is a Mission, not a joy ride. As I mentioned in the video it will be a hard 10 days across this United States. Therefore, as soon as you are able to get out and ride, I recommend some training, that is, take a ride everyday maybe to the grocery store or just around the block. On the weekends or your days off run up the road for about 100 miles then return home, this will make for a good shakedown ride and over the next 5 months will give your body a good break-in for the long days in May 2016. Soon it will be time to get your brain tuned up for the tough daily ride on the Run. I recommend you look for an MSF Riders Course you will find that very helpful. Also MSF has a Group Rider Course that is outstanding for helping you understand the actions to take when riding with a group of around 300 bikes.

If you are interested in seeing who you will be riding with for the 2016 SR Run we have our own leadership website. The link http://www.rftw-sr.org make your way there, and see you will be able to become acquainted with the folks that will get us across this great nation

Remember to Keep The Faith of the original mission that Gunny and Billy Goat started, until next month.

Keep The Faith

ChickenJoe

 

                                             

Ray "Ghost Rider" Wyatt    Lisa "Chrome" Russell    Gary "Shepherd" Burd      Pete "Baron" Nolen         Jim "Tail Light" Drieth                                              

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

 

11 November 2015

Hey everyone,                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Here it is another great Veterans Day, this is not only a day of celebration for our military Veterans and Active Duty, but a day of remembrance for all those that did not come home. Our POW/MIA’s that our government left behind. Today brings back a little aggravation to me of how our government and military could leave any military personnel behind. I wear a band on my left arm that reads POW/MIA BETRAYED! Like you I am only one voice but if each of us insist that our representatives take action to bring all our POW/MIA home, we can make a difference.


On a lighter note yesterday 10 November 2015 was the 240 birthday of you Marines. So Happy Birthday to you gals and guys. I know you folks celebrated hard, yesterday, that is what Marines do.


Now for Southern Route Run. Things are moving very quickly now, as we get closer to the first of the year. State Coordinators are really busy, now, completing contracts with hotels. Hotels will be published on the RFTW.org website, Southern button, around January 4th or 5th. Many of the State Coordinators have told me that a lot of the Host Hotels have changed so we again recommend you not make any reservations until after they are published on the website. We have several new hotels in various towns we layover in, again please wait until after 5 January to make your reservation. Do not worry there are plenty of hotels this year. The State Coordinators are also doing their best to get the hotel rates reduced for 2016.


Meals look like they are about the same as 2015. It is a real blessing to see all the folks provide for us as we travel across this nation. I have also been told that some of the Fuel stops have been changed also, to give us more staging area. At this time we have a road condition issue in Alabama but the State Coordinator has already found an alternative route and is in contact with the Alabama DPS.


Each year we have certain Outreaches we go on, this year we have 9 Outreaches available to our riders. A couple of them are limited to the Ambassadors and many are limited to a certain number of bikes. We have two new outreaches that have not been confirmed as of yet but we are working on them to date.


The Itinerary is coming together but will not be published until the first of February to make sure we have everything as complete as possible, seems to be a lot of changes in the 2016 Itinerary. We also like to recognize the folks that feed us and take care of us along the Run in the Itinerary. Times and events are also in the Itinerary which make it a big job.


Lastly, I would like to recognize our volunteers. Usually you only see the Leadership on the Run, but there is so many more behind the scenes working hard for us. There are fund raisers going on throughout the Southern Route as I write these words. Fund raisings to help us along our way to Washington DC. There are over 600 volunteers helping us to get down the road, you will never see all of them but for me, I want to thank them for all they do and continue to do, they spend selfless hours working to prepare for our arrival. These are the unseen Heroes on the Run.


For my Mentor James “Stoney” Stone, “just one more thing”. Again this year we are asking that the places we stop for a meal to put out a Donation Jar. I am asking you to put in a little change for your meal. This money will be seed money for the next year to provide for us. I know not everyone may have the funds to do that but if you can give back to these citizens that do so much for us, it will bless them for all they do. In 2015 we had lunch at the Tuscaloosa VA hospital. They are not allowed to accept any money/donations for food we eat, so we took up a collection for the Veteran Services, we collected $632 from you our riders and RFTW-SR matched that money for a total of $1,264 for the vets in the long term care home. Again you guys have blessed our Veterans beyond compare. Run For The Wall Southern Route have nothing but the best folks. Deserving of the best.

 

 

Keep The Faith

ChickenJoe

 

 

 

 

13 October 2015

Hi Yall,

Well today is a great day for the Navy. Today is the 240th birthday for you sailors. So from a grateful Army, “Happy Birthday”, and even you Stoney. You guys and gals should take the day off. Okay enough of that.


Southern Route is steaming ahead, our Leadership Teams are filling up very quickly, Platoon Leadership is at full status but we are looking for a few Reserve Leaders, just in case someone cannot make it next May. The Fuel Team and the Staging Teams are also looking for a few good men or women to step up, but they are also filling up quickly. State Coordinators are getting all the route, hotels, meals, fuel stops and contracts are being signed. So far looks like we will have a few gasoline stop changes and several hotel changes. Remember the hotel list should be out on or after 1 January 2016. Please do not rely on the 2015 hotel list to book your rooms since we are moving several hotels.


I would like to speak to the program Run For Them All a grant program provided by Run For The Wall. I could go on and explain the program but I feel it is best to allow you to read the RFTA information directly from the website. Therefore I have copied it here.


Run For The Wall recognizes the sacrifices and contributions made by all veterans who have served our nation. Veterans of recent conflicts and those currently on active duty are especially welcome to join us as we ride for those who cannot.


