It’s time to ride for Vets again! Bruce Almighty and Julie Manner, here, sending a big hello to all of our NVAR brothers and sisters! I’m honored to once again be your sit/reps writer for the 2014 Ride. We are teaming up with Top and Diane Desherow in the chase vehicle where Bruce will again be offering some great merchandise. Last year’s ride was very personal, emotional and rewarding for many of us. There were amazing stories, lots of sorrowful and joyful tears, a couple of scary incidents, but, as always, a worthwhile and, in some cases, a life changing experience. The NVAO board has worked hard through a very bad winter to smooth the way for a great ride. Let’s hope the Lord will grant us fair weather. Bruce and I can’t wait to see all of you and hope you will share your ride experiences so that everyone can be a part of this wonderful mission. Until then, safe travels and Via Con Dios as we go… All The Way!
Prelude 2 (Monday May 12)
One of the greatest parts of our ride is the positive attention we get from folks all across the country. Our riders cut a striking figure in their leathers and decorated vests. Every one of them represents the NVAO well by acknowledging vets wherever we meet them. Today we were eating lunch at a place near our hotel and encountered a Vietnam Vet. Dennis (Stuke) Stucki presented him with a ride pin after thanking him for his service. Bruce (Almighty) Manner found a young man who was only two weeks out after serving 9 ½ years in Iraq and Afghanistan Army Infantry. Bruce got one of the Global War on Terrorism Medals that we award to these young Vets. Jerry Connor presented it to him, thanking him for his service. The applause came not only from our ride folks, but also from all that witnessed this honor.
The story of the Global War on Terrorism Medal is an interesting one. Remembering the poor treatment of the Vietnam returning service people, VVA Chapter 154 of Roseville, MI decided that it is important that our young service men and women be recognized for their service. On the ride a few years ago, a member of Chapter 154, Charles Babcock showed up with these beautiful medals and asked that we allow him to award them to service people that served in the war on terror. This became a very popular and appreciated gesture. Recipients along the ride were honored and surprised to be recognized. Buzz Neeb worked with Charley and Pat (Too Tall) Daniels to order more of the medals so that we can continue yet another great tradition. Hopefully this new generation of soldiers will carry on the legacy of never forgetting our Vets.
Tony (Squirt) Cunningham and Dan (Lugnut) Kueppker relayed the story of their group having breakfast at a restaurant in Battle Mountain, Nevada. Several Vietnam Vets having breakfast at the same time introduced themselves and thanked our guys for their service. When our riders went to pay their bill, they found that their tab had already been paid. Their waitress handed them a note, “Thanks for all you do”. Signed, The Lander County EMS.
It was a great Monday before the ride. Bikers continue to arrive and the reunion is wonderful. Looking forward to Special Tuesday tomorrow.
Prelude 3 (Tuesday May 13)
What an incredible day this was! The ride has not officially begun, but so much has happened to remind us of how important this mission is.
The first treat of the day was our visit to the Bowman Elementary School here in Auburn, CA. As we walked into the room, over 100 kids applauded enthusiastically. They then entertained us by singing “It’s A Grand Old Flag”, and the songs for every branch of the Armed Services. Those kids were good! Of course, we all joined in, especially since they projected the words on a huge screen. Jerry Connor gave an excellent slide show program about the NVAO, the ride and why it is so important. The kids really loved it when Jerry asked them to roar like a motorcycle. The riders dispersed throughout the room and talked to the kids, answering their questions. I grabbed Frank (Flipper) Wait and made him explain the amazing number of decorations from his service as a Navy Seal. The kiddos were wowed! When I told them that I’d be posting this on our website, one little girls said, “Umm…my name is Mya!” Then Natalie, Stacy and Alex spoke up. Doc signed the cast of Jackson, who broke his arm. So, kids, thanks for a wonderful visit! Thanks also to Mr. Yee, the principal that made it happen.
Our next visit was to visit the vets at the Mather VMAC. 41 bikes, several trikes, and two vehicles were present. Maria Alms was gracious as always and made us very welcome. We presented our certificate of appreciation and had some great vet visits. Veteran George was happy to see us. He spent most of our visit telling us, with great pride, about his son who is serving in Belgium for a NATO diplomat. Sue and Don Tardis (Doc and Angel) managed to visit one Korean vet who was allowed no visitors without precautions. Because Sue is a nurse and knows the drill, she and Don suited up in gowns and masks and gave this vet some special attention.
If we ever wonder whether we are making a difference in anyone’s life on this mission, the following story will prove that we are, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Terry Hoops was standing outside of the hospital when a young woman came up, thanked him for his service and handed him a folded piece of paper tied in a green ribbon. The note said:
“I wanted to thank you guys. I was planning on going home and ending my life. Even though you all are complete strangers to me, your kindness is really appreciated and very much needed. You guys unknowingly saved my life. I thank all of you. I can’t believe how lucky I am to run into all of you. I don’t know any of you, but I love all of you. You changed my life in 30 seconds. Thank You! Signed, The Girl in the green shirt that cried. Thank you. That meant the world to me.”
We hope and pray that we made enough of a difference that this troubled young person will get the help she needs.
Until tomorrow…. Julie (First Lady) Manner
Day One - Wednesday, May 14 (by: Julie Manner)
The ride has begun! Before we get started, I can’t believe I forgot to mention the very special dinner we had last night! Once again Diane, Casey and Orlando of Sweet Peas opened their restaurant just for us. The meal was delicious and the company was too! We presented them with a special collage plaque to hang among the many patriotic decorations on the walls. We really love these fine folks who take such good care of us every year. Also, we’d like to thank Terry Hoops who very eloquently shared the letter from “The girl in the green shirt who cried”. Thanks, Hoops.
Under beautiful skies at 6:45 AM, we left our hotel for breakfast at the Auburn Veterans Hall served by the great folks of the Jeep Club. Once again, the meal was excellent. They are so supportive of the NVAO, not just with breakfast, but with generous monetary donations as well. We were sorry to say good-bye to some very good friends.
Wheels up at 8:00 AM on the first 112-mile leg of a long day. Riding Missing Man position were Dave Clemmons and Fred (Flash) Young. We had 50 bikes, four trikes and two cages. The first stop was at the VMAC Reno. Dr. Kurt Schlegelmilch and Darin Farr gave us a very warm welcome. Our Guides Carrie, Claudia with her beautiful therapy dog Echo, and Tina took three groups of riders to visit throughout the hospital. This excellent Veteran’s medical center continues to improve its facility and services. Rick (Spook) Hayden met a fellow Spook that he says was the real deal. These undercover soldiers were left behind under the guise of drug addicts, Peace Corps operators, etc. to continue providing information to our side when all other soldiers were coming home. Every time we visit a facility, we learn more and more of the many ways our soldiers have served and of the incredible sacrifices they have made. Claudia, our therapy dog guide, was awarded one of our War on Terror Medals for her service in Desert Storm. After an excellent lunch and great sales from the merchandise vehicle, we said good-bye to Reno VMAC for another year.
