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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

After incredible ministry opportunities at the Wall, most riders head home.

 We stayed over for 2 weeks in an apartment at the church.

Kevin stayed too.  We're working on some landscaping here, while we prepare for church services in Centreville, VA this weekend and Manassas next weekend.  The opportunities at the Wall were so powerful this year.  Russ met this man at the entry path, offered to escort him to the Wall, and the man ended up spending a great deal of time because he had several names he had to find rubbings for family members.  It was powerful, and emotional.  I snapped a few pictures and posted them with his permission as it is also a very private time.  God is so faithful to send just the right person when we need an arm around the shoulder.

We both needed that support our first trip to the Wall - it's so piercing, you actually feel the power of the black granite penetrating your heart.  Every name represents a young man who was never able to watch his children grow, represents unborn children, grandchildren and mothers, wives and girlfriends who grieved.  Family members who couldn't accept the unpopular war, family and friends who protested, and buddies who survived, only to return and grieve with "survivor's guilt."

You feel it when you gradually approach the wall, as it starts tiny with the first name and begins to increase in height as you step down the graded path.  You don't know, should I step on the bricks, should I touch the wall, should I leave this item I've carried across country, do these items deface the memorial or add to it, do I keep walking or pause, should I let people pass me or stay in the flow of tourists, do they think I'm crazy or do they have any idea?  So many questions, the heart says, "Stay, Pause, Remember."  Look around, there, alone, lay a hand on that arm, "Are you Okay?"

Are you Okay?

Are you Okay?

Am I Okay?  Wow, I felt faint.  It was probably my 11th or 12th visit to the Wall, but I was not Okay.  All the work and planning that went into the 2011 Run For The Wall sort of flooded over me, and the reward was certainly at the Wall.  I saw a former Board Member walking with a new rider, stopping looking for a name on the Wall.  I was reminded that it is ALL ABOUT THE NEW GUY (FNG) at this point, and it WAS ALL WORTH IT!!

Duane Gryder has accident:

Duane had another rider with him, but in front of him on another bike.  He was in Arkansas on the way to Texas after leaving Washington D.C., when his back tire blew out.  The rider with him saw him flying through the air.  He landed and was knocked unconscious.  The first thing he remembers is his friend standing over him.

He will be fine, but he has a broken clavicle and is in a lot of pain.

We're so thankful he's going to be fine.

Duane and his wife are Motorcycle Chaplains like my husband and I.

Appreciate prayers going up for them as he heals and the as the bills start coming in.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Divine Appointments - that's what we call it - some call it coincidence.

I had been at the Vietnam Veterans Wall for nearly an hour, along with nearly 800 Run For The Wall riders and the general public, and other groups arriving for Rolling Thunder, and I was standing back, near the chain, trying to see my hubby who had gone to find a Park Service employee.

It was time to leave, I had held a Run For The Wall ceremony with several riders.

When a rider registers with Run For The Wall the first time, they are given a large button (pin) that say's FNG and is dated.  During the Vietnam War the term FNG meant the new guy was going to have to be trained, observed, and worked into the routine, which was a negative for the experienced warrior, so it was a derogatory term.  Run For The Wall has a tradition, we call them Fine New Guys or Gals, FNG, and the pin means that we will not take our eyes off of this rider, we will assist them when things get stressful, emotional, or difficult and we plan on standing with them at every challenge, including facing The Wall.

There are several methods for this, but once you've accomplished your mission getting to The Wall, your pin can be turned upside down and worn that way from this point on.  That Pin also gets the new rider into an incredible presentation at Arlington National Cemetery the Saturday we arrive, so it is treasured.

One of the things that has been done with that pin through the years, that I so appreciate, is if they are standing at The Wall and their pin is not upside down, we step up, welcome the rider HOME!  Then ask their permission to call this "mission complete."  Then ask their permission to turn the button upside down indicating they've arrived and we have a brief discussion about their ride, the reason they rode, and get to know each other on a heart-to-heart basis during the brief ceremony.  Everyone breaks at this point, you're aware of the families pushing strollers, babies sleeping, toddlers chattering, teens giggling, adults glancing but afraid to totally look on, peek into the ceremony, it's private, poignant yet, a necessity.