From the beginning, the Run for the Wall has existed to promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world. There is a large population of Vietnam Veterans, our “old warriors” that participate continually every year to receive the welcome home, respect, and healing that this annual journey takes us on. However, taking a cue from the Native American culture these “old warriors” look to reach out and help the “young warriors” as they return from their service to our great country. While the younger generation of Veterans will never face the persecution from the general public that Vietnam Vets did, the Run understands these warriors will still face the inevitable side effects both physical and mental. Run For Them All (RFTA) seeks to assist all veterans of our past and present including those currently serving, by providing them funding for the Run For The Wall so that they may unite and begin a healing journey with their fellow brothers and sisters.


If you might need a little assistance please check out the Run For Them All button on this website. There is an application that you can fill out and send in to the BOD at this time or you may contact Ray “Ghost Rider” Wyatt the SR Assistant Route Coordinator for assistance.


Today, I went back and reread the Sitreps for 2015. As I read through them a flood of memories burst through my mind and tears broke out, this Mission we call Run For The Wall is such a blessing to me and very dear to my heart, as we travel across this grand nation. If you haven’t read the Sitreps for SR, I would encourage you to take 30 minutes out of your busy day and just see what happened on this Mission. If you are an old warrior, read over what we did this year and allow the memories to flood your thoughts, if you are an FNG, see the blessings that go on this Run. It is a hard Run but it is well worth the struggle we endure to make this Mission.


Well that is all for today, God Bless you guys and again Happy Birthday Navy.

 

Keep The Faith,
ChickenJoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

29 September 2015

 

We just got back in from the Texas Reunion! Good friends, great food, and even better riding. Thanks to all the folks who put the Reunion together including: Sam & Cowboy, Raven & Sapper, Tinman & Oilcan, and others. If you don’t have a Rider’s reunion in your area you might want to put one together! It is a great time meeting up with old and new friends to RFTW.


Joining us in Kerrville, Texas were half a dozen or so riders who will be FNGs in 2016, a couple of active duty guys, a former POW from the Iraq war, and a family who has been waiting since 1972 for word on the whereabouts of their husband and father. This is why we ride, to bring attention to the needs of our Veterans and their families. We are keeping faith that our efforts, our being together with one another makes a difference.


Volunteers all across the country, almost 600 along the Southern Route alone, are already gearing up for the Run. State Coordinators are reviewing the route and tweaking fuel stops. They are contracting with hotels, motels and campsites for overnight accommodations and many other details. Their work is often behind the scenes, but it is critical to the success of the Mission. These folks rarely receive the accolades they deserve but they do not do it for the applause but for the Mission. The Mission is in their hearts and if you talk to one of these unsung heroes of RFTW, give them a hug and a hardy thank you for all they do. VFWs, Legion Halls, VVAs and community groups are hosting fund raising events so they might offer us a meal along the way. Team leaders, too, are busy getting plans and people in place to lead this group from coast to coast.


One Rider’s view of last May’s Southern Route Run made the US Veterans Magazine. Check out “Camaraderie on the Road” at www.usveteransmagazine.com/article/camaraderie-road?page=0,0

 


Keep the Faith,


ChickenJoe

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 September 2015

Greetings RFTW Riders


I’m Joe “Chicken Joe” Connors, and am honored and humbled to serve as the 2016 Route Coordinator for the Southern Route. Ray “Ghost Rider” Wyatt has agreed to serve as the Assistant Route Coordinator. Many others have willing stepped forward to fill leadership roles on the road and at each stop we’ll make along the way. Getting us across this great nation takes each and every one of us.


The mission is more important than ever before. It reads:


To promote healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA), to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support our military personnel all over the world.


Twenty eight years ago it started with two California Vets, James “Gunny” Gregory & Bill Evans, standing up for their fallen brothers. They had faith that bringing word about those POW/MIAs before the people of this country would make a difference. They had faith that vets helping vets would begin to heal the unseen wounds of PTSD, the alcohol and drug abuse, and suicide. They had faith that to seeing the Wall would make a difference. They were right. Each year since, Vets and their supporters gather together in California and ride east. It truly is one of those experiences you have to live to understand. It can’t be explained.


It is not a Sunday afternoon trip to the burger barn, as Dutch likes to remind us. It is a mission. It is a hard ride on a tight schedule in all kinds of weather. It is a ride that changed my life.


I was drafted in 1968 and served stateside and in Alaska through 1977. I continued with the Army as a civilian at Fort Wainwright, Alaska until retiring in 1998. A shattered ankle kept me out of Viet Nam. A sense of being an outsider kept me out of VFW Posts and Legion Halls. I didn’t feel I’d earned the title Veteran. While in Alaska in 1992 I first heard about an obscure ride called Run For The Wall some Vets were making to DC. I heard about it off and on over the years and I thought, maybe someday. In 2007 I finally worked out the details and joined the Run.


I was taken in by first one, and then another of the riders. Even though they knew I’d never been in-country. I came back the next year, and the next. Dwight “Dutch” Stevens, Don “9-Ball” Morris, John “Slammer” Gebhards, Pete “Baron” Nolan, Roger “Cowboy” Mead, Jim "Stoney" Stone, along with many others encouraged me along the way. They brought me up as an assistant platoon leader, platoon leader, ambassador, and then Jim “Stoney” Stone asked me to serve as his Assistant Route Coordinator last year. These men are more family now, than friends and continue to mentor me.


We know that Veterans from all conflicts continue to suffer. Family members continue to await answers about their missing loved ones. Twenty two veterans a day commit suicide. The original mission of healing stands more importantly than even before. We must Keep the Faith!


I’ll post more information as it develops. Many of us are headed to Kerrville for the Texas Reunion in a few weeks (details on the Forum if you’d like to join us.) State Coordinators are already busy tweaking logistics and plotting fuel stops. And I saw on Facebook somebody just bought a new bike!

 

Until then, Keep the Faith!
Chicken Joe

 

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