Next stop was the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery. This is a beautiful oasis in the middle of a very harsh landscape. Beautiful, lush grass and flowers surround the manicured grounds. We honored our friend Indian Joe Leonard, good friend to Steve Moore, with a wreath lying. Bruce Almighty reminded us of how Joe became an important part of our ride family. Top Desherow delivered a touching eulogy honoring Joe and asking us to keep our mission of remembrance, education and dedication strong.
At one of the gas stops along the way to Battle Mountain, we met a biker who asked Bruce Almighty who we were. Bruce and Jerry told our story. The young man liked what he heard and gave Bruce a $100.00 bill and asked if he could join the ride to Elko. We welcomed him and he also joined us for dinner at the VFW Post 2350. Lo and behold, he was also a War on Terror Vet. We were so pleased to give him a medal recognizing his contribution.
Three escorts saw us very safely into Elko. This was greatly appreciated because we picked up an additional 50 day riders! The NV Highway Patrol, Sheriff’s Department, Elko and Carlin Police worked in tandem to deliver us in a timely fashion to VFW Post 2350 for one of the most delicious meals on the ride. Heartfelt thanks to VFW 2350, American Legion Post 7, and all of the folks of Elko who lined the streets waving flags to warmly welcome us to their city.
What a tiring, emotional, but wonderful day. Until tomorrow…Julie
Another look back…Yesterday’s fine Wreath Laying Squad at the grave of Indian Joe Leonard were: Doc Rhode, Frank Meier, Don Jenkins and Mike Rinowski.
One of the hardest parts of the ride is saying good-bye after each stop. Even though we only see them once a year, we have become a family. In Auburn, it was wonderful to see Billy the Kid, the youngest of last year’s riders. His mom kindly brought him out to see us off. Fred Corcoran always has a smiling face ready for us as we arrive. Many showed up to have breakfast with us and wish us well. They make donations and buy 50/50 tickets to support us. We appreciate the day riders that joined us to Reno VMAC, all for the love of the Vets. Flipper and Mad Dog who left for Oregon, we’ll miss them. One very important item I forgot to mention: HAPPY 75TH BIRTHDAY SIERRA NEVADA HEALTH CARE SYSTEM!!! The VMAC Reno is part of this group. We hope you continue to care for our vets with the quality of health care they deserve.
Another really beautiful morning dawned today. We were wheels up at 8:00 AM, which felt like we slept in! Present were 52 bikes, 7 trikes and two cages. Riding Missing Man formation was Ray Adams, and Butch Schroder.
The Salt Flats of Utah are incredible. It was Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds as the sun turned everything sparkly. Along the flats, people leave messages spelled out in black rocks. Some are love messages, birthday or just people’s names. Very cool.
A 235-mile ride took us to the Salt Lake City Veterans Home. As we drove up, whom do we see first but Randy Knight and his lovely wife Marsha. He is the person to whom this year’s ride is dedicated. Steve Mulcahy, who nominated Randy for the dedication, introduced him as one of the original and valued NVAR riders. He met Steve Moore when Steve fell down the steps in a hotel in Nashville, and the rest is history. Randy was severely injured in a bike accident a few years ago. His rehabilitation has been difficult, but, with Marsha’s help and devotion and through his hard work, he continues to improve. Randy was very touched by this honor and pledges to be with us in sprit. As a token of his strong belief and support of our mission, Randy made a sizeable donation to the cause. We were delighted to have him join us for lunch today. We love you, Randy. Thank you for your support. We wish you continued success in your recovery.
More memories were made today. Stuke told me a story on the fly about a lady he was visiting that received a huge box of letters while he was there. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my tablet with, so I don’t remember the details, except that there were lots of them, and that Stuke wanted to read them! Maybe letters from her soldier boy? We also encountered Kerry, an Air Force second lieutenant that was shot down over Afghanistan. Her service dog Buster accompanied her. Rider Mike awarded her our Global War on Terror Medal.
One very sad story was the death of a very special man that I met in 2013, Gene Johnson. He was an Army veteran of Korea Gene loved motorcycles and always looked forward to our visits. He came out to enjoy our bikes and invited us to his room. There he had displayed photos of himself as a young man on motorcycles. Best of all, Gene was an artist. He “painted” amazing pictures through pyrography, burning them on wood. Draws, burns and colors amazing images and allowed us to enjoy the gallery in his room. His lovely Daughter Susie was at the home today and presented the NVAR with a beautiful work of art done by Gene. Gene was also President of the Resident Council in 2013 at the age of 85. Susie said he didn’t retire from his contractor’s job until he was 81! She also related the touching story of his passing. He was lucid to the end, with his final words to her being, “Here we go!” That was Gene, beginning his next adventure. Rest in peace, Gene, and thank you for your service and talent.
Heartfelt thanks to the Salt Lake City Vets Home. Lunch was wonderful and we look forward to next year.
80 miles later, we picked up a 38-bike escort, bringing our numbers up to 90. VFW 4280 provides a scrumptious roast beef dinner and supported us handsomely with 50/50 purchases and brisk merchandise sales. Another stop with many old friends, and many more new ones! Thanks Post 3280!
Happy Tenth Anniversary NVAR and Happy Birthday Svein!! Svein received good and not so good gifts for his birthday. Bad news first, he has a broken throttle cable on his bike. We’re trying to get him the help he needs. The good news is that he was asked to choose the 50/50 because it’s his birthday. He chose his own ticket!
Time to rest. Here’s to tomorrow. Julie
Day Three - Friday, May 16 (by: Julie Manner)
Update on “The girl in the green shirt that cried”… Our good friend Wayne Worden of
Auburn, past Chaplain of the ride, called to say that the young troubled person that reached out to Terry Hoops has been identified and is receiving mental health attention. Wayne intends to offer his services to help her along. Thanks, Wayne.
We left Evanston, WY with overcast skies and cool temperatures, 28 riders, 4 trikes, 1 cage and the chase vehicle. Riding Missing Man Formation was Dan “Lugnut” Kuepker and John Trefren. Our first stop was at Rock Springs, WY. 28 day riders joined our group. Once again, an impressive honor guard saluted our entrance into Cruel Jack’s gas station. Thanks to the fine folks from Post 2, including Leonard Merrell and Doug Rodda with his impressive bulldog Harley. Harley has been part of the color guard welcome for three years and is still in fine form.
Next stop, Rawlins, for gas and lunch. Here we awarded another young man our War on Terror medals. He was a 4 years active Marine. We were blown away when a trucker donated a $100 bill, another gave $20 to the ride, and Top sold a hat! A photographer from the Rawlins Daily Times took our group’s picture. As we got on our way, a military helicopter did a flyover. This was a great stop!