I stood in one place and looked for Pins that were still upright.  When I would see one, I would gently touch the arm of the Run For The Wall rider and ask, "You are here, are you ready to turn this pin upside down?"  I explain the significance of the Pin, chat with them about their ride, and we do the deed with tears.

Michelle and I crossed paths, I had probably already done about 8 FNG pins, when I turned and there she was, she nearly shouted, "All these people, and look who I'm standing beside."  We had ridden several legs of the trip side by side in the pack, she on her Harley me on my Yamaha sport bike, we kept pace like clockwork, and got a lot of comments on our riding abilities.  She is the young lady I mentioned - who is going to Kuwait in July for ANOTHER tour.

We hugged, smiled, stepped back and low and behold her PIN had not been turned.  I started shaking and crying.  I said, "Is your mission complete?  Are you ready to turn your button?  May I have the honor.?"  She said she would love for me to be the one to turn her Pin.  At that instant another lady rider stepped up, and took Michelle's camera to capture the moment, as we hugged and cried and my hands shook, I told Michelle, "This is more than a ceremony for you and me, this is an act of passing the baton on my part representing Run For The Wall and my generation, to you our current heroes, our willing warriors.  Carry on, you have our prayers and support."  I told her that she was my inspiration across country, she's the reason I ride and that:

Our Memorial is your Memorial until you have one of your own.

I got my plaque for serving Run For The Wall on the Board of Directors.

It was with mixed emotions that I stood on the platform and held the microphone, talking to a small percentage of our riders and leadership.  The closing ceremony was in a new location at a new time this year, so it wasn't real well attended, but some very key people certainly were there, and I was so honored.

In my "farewell speech" I reminded the all volunteer participants and leadership that the Board of Directors exists to provide resources and support to the Route Leadership.  They have no other purpose, no agenda, even though we all know that when something is changed or goes wrong the Board takes the heat.

This year's planning went remarkably smooth, we were able to work out most debated details, meet the expectations of most leadership, and follow-up on some major changes that affected a lot of riders.  Our leaders were honored all across country.

I know we saw more people on overpasses in communities that were never aware we came through, for instance in Kentucky, the State Fire Commissioner heard we were coming through and had at least one Fire Truck on every overpass we went under.  It was pretty incredible know all through that state people knew who we were, that we were blowing through their state on a mission and that we were honored.

The plaque is beautiful. 
It has a very large disc inlaid with the POW/MIA emblem and two Challenge Coins one heads, one tails.  And the plate itself recognizes my service as Chairman of the Board this year.

I was very honored at the recognition ceremony - and nervous giving my speech, but I certainly felt the support and love of the leadership and ridership of Run For The Wall.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The emotions of riding across this Nation with hundreds of Veterans.

I had a position in the pack of motorcycle riders with another lady rider.  We kept pace nearly perfectly, she on her Harley, me on my sport bike.

She is active duty, I've never served in the military.

She was young enough to be my granddaughter.  I felt old enough this trip to be put out to pasture.

We shared many tears and hugs, and I know I would do it all again for her, for the willingness she has to take this time before she goes overseas again in service to our country, to ride with a bunch of old people who started this ride years ago as a remembrance of those "Left Behind."  A POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) mission an awareness ride has turned into a healing mission. The purpose, get people like Michelle to our wall, she can take us forward, continue the mission in Kuwait, on her next duty station ... we can walk away knowing the mission continues.

I was honored with an over-sized plaque last night for my duties as one of the Board members on Run For The Wall.  It represents a lot of fine memories, great hard working people and nose to the grindstone challenges.  It will be a reminder to me that giving so much the last 9 years (5 on the Board) was worth it because of the Michelle's out there, and Truck, and Butch (who I met my first year), Larry from Salina, J.R., Brandon's of the current war(s).