Ten miles West of Cheyenne, we were met by 16 additional day riders. Our police escort consisted of more than 10 officers from the Laramie Co Hwy. Patrol, the Cheyenne Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department, and more. They closed ramps, stopped traffic and got us to the Cheyenne VA Hospital quickly and safely. Dr. Jerry Zang welcomed us warmly and Jennifer coordinated our visit. Our War on Terror medal volunteer Squirt really had a busy day! Five more medals were given to our young veterans from Iraq, the Gulf and Afghanistan Wars.
Now, here is where this post becomes really difficult. There are so many stories from this visit that I’d have to stay up all night to report them. Vets were very accessible in many areas of the hospital and grounds. Our riders were wonderful, visiting, laughing, listening and bringing pleasure to so many. Here are a few vignettes:
On the hospice unit:
Mr. Schaak, who served in Saudi Arabia, was very difficult to understand because he’d lost his speaking ability. No problem! One of our Mikes got him to smack palms once for yes and twice for no. Amazingly, we had a conversation and Mr. Schaak laughed!
Army Vietnam 66-68 Vet Marion. This gentleman had a beautifully groomed beard, and amazing attitude.
Riders Sue and Don introduced us to Scottie, a WWII Army Vet who served in the South Pacific and the Philippines. Sue has been caring for Scottie for 18 months and has an incredible way with him. His affection for her is evident. He was brought back from death twice. He is 5’1” of feist and a joy to visit.
Continuing on the ward, we found Top very sad to find his old friend Ralph McCollough had died. It is very hard for us when we have missed the opportunity to see an old friend just one more time. Rest in Pease Ralph.
Doc had us say hello to his new friend Charlie. He is a Veteran of WWII, Korea and Vietnam. He served in the Air Force as a Mechanic. Also, Bill Stephenson, WWII Merchant Marine, is 98 years old, very sharp and regaled him with stories galore.
I was introduced to a beautiful lady dressed in pink and in a wheel chair. Ann is a polio survivor. She is one of 20 volunteers that serve on the hospice unit. Their motto is “No Vet Dies Alone”. There are times when she sits through the night with a dying soldier. Ann was called to the U. S. when her son married an American girl. She is very passionate about the welfare of the dying. Dignity, compassion and love are part of her ministry. She said that she has seen fear turned to faith and anger turned to love. What an incredible woman.
Silver Top and Fancy met Roland Thomas. He served in the Navy for 30 years. He was on the Perry during the Pearl Harbor attack, but wasn’t sunk then. Three years later it did sink and he survived. He chose to serve in Chicago after that and said it was terrible~ He worked round the clock. He is 91 years old. He’s been at the hospital for ten years, but drives home every day to take care of his cats. Amazing.
One of the Chaplains at the hospital started out as a resident! He is an Iraqi Vet and received one of our War on Terror medals.
Believe it or not, this is but a few of the heart wrenching and wonderful stories. I’m sorry if I didn’t put the names of the riders that provided them, but they all run together when there are so many. Thanks to all who contributed. You are wonderful ambassadors of the NVAO.
Another excellent escort got us on our way to dinner at the VFW Post 1818. Delicious, Top finally got his pasta! A delicious spaghetti dinner was served. Five War on Terror Medals were awarded to Kim, Clarence, Andy, and Max. To John DeRouen, Joey Garcia and all who welcomed us so warmly, thank you!
On a more personal note, Jerry Connor introduced Amber, who will marry his Uncle Hugh’s grandson. We all remember Hugh’s sharing his war stories with us last year. Amber’s cousin David was killed in Afghanistan last May. She gave a beautiful tribute to David and told how his sacrifice and love of country gave patriotism a new meaning to her. He changed her life. She gave us two beautiful photos of him and his war dog Flex. David was a dog handler. In his honor, the Rocky Mountain Dogs Project provides steak dinners to hundreds of our troops in memory of David. We all signed the photos and will deliver them to the Middle East War Memorial in Marseilles, IL. God bless you and your family, Amber.
We had to say good-bye to Donna and Rich Behounak here in Cheyenne. Hope to see them next year.
I do apologize for the long-winded post tonight. I’ll try to whittle them down tomorrow.
Good night, all. Julie
Day Four - Saturday, May 17 (by: Julie Manner)
Up early for Breakfast from the fine folks at Cheyenne Wyoming American Legion Post 6. They provided a fine breakfast and made us feel at home in their comfortable facility. We especially appreciated their participation in the 50/50, which made it especially successful. Thank you Post 6!
We were wheels up at 8AM with 30 bikes 1 bike with trailer, 3 trikes, 1 trike with trailer and the Chase vehicle. Riding Missing Man Formation were Don and Sue Tardif, and Mike and Kat Tipton. The weather was chilly and damp with drizzle for 106 miles to Sydney, NE. Then the sun came out and it warmed up a bit for the 120-mile ride to the North Platte, NE Veterans Memorial. Little Sis was there to greet us with hugs and special pins and wares. The North Platte Firemen provided a picnic for us. If you went away hungry, it was your own fault! We really appreciated their kindness.
Another 149 miles and a greatly appreciated police escort lead by Larry Hobson brought us to the beautiful Grand Island Veterans Home. The first thing we saw was a fire truck with a huge American Flag flying bravely in the wind. Many vets were outside anxiously waiting for our riders. After a warm welcome from Bill (Mongo) Luft, the NE coordinator, certificates of appreciation were given to all who made our visit possible. It was so good to see so many old friends. Generosity was everywhere with donations coming in from Bill Anderson’s mom, District 6 County Supervisor, Gary Quandt, and eloquent words and a donation from Dan Naranjo, a local business man.
Nancy Klimek, Recreation Manager for 32 years, organized the riders to visit all areas of the home. We saw a lot of Vets today! The appreciation in the eyes of the men and women we visited radiated from them. Our riders are good! Laughter, lots of hugs, handshakes and just listening transformed every one they encountered.
I’m going to concentrate on an interview I had with one gentleman named Don who was a Navy Corpsman in Vietnam, 1967 to ’68. The thing that he remembers most is the way the Marines had his back as he was delivering aid to the wounded. Don is very troubled now. He’s lived at the home for 10 years and loves. He very passionately explained how politics has put the future of the home in jeopardy. This 128-year-old facility is on a gorgeous campus with a park and bandstand, and lovely grounds for the Vets to enjoy. It is very close to hospital facilities and the impressive Veteran’s Cemetery is very close by. Now it seems that politics are coming into play. Land was purchased near an airport in the middle of a cornfield for the purpose of relocating the home. The Vets had no input and are worried that they will be forced to move. Don has sworn that he will not leave his home, most especially because of the proximity of the cemetery. “No vet will be left behind.” he said. “We are people! This is our family, our friends! I’m not going anywhere” At the end of our visit, Jerry has Hall County Supervisor from District 6 explain how efforts are being made to save this wonderful facility. Jerry has written a letter from the NVAO in support of the home and its residents. Mr. Quandt said that he appreciates our support and hopes that we will continue to assist them in fighting the bureaucracy that wants to fix something that is not broken. We will monitor their situation and hope that they are successful in saving a really fine facility.
We left the home feeling exhilarated by our visit. Mike Shafer rode Missing Man from the home. What an incredible welcome we got from at the American Legion Post 300 in Doniphan, NE! A welcoming party ushered us in to a wonderful meal. Heartfelt thanks to Larry, Deni, Mike, Shaw, Don, and another Mike. We love you all and look forward to visiting you again next year!
Well, dear readers, this old girl is really tired tonight. Sleep has been illusive for a couple of days, so I’ll say good night until tomorrow. Julie
Day Five - Sunday, May 18 (by: Julie Manner)
We are blessed with the best weather of the ride! Beautiful sunshine, even though the morning was very cool, as the day progressed, the lower 70’s was the norm. At the rider’s meeting, Jerry relayed an interesting story. Last night the Doniphan American Legion Post 300 raffled an amazing American Flag crocheted afghan. The winner was Colleen Leitschieck. Colleen has a brother, Terry Dubberly, who is a Vietnam Vet, and who is currently dying of cancer. His last wish is to be wrapped in something patriotic when he is laid to his final rest. Another little miracle happened when she was provided with the perfect answer to her brother’s wish. May God Bless, Colleen, Terry and their families.
After breakfast at Grandma Max’s, 29 bikes, 4 trikes and the chase vehicle left Grand Island, NE. Riding Missing Man Formation were Dave Wilkins, Mike Rinowski, and James Kearney. We traveled 155 miles to Council Bluffs, IA for a visit to very old friends at the Bayless Memorial Park. Mayor Matt Walsh gave us a warm welcome. Norma Faris did a wonderful job, as always, with organizing the ceremony at the Phillip H. Greco Memorial. His father, from an original photo taken in Nam, commissioned this lifelike statue. The Abraham Lincoln High School JROTC reverently posted the colors to a trumpet accompaniment by James Kearney. Top lead the wreath laying by John Trefren, Ray Adams, Butch Schrader and Rick (Spook) Hardin. Taps, played by James Kearney, gave an eerie poignancy to this solemn tradition. Norma introduced Kate Bosiljevac Snyder, whose husband died in captivity. Kate gave an emotional account of how Major Michael J. Bosiljevac, USAF died in captivity. This brave prisoner of war died a year after he was declared dead. It’s believed he died at the hands of the Soviets. Riders offered her many hugs and condolences. It’s amazing how, after all these years, the wounds left by war are still raw.
We walked through the lovely park, across the street to the Masonic Lodge 259. Again, Wayne Schuler’s pulled pork was the highlight of the meal. Everyone received certificates of appreciation. Jerry thanked Ben Wiese, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Phillip H. Greco Chapter 798, for a generous donation to our ride. A raffle was held for our ride. Prizes were a handsome leather vest and hat. One of our FNG’s, Don, won! Heartfelt thanks, Council Bluffs! One surprise speaker, Father Tran, a Vietnamese American, relayed how his father was killed when he was a child in Vietnam. He managed, through lots of trials and tribulation, to make it to America in 1989. His love of American Freedoms and his grateful thanks to all Vets brought home the important contribution our Vietnam Vets made in that terrible and unpopular war. Six to eight more riders were registered to go with us before we said good-bye to a really great and patriotic town. Until next year…
At exit 40, at Wings Truck Stop, we stumbled on more young veterans from The War on Terror. Three medals were awarded and gratefully accepted. One recipient joined the ride. We are gratified to see how well this award is received. It gives us hope that the young returning soldiers will take responsibility for our returning Vets. Never again will disrespect be part of a returning Vet’s life. We continue to be amazed at how many riders and strangers donate money to our ride. Another way that our message gets out is when Top combs the parking lots and “gently” coerces folks to buy our merchandise. He first asks their names while leading them to the trailer, all the while explaining our mission. Several his “customers were bikers and joined the ride for a while. We love it!
49 more miles brought us to the Freedom Rock. Gold Star Dad James Kearney rode Missing Man Formation to the Freedom Rock. This magnificent memorial has become more of a shrine to patriotic Americans from across the country. Last year we left some of my Dad’s ashes here. Please google Freedom Rock to learn more about the young artist of this memorial and how his talent and passion is changing lives. We said good-bye to Baby Face here. Hope he’ll be able to make the full ride soon.
Our last stop of the day was 30 miles further to the magnificent Iowa Veterans Memorial. Under brilliant sunny skies, we honored Jeffrey Lee Thomsen, Machinist Mate 2nd class, United States Navy. He enlisted in December 1968 and was discharged in April 1973. His decorations include the National Defense Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal, with bronze star, times three; Combat Republic of Vietnam campaign medal with device, Combat Action Ribbon and Navy unit commendation. As a result of Jeff’s Vietnam service, he suffered the effects of Agent Orange exposure and PTSD. Members of his family included his brother Tommy Thomsen, who rode Missing Man Formation from the Rock to the cemetery, brother Scott Thomsen and mother Grace Thomsen. Blessings to his family and may he rest in peace.
Other Missing Man Riders today were: Tony Ivins, Janet Lenox, Joe Sokolik and Jay Cole. Another bike count was taken by Jackwagon at 5:00. We arrived in DesMoines with 42 bikes, 4 trikes, 2 cars and the chase vehicle. Our numbers have been fluctuating throughout the ride.
We ended this perfect riding day with a delicious pork chop dinner at VFW Post 9662. Wonderful food, excellent company, making more memories; one of the additional perks of the ride. Thanks, Des Moines!
Day Six - Monday, May 19 (by: Julie Manner)
Thank you, Lori Martindale, for the delicious desert you provided at last night’s dinner in Des Moines! It was great to see you. Your bike is gorgeous!
I can’t believe that it’s already day six. This ride is going to fly by now. Riding in the chase vehicle is a wonderful way to get to know people. Svein, our rider from Norway, has been a captive since his bike had to be driven to Davenport to be fixed. He spoke proudly of his wife, Ragnhild and their five children and four grandkids. He walks six miles a day with a beautiful Rottweiler named Ariel. He enjoys his newest grandson Daniel and wishes his other grand kids lived closer. He loves to cook and does so regularly for his family. Svein has a state of the art movie and sound system that he rarely gets to enjoy, but his family does regularly. The only rule is no horror or porn. We really enjoyed all of the wonderful information about Norway. We’ll miss him in the truck!