I had to have by bike on the trailer yesterday because I left my bike key in a restaurant that didn't open until after the pack was ready to leave.  When I connected with the manager to arrange to get my key, he said he locked it in the office so that when someone returned for it he'd know where it was.  The janitor who was there cleaning when I went looking, didn't have access to the office.

I carry an extra key and it would work on the saddlebags and even to unlock my gas cap, but it wouldn't start my bike.  One person in our group could get the key to work so, he was called upon to start my bike, got it off the trailer, pulled it up to the building, left the key on, went in to use the restroom,

... and some fine gentleman (they all take care of me) turned my key off!!

In the restroom I had the thought, if someone sees my lights on on my bike they probably turn the key off, and sure enough ... when I came out and saw the lights were off, it was hilarious.  I said, "crapola!"  Probably the harshest word I've said in front of these people who have known me for years.  It's my own version of some four letter words used to express about 10 days of frustration.

So we finally got the key to work one more time, and the hubby and I did the last leg into D.C. ahead of the pack.  At this point I was so frustrated and exhausted, I didn't need to be in the pack.
My bike on a trailer - my d-i-l said it looks good there, she worries about us when we are in the pack.

One of our riders is prepared for ANYTHING.

This run has been so full of emotions.  I'm so honored to hear the stories of how people make the decision to come on the Run, where they joined us and how they found out or were invited.  I also have such a broken heart knowing the Run is changing and as it evolves it won't have the same impact or mean the same to others.  One thing I know for sure, the young people who have a passion for this event are raising up and taking the reigns.  And for that I am proud, honored and humbled.

God bless each and every rider at the Wall today - in a few hours we will pose for a picture in front of the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the reflecting pool, then we will walk the longest quarter mile of our journey to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall where we lay it all down as a collective mass of grieving warriors.

My bike sits among the others waiting to hit the road.
I pray that the tensions I have felt on this year's Run is released there, that the love I have for these people is felt, and that hurts and disappointments can be mended before each one takes their journey home.  I love each and every one of these people who throw their lives into making this work.  I pray that when the riders arrive home their families will have open arms to hold them and open hearts to receive the changed being they've become on this journey.  

Run For The Wall is not a religious or Christian or denominational organization, but it attracts a lot of strong believers who care about helping others heal.  The stories we will all hear over the next several days will help encourage and strengthen our wounded warriors who have served this country and still continue to battle for liberty.

Our Motorcycle Ministry was well represented on this Run this year, and for that we were so honored.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

When you ride a motorcycle, weather is a huge part of the ride.

Out in the elements all day, packing in the rain, riding in snow, the heat of the Sun the power of the wind, and all the debris that flies your way, being outside without a roof heading down the highway 60 to 70 miles an hour, weather is important, so ....

If it seems like we obsess over weather when we give ride report - wanted you to understand.

We have had heat and humidity for two days like it may rain any moment, and rain it just did, for about 3 minutes (after getting into our motel).  And now - heat and humidity will return with vengeance.

Praying everyone makes it to the night stop or Rainelle or Lewisburg, West Virgina safely, they're predicting strong storms with wind and hail later this afternoon, wanting all riders indoors before that one.

Some gave all - that's a sobering thought. All gave some and we're sobered by the sacrifice.

We pause every morning at the rider's meetings on Run For The Wall, have a moment of silence for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice to our country, dying in military duty.  Every one is a hero.  We are all affected by the loss.

Visiting one of the Veteran's hospital I snapped this photo of an HonorBound Motorcycle Ministry member visiting with a patient.  HonorBound is the Motorcycle Ministry my husband and I founded 12 years ago and Stoney (road name) was one of our original members.  So much ministry goes on behind the scenes on this ride.  PTL  This year we had several HonorBound members throughout the pack, Duane Gryder on Southern Route brought a member with him, Stoney, Chaplain Curtis and Kevin, and a new Minister Duane rode Central Route.  Every time we see the patch we are so honored.