What a great way to start an overcast and chilly ride! Breakfast at AMVETS Post 2 is always a hit with a diverse menu of goodies. Mary Coordinates the Auxiliary of Post 2 and the Highland Park Lions to produce a fine send off. Commander Cliff Carson made us so very welcome. Three beautiful items were donated for our 50/50. We really appreciate the TLC at AMVETS and are so pleased that we’ve been asked back next year. Thanks for the escort out of town!
Today was an extremely busy day. We only went a couple of hundred miles, but we had four stops. First stop, Des Moines VMAC, just 6 miles away. Upon arrival, we were pleased to honor five more Vets with the Global War on Terror Medal. They included one woman rider, two policemen and two VMAC residents. It’s great to see so many women receive this medal for their service. This is only one of many first class facilities in Iowa dedicated to the care of our Veterans.
The administration was very well represented in greeting us. Bart Quick, Chief of Volunteer Services, introduced Director Judith Johnson Mekota, Associate Director Susan Martin, Alton Johnson, and Assoc. Director of Clinical Affairs, and Dr. Fred Bahls, Chief of Staff. Riders quickly dispersed throughout the hospital and grounds, pinning and engaging Veterans wherever they found them. This is the place where the wonderful Therapy Dogs are welcomed. It is so gratifying to see how the patients interact with the dogs. Last year Lori Martindale brought her and Patrick’s therapy dog, Aero. Sadly, Aero died this year. We wish sympathy to the Martindales for the loss of a wonderful companion. Owner Rhonda brought Champ, a Cuban breed called Havanese, and Cooper, a gorgeous Golden Retriever, to entertain everyone. One Vet held Champ in his lap for 30 minutes, accepting doggie kisses, constantly petting him and smiling all the while. Well-mannered and sweet Cooper kept his goggles on and also dispensed all the kisses you might want. Both dogs are registered with Therapy Dogs International. Jerry presented certificates of appreciation. After enjoying a freshly baked cookie, it was time to say good-bye until next year. We left with 37 bikes, 3 trikes and the chase.
Next stop, 58 miles away is the Marshalltown Northern Iowa Veterans Home. This home is enormous, serving over 600 Veterans. For such a huge operation, it is amazingly well run. Mike Hines and Brad Shipley quickly divided our troops into groups and everyone quickly spread out and engaged as many Vets as possible. While walking down the hall, I passed a sign that said, “Respect and Dignity – Residents deserve no less”. You get the feeling that this sentiment is seriously followed. I hear our riders ask “How are they treating you here. Is the food good? Do you like it here? What do you like best about being here?” Interestingly enough, most say that they are satisfied with their care. As I wander through the halls watching the interaction between our riders and the Vets, I am so impressed about how they get sad, lonely and sick patients to smile and share. I found Buzz Neeb talking to two brothers, one of whom happened to be named Buzz. They both had served in the navy. The older of the two, Mike has been a resident for 17 years. His younger brother Buzz came to the home in July. Neeb has such a hearty direct way of approaching the Vets. He made them smile and got them in a good mood. Then, he pulled out his iPad and showed them pictures from other places we had been on the ride. They really enjoyed this. Mike served as President of the Resident Council for 15 years. They raised lots of money through their gift shop and other fundraisers to support charities like St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and Save the Children. Wonderful is the contribution to our society that these Vets are still providing. Commandant Jodi Tyneson spoke to us during lunch. She expressed the hope that we will continue to visit. Jerry relayed how very special this facility is to us. He said that we hope to be able to add more time to visit more vets next year. Thanks to everyone that provided lunch for us.
Mike from Oregon had a very interesting encounter with Freddie Lindsey who presented him with beautifully written pages to share with the NVAO. Unfortunately, I can’t fit it all here, but will mention a few highlights. He was a 22-year-old First Sergeant preparing himself and his men for the invasion of Europe at Normandy. He relayed a funny story of how he walked in on General Eisenhower in a rant about a bad experience with Sears and Roebuck. This segued into the more serious and traumatic aspects of his experience. He ends his story with, “I am proud of my service to our country, but I can never forget the great loss of life, the destruction, and the pain of war. That was 69 years ago and we still have war today. I hope and pray that someday we can find a way to keep the peace once and for all. God Bless the nation, and God bless the soldier.” All of this is written on beautiful card stock and signed by Freddie.
We left this wonderful facility in high spirits, but really hated the windy conditions. We even could feel it in the Chase Vehicle. Everyone will need a rest tonight. Riding Missing Man Formation in the afternoon was Mike (Santa) Malmstrom. Unfortunately, the Chase could not go to the Iowa City VA Health Care System. They are undergoing construction and could not accommodate our trailer. I’ll relate stories about this visit as they are reported from others. We did, however, stop into the University of Iowa Hospital to visit some old friends of Top and Diane Desherow. I’ll report more on this tomorrow.
We also had to miss the wreath laying at the Davenport Memorial Park because we had to deliver Svein’s bike to Davenport Honda. Our Norwegian friend is finally going to be able to join the pack tomorrow! Thanks to Mike Malmstrom for stepping in for Top. The Wreath layers were Fred Henige, Buzz Neeb and Allen Kruse.
I also missed the dinner at American Legion Post 26. As luck would have it, I’m getting a cold. So I stayed back at the hotel and Bruce brought me a delicious fried chicken dinner. Sorry to have missed it. Here’s hoping all get a good rest tonight. Added to my prayers tonight…Please God, make the wind calm down!!!
Good night, all. - Julie
Day Seven - Tuesday, May 20 (by: Julie Manner)
You’d think I’d learn. I didn’t save as I went along and lost two hour’s work. ~Sigh~ let’s try again.
Stories of the chase vehicle…when we visited Top’s and Diane’s friends at the Iowa University Hospital yesterday, we found out that our Top donated his bone marrow to two patients. One was ½ years old and one was 26. The 2 year old lived until aged six and the young woman lived four months. Wonderful sacrifice, Top~ Way to go!
After a quick stop for gas, a mere four miles brought us to the Marseilles, IL Mideast conflict wall. This peaceful setting on the Illinois River is a very special place. There were three Army and one Navy WWII vets present and one Korean Army Vet present from the La Salle Home. What a privilege to shake their hands and thank them for their service. They are leaving us at an alarming rate. This was an excellent program. Beautiful bag piping, 21-gun salute and wreath laying made the ceremony extra special. NVAO under Top’s direction laid a wreath. Wreath layers were: Mike Suinscoe, Ed Norton, Lew Corner and Dave Clemmons. Keith Onge, retiring, IL Coordinator did a great job. Good friend Jenny Ori was given a beautiful plaque buy Tony Cunningham for her contributions as past Illinois coordinator. She humbly accepted the award, saying that she rode for her brother, a Vietnam War Vet. Bill (Mongo) Luft told his heart-wrenching story about how 7 of his squad members were killed, one in his place. Bill is still suffering from the PTSD from this experience, but has come a long way. We love you Bill, we are family and will help you through this transition, no matter how long it takes. Patty sang a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem, Mike Shaunessy piped Amazing Grace and other selections in full regalia; taps and a gun salute made the ceremony complete. Jerry Conor held a small ceremony placing the picture signed by all of the riders for David from Cheyenne, KIA in Afghanistan. His name is on the wall and is emblazoned on our hearts forever. We distributed certificates of appreciation and thanked many for their generous monetary donations to the ride. MaryBeth Dunlap Richardson from Palatine 690 donated, as did John Jarosz, Jr. from Sons of the American Legion, and Jenny Orie’s Hog chapter. One donation was the largest ever received on the ride. The generosity of these folks warms our hearts. It was wonderful to see Jimmy and Virginia, the folk who see to the homeless in Chicago. Members of the ride have been saving motel toiletries for his special mission. Jimmie feeds and ministers to the homeless, some 40% of which are believed to be Veterans. God Bless you, Jimmy, for remembering the less fortunate. After an excellent lunch at Post 235, it was time to hit the road again. It was great to meet up with old friends. Pork Chop, you look Mahvelous!..And Ken, you’re not bad either! Janet Pinkey Lennox made a rubbing of her friend Faith R Hinkley from Monte Vista, Co. She was KIA in Afghanistan in 2009 in a bombing. So good to see Marla Brandies as well! Love your new leg, girlfriend!
Excellent escorts saw us through the nasty I94 traffic/ Thanks to Indiana State Police and Portage Police for guiding us professionally through the maelstrom of traffic. The first thing us old folks noticed when we walked into the school was air conditioning! Lots of us sweltered through hot weather without the cool air when we were in school. We love the ROTC precision drill squad at this school. Drill Sergeant Edwin Bowers had some interesting statistics that were sprinkled throughout the drill team’s performance. It’s a fact that Vets continue to contribute to their community. Out of 335 million Americans, only 21 million are Vets… 8%. 10 Million are 65 or older. Society just doesn’t understand military service. In 25 years, less than 4% will be serving. The kid’s drill precision was incredible. They are smart with impressive GPA’s and some are going into the service out of high school as college ROTC. The Citadel, West Point and College ROTC are among their goals. Excellent precision performance! The kids also have to do 7,000 hours of community service and they believe that commitment brings rewards. We thoroughly enjoyed this excellent exhibition of exceptional young people. Portage can be proud of their program. With their impressive GPA’s, commitment to Character, Citizenship and Leadership, these kids are well on their way to being the leaders of tomorrow. Master Sgt. Edwin Bowers said that these kids “get it”! Talented CO Meagan Froman confidently handled the entire squad, and lead them through their paces. It gives us hope that there will be another generation to take over when we are gone. Thank you Portage High School! You have much to be proud of!
Another wonderful escort saw us on to I94 to Michigan City. Over 100 bikes and vehicles staged at the Harley Davidson parking lot.. We processed through downtown Michigan City and joined many more spectators at the lakefront to unveil the refurbished Danny Bruce Memorial. What a thrill to have so many from across the country and from our town honor our hometown Medal of Honor recipient. Danny retrieved an explosive device, holding it to his body and saving three of his comrades. It detonated, killing him instantly. There were pipers, and a wonderful choir singing the National Anthem. Carol Arnett provided a prayer. Ted Sarrick, a WWII was present in fine Marine regalia. There were brief speeches from Mayor Meer, a letter from Congressman Joe Donnelly, a Poem from Lee Gruber and the names were read from the back of the memorial of the Vietnam dead of Michigan City. State NVAO under Top’s direction laid a wreath Senator Jim Arnold gave some interesting statistics. Since 1861 when the Medal of Honor was instituted, 3,487 have been issued. In Indiana, 99 were given, with 3 from Vietnam. Sammy Davis is the only living Medal of Honor recipient. Taps, Piping and 21 gun salute was wonderful. Wreath laying was by the family of Daniel D Bruce, the DAV and the NVAO. Laying the wreath for the NVAO was Trevor Johnston, Ed Kintzele, Bruce Manner, and Tom Bruce. NVAO folks were invited to St Joe Club for dinner. I had laundry and sit/reps to do, so I came right home and had cheese and crackers for dinner. Perfect! What a great day for Michigan City. Heartfelt thanks to all who came out to rededicate this beautiful memorial. I really need to sleep now. Tomorrow comes too soon. 6 AM for breakfast at the American Legion Skwiat Post.
Thanks for following us. Julie
Day Eight - Wednesday, May 21 (by: Julie Manner)
It felt good to be home in Michigan City last night. I just wish I hadn’t stayed up so late! 6 A.M. found us at the American Legion Skwiat Post 451 for a delicious breakfast. What a wonderful turnout! So many of our friends from the community got up really early to wish us well. Senator Jim Arnold, State Representative Tom Dermody, Deputy Sheriff Jim Sosinski, Sheriff Bill Moldenauer and Councilman Don Przybylinski were among the dignitaries that came to see us off. Steve Head Dog Moore introduced Don Przybylinski who spoke eloquently and emotionally about the person to whom this year’s Wall Gang ride is dedicated. Spec 4 Phillip Tomaszewski was killed in Vietnam in 1966 when his vehicle was overturned. Don’s brother enlisted with Phillip and Don counted Phillip as a good friend. He expressed his gratitude for the great sacrifice Phillip made for our freedom. Certificates of appreciation were given to the many that assisted in our visit. State Coordinator Dan Lugnut Kuepker awarded Danny Davis, Past Indiana Coordinator with a plaque commending him for his many years of service to the NVAO. The generous folks donated to our best 50/50 drawing yet! Heartfelt thanks to Karla Lloyd for the great birthday cards for four of our riders celebrating on the ride. Karla, you are so creative with the certificates of appreciation, photos and so much more that you do. Thanks!
Wheels up at 8:00. We left Michigan City with 62 bikes, 8 trikes, 4 cars and the chase vehicle. What a beautiful sight we made going out of town! Every year the people of the small towns we go through line the streets with flags, waves and cheers. Westville is especially exuberant, coming out of their homes and businesses just to cheer us on.
Our first stop was at West Central School. As we turn into the school, the elementary kids were lined up waving flags and arms, so excited to have us come! We gave the high school a new POW/MIA Flag and held a flag raising ceremony. It is so encouraging to see the patriotism present in our young people. Yesterday when we were at Portage High School, Bruce encountered a little six-year-old boy. Bruce was wearing his dog tags and the little guy asked what they were. Bruce explained and remembered that he had an enameled dog tag that we picked up along the way. He removed it from his own neck and put it around the boy’s. The child looked at it closely and said very reverently to Bruce “I’ll wear this forever”. We love things like this!