Yesterday one of our "favorite sons" on the Run, Brandon, was highlighted in the morning meeting, because the day before he "just happened" to meet up with the Gold Star Mother of one of his comrades.  Yes that means that this Mom lost her son in war, and Brandon was there.  The Mom had joined Run For The Wall and Brandon has been with us since California.  Brandon is one of our Run For Them All recipients this year.  We have a new program on Run For The Wall that allows our Post 9-11 Veterans the opportunity to join us and helps them financially.  We eventually hope to pass the baton to today's heroes.  Until they have their own memorials to ride to, we take them to ours and honor them.

Not everyone camps, some motel it, others bring what they need for camping.  This is one of the bikes riding with us ... Run For The Wall hasn't seen rain, (snow in Williams, AZ) but I believe this rider is ready for ANYTHING!!  Ride safe out there.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Two more days with no rain, Wentzville Missouri to Corydon Indiana to Hurricane West Virginia


Photo courtesy of National WW II Museum LINK:

Because we met a POW from WW II Battle of the Bulge today, I did a little research on that battle.  I found this telegram, and I have to tell you that this brought back such a flood of memories, I nearly changed my mind about blogging about Run For The Wall.

My Mother worked for Western Union, I used to go to work with her and watch her make up these telegrams.  My Dad worked there, too, for many years, he started with the Teletype and Morse Code, and worked there through computers in the 70's.  He is a World War II Veteran and I'm so proud of him.

NOW FOR MY UPDATE on RFTW Days 7 and 8

Well it happened, I couldn't blog in Wentzville Missouri because we didn't have wi-fi and I barely got time to shower and sleep after doing the Famous Fish Fry in Corydon, IN.  So here I am doing what I hoped I wouldn't do this year - posting for two days riding.
Getting to Wentzville Missouri is always a great ride.  We've gone from Ocean to Desert, from Mountains to Foothills, to PLAINS, snow, hail, and now through the windy state of Kansas, into Missouri.  The highways are surrounded by standing pools of overflowing rivers and streams, the fields smell of recent rain, and road kill is everywhere.  Everything is growing, bushes, trees, they're spreading out all over the sides of the roads, medians, power lines and road signs.  Tree trimming will be a huge industry this year.

After leaving Wentzville, Missouri, we stopped at the Veterans Hospital in Jefferson Barracks, in St. Louis and the hubby talked with a WW II Veteran who was a POW and at the Battle of the Bulge.  He had the opportunity to pray with him.  The gentleman was in his 90's and noticed I was a lady Chaplain, he was so excited to meet a lady that was a Chaplain, he was a very sweet man.  He loved having prayer.

We talked with several patience and completed our ceremony for that location, and began rolling through Illinois, kind of on a South East track, things continued to get greener, and soon we were in areas that were being mowed.  Now many have their allergies acting up.

One man commented on the Southern Indiana "Hog Farm" odor.  He was nearly sickened by a smell that is very common to us - being from the Midwest.  He's from the Mojave Desert.  I guess there aren't hog farms there.

Odors are definitely a topic of discussion when you're riding a motorcycle.  We had our share of manure and fertilizer spreading wafting our way, but the closer we got to Corydon, the more beautiful the hills became and the sky was perfect, it was close to 84 degrees but cooling, and Overpasses were occupied with Hoosiers waving flags.  Slowing to make the turn into the little town where we would soon have a fish fry, there were families, groups of children, business people all standing at the curb, in backs of trucks, up on hillsides, and all along the sidewalks, out in front of homes and businesses waving flags, clapping, some sitting in lawn chairs, waiting for this parade of nearly 400 bikes to roll through their town.

There was not a dry eye in the pack.

Leaving Corydon this morning we went to the Robley Rex VA Hospital in Louisville, KY.  Then on to the Frankfort, KY Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  At the hospital we talked with a lot of the staff, who need encouragement because of the nature of their jobs.  The hubby was able to spend time with some interns and hear of their needs.  It was a great visit.  I stood and talked with a patient named Jerry who was a Vietnam Veteran.  He really wished he could get on his bike, which was in his garage, and ride with us, but he had health issues that had him hospitalized.  I hope we were an encouragement.

I also spend some time with office employees who asked several questions about the logistics of the Run.