From West Central School, it’s a mere 40 miles to the Indiana Veterans Home. This is a great opportunity to visit with the vets while having lunch al fresco. It was a perfect day for a picnic. Sharing a meal with these folks really encourages them to relax and share. Mike Barnes met Mr. McGill who does popsicle art with the logos of various colleges and universities on them. He gifted one to Mike. He also does close pin crafts and had many samples to share. The kind folks of Post 451 in Michigan City sent boxes of donuts and fruit with us to donate to the home. Some of our riders visited the non-ambulatory Veterans. One employee at the home was recognized with our War on Terrorism medal. We are so thankful for another excellent visit with our Indiana Vets. God Bless them all.
We picked up an amazing police escort in Frankfort, IN. Many of these officers belong to a motorcycle precision drill team. They use their award winning skills to manipulate traffic beautifully. It was amazing to watch. They maneuvered us around the Indy traffic with professionalism and care. We literally had the whole road to ourselves.
We can’t believe how many Wars on Terror Vets we find while at gas stations! At both of our gas stops today, young Veterans find us. It is such a joy to honor this next generation of Vets, especially since they are so surprised to be recognized and really appreciate the recognition. The last young man we met and honored was a combat Vet in Iraq who is suffering from PTSD and is in therapy. He is having a hard time getting his life back together again. He said that getting our medal was the best welcome he received since he served. Two of his friends were killed right next to him. He made it, they didn’t. He thanked us from the bottom of his heart for giving him an opportunity to share his story.
Finally, we had an impressive escort into the beautiful town of Brookville Ohio! We are celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the NVAO, and ten years of visiting AMVETS 1789. First we were lead through residential areas and everyone came out to welcome us along the way. We passed under the largest flag we’ve ever seen on the run. It was hanging from a fire engine and had to be at least 50 feet long! When we arrived at the AMVETS, of all things, a wonderful marching band was playing! The local TV station was filming, police and firemen joined in. John Childers graciously welcomed us, as did Mayor Seagraves. John is retiring this year as State Coordinator. Tony Squirt Cunningham will be filling John’s shoes. A plaque of appreciation was awarded to John for his ten years of service to the NVAO mission. And then there was the food…I really wish everyone could see the spread that we are offered. Home made delicacies fill long tables. You need more than one plate to sample it all. Thank you Lisa, and thank you Jan Jenkins for the amazing coordination of this 10th Anniversary event!
I can’t believe it’s only 9:28 PM. I think I may get some quality sleep at last. Two days left. How time flies - Julie
Day Nine - Thursday, May 22 (by: Julie Manner)
I’d like to start with a hearty welcome to Al and Annette Voorhees, the winners of the Wall Gang’s Essay Contest. We hope they enjoy the ride.
Yesterday’s Missing Man riders deserve recognition. Thanks to Tony Jackson and Mike Swinscoe.
We said a fond farewell to Brookville today with an excellent breakfast at VFW Post 3288. Thanks to Greg Hanke for his generous donation to the ride. So many of our Brookville family turned out to wish us safe travels. We love you all and look forward to seeing you next year!
Riding Missing Man today will be Bill (Mongo) Luft’s sons, Will and Logan Luft.
As we were traveling in road construction on 675 South, the unthinkable happened. One of our riders, Marla Brundies, went down and was seriously injured. Last word was that she is in critical, but stable condition in Miami Valley Hospital. Her son and parents have been notified and are making plans to be with her as soon as possible. Also injured were Joe Sokolik and Einar Lubrekk. Joe has a few scrapes and a sore knee. Einar has an injured ankle. They’re both going to be sore tomorrow. Kudos to Will Luft! His excellent riding skills kept him from becoming involved in the accident. We are so very grateful that the injuries weren’t worse. We took Marla and Joe’s bikes to a Harley Dealership in Chillicothe, OH. Marla’s son will retrieve her bike as soon as possible. Joe is arranging to trailer his bike home next week. He’ll be continuing with us to DC, riding in one of the vehicles. Please join us in praying for Marla’s speedy and complete recovery. We’ll be checking in regularly to monitor her progress.
After all of our duties during the road emergency, we were unable to make the scheduled visit to The Chillicothe VA Medical Center. All of the riders visited the Vets for a short time because of our tight schedule. However, a squad of 10 or 15 riders volunteered to be left behind to continue visiting as many Vets as possible.
Next was our stop at the wonderful Southeastern School in Chillicothe. The faculty and students always have an excellent program for us. Unfortunately, I wasn’t unable to see it this year. However, we were very gratified catch up with everyone in time for the lunch that they provide. It looked like the table was a mile long! It was groaning under the load of home made dishes of every description. Everything was absolutely delicious, especially the desserts. The sun was brilliant for the most elaborate picnic you can imagine. It surely did sooth the souls of some weary and traumatized riders. Thank you so much, Southeastern School. You are really the best!
Refreshed from our super lunch, we traveled another 88 miles to the Clarksburg-Louis Johnson VMAC in Clarksville, WV. Beth Brown was so glad to see us. She said that the Vets had been asking her all day when we were going to arrive. What a warm welcome we got from everyone! One of the highlights was when we found William Dean who, with wife Shirley and their son, was celebrating his 76th birthday. William was an Army Vet in charge of building bridges. After a few of us visited him and said our good-byes, we met a crowd of our guys in the hall. Of course, after he heard of William’s birthday, Crazy Larry gathered a whole gang of riders to go down to the Vet’s room and sing not one, but two rousing renditions of Happy Birthday. William said he’d never forget this birthday! His family blessed and thanked us for our dedicated mission. Then there was the one very sick Vet who was so frail that he couldn’t speak. As happens so many times, the contrast among the men and women we visit are often polar opposites. Most of the time I can honestly say that we left them in better spirits than we found them. At least, we hope so. Ctista, one of our guides and a hospital employee, was so very gracious. She’s been taking care of us for years and expressed how much she appreciates our positive influence on all of the Vets we visit. On the way out, we ran into James Jones, an Army Infantry Vet who served 8 years in Iraq. We awarded the Global War on Terror Medal to James, and basked in his brilliant smile and hugged away his tears. God, I love this ride!
It’s amazing how our time with the Vets goes so quickly. Before we knew it we were on the road again to ride 10 miles to our last stop, VFW Post 573 in Clarksburg. We were greeted at the door with a handshake; greeted again with a beautiful flag pin; then served a fine supper and, by George, More yummy deserts! I think we’re all going to need a diet when we get home. We also found anther War on Terror candidate, Donna who is the Sr. Vice Commander of the VFW. Donna served as a flying crew chief in the Air Force. This was also our last family night. Jerry introduced and thanked lots of us that help out with the ride, and all were grateful for the recognition. It really is a huge job to coordinate everything for the ride, and for that we thanked Jerry. He told some funny tories. For instance: Ron Immesoeti suffered from allergies. He would try to get relief by spraying his nose while going 70 miles per hour. Of cours, the wind would catch it and fly in his fase, and into the face of anyone down wind! Ed (Silvertop) Kintzele gets hungry while riding. His wife Sandy (Fancy) Kintzle feeds him from the back of the bike, which is fine; until the wind catches a ju-ju bee or cookie and slams it into the helmet of whomever is, again, down wind! Jerry tells it a lot funnier than I can relate it here, so we really had a great laugh. Ed Kintzele also gave our special buttons to all who were in Auburn, CA. We were supposed to do a ride-by of the Bowman school so that the kids could see the bikes. Well, we forgot. So, in our shame, we will wear the pins he had created for us. They show kids teary-eyed and they say: Remember all the little children of Auburn. Very cleaver, Ed!
Jerry then invited anyone who wanted to get up and say a few words on what the ride meant to them. The stories were very personal, touching and poignant. One story in particular was very heart wrenching. Golden Dad Dave Clemmons has been riding since 2003. He read an incredible letter telling the story of his son, EOD Brad A. Clemmons, Air Force, Highly decorated hero, a son, a husband and father of four. We are so blessed that Dave chose the NVAO as riding family to pay respect to his son. We will always be here to support him in his personal mission. Thanks, Dave, for sharing the life of your remarkable son.
Well, dear readers, it’s been an emotionally exhausting day and it’s late. I’m not going to proof-read very well, so please excuse any errors. Until tomorrow…Julie
Day Ten - Friday, May 23 (by: Julie Manner)
After a hectic breakfast in Bridgeport, WV, we got on the road for the final leg of this year’s journey. What a ride it has been. There were 47 Bikes, 5 trikes, 6 vehicles, and the chase vehicle. Riding Missing Man Formation was Ed Norton and Mike Stupar. More about Mike later.
While we ride the 100 miles to the Rocky Gap Maryland Veteran’s Cemetery, here’s an update on our friend Marla’s condition. We are so pleased that she is doing well. Thanks to Dee Hoops for giving us an update. Among Marla’s injuries are a concussion, broken pelvis, cuts, scratches and abrasions and a broken thumb. All in all, not too bad for such a bad fall. I’d like to give special thanks to the wonderful professionals we had on our ride. Husband and wife team Don, who is a Physician’s Assistant, and Sue, a Nurse, Tardif were on the scene immediately and helped us sort through this difficult situation. They made sure that no harm came to Marla through caring, but clumsy hands. I know we also had some EMS people riding with us who assisted, but unfortunately I did not get their names. Thank you all for making our ride safer and for sharing your professionalism.
The Rocky Gap Maryland Veteran’ Cemetery is one of the most beautiful in the country. Nestled in the hills of Western Maryland, the majestic landscape provides a gorgeous resting place for our Veterans. Every year for Memorial Day they celebrate our vets with a special program, followed by refreshments. There are many people from various organizations and schools that take part. Mike Gregory welcomed us on one of the most beautiful days we’ve had on the ride. Last year it was so cold and wet that we couldn’t wait to get going. The kids from Allegheny High School place hundreds of flags on every grave. Also participating were the Young Marines, American Legion Post 13, the US Navy Sea Cadet Corps. the 9th grade government class of Allegheny Schools, The Children’s Trust of Frostburg, and many others. We are invited to begin the ceremonies with a Wreath Laying. Top Desherow appointed Terry Hoops, Al Voorhees (Wall Gang Essay Winner), and our Norwegian friends Svein Lubrekk and Einar Lubrekk to the wreath laying squad. In case you’re wondering, Sevin and Einar are not related! Guess Lubrekk is like Smith in Norway. Sonshine Troche led us in beautiful prayer and Taps was played. Our time had to be short in beautiful Rocky Gap because we had a date at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 138 miles away. We were respectfully sent on our way by an honor Guard.
We were eating lunch at Wendy’s on our lunch stop when some of the riders noticed that the rest of the bikes leaving! We ran like crazy to the chase vehicle and told the stragglers to follow us for the last 80 miles to Arlington National Cemetery. Top masterfully threaded us through horrendous traffic and got us there before the main group. Cool! We were so happy to welcome Linda and Dennis Stucki back into the fold! They got hung up with cycle repairs and had to decide whether to go 600 miles home, or 600 miles to join us. We’re so glad you decided to rejoin the family, guys! When the bike count was taken after everyone assembled, we had 57 bikes, 7 trikes, six vehicles and the chase. Somewhere we picked up ten more bikes! The NVAO Wreath Layers this year are Ron Immesoete, John Childers, Tony Cunningham and Ray Adams. They really represented the NVAO well in their handsome uniforms. Congratulations, guys, for being awarded this prestigious honor. “Here Rests In Honored Glory An American Known Only To God” This is the inscription on the beautiful Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. I won’t go into detail about the Tomb or the Tomb Guards. It really is a fascinating read to learn the history of the Tomb and the dedicated Tomb Guards. Google Tomb of the Unknown and click on Wikipedia for a concise explanation of this historic tradition. After the wreath laying, Steve Moore arranged a brief question and answer session with one of the Tomb Guards. As luck would have it, the guard was from Dayton, OH who went to Centerville High School. Our Ohio riders gave him an ovation as an Ohio native son. Steve also introduced us to Mike Stupar, a young man who is married to his niece Crystal Moore. Army Staff Sgt. Mike Stupar has been deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan. He regards his service as a “Combat brotherhood forged like steel”. He is from a family with a proud military history; and he is still in service at Ft. Bragg, NC where he lives with his family. Mike continues to train our young soldiers. Jerry awarded Mike with the War on Terror Medal, for which he was very grateful.
After checking into our hotel, it was dinner at our favorite Asian Buffet; amazing food and wonderful company. If you want some fascinating stories, ask Crazy Larry how he spent his time in Vietnam, etc. You won’t believe it.
We have such a wonderful and unique family in the NVAO. Everyone is so dedicated and eager to contribute to the success of the ride. I’d especially like to thank Jerry Connor, our National Coordinator. His organizational skills and gentlemanly approach to whatever challenges face us is the glue that holds us together and makes this ride work. Thank you, Jerry. You are not allowed to retire…ever!
Well, my time with you is just about finished for another year. Of course, there are those going to the Wall, some who will be joining Dave at the grave of his son and a traditional lunch at the Accokeek, MD Fire Department. I’ll add another post if I can. Thanks so much for following us across the country and for all the lovely and encouraging comments on the sit/reps.
Fondly, Julie “First Lady” Manner
At The Wall - Saturday, May 24 (by: Julie Manner)
Growing old is certainly not for sissies~ I am reminded of this today as I have to stay back because of a flare up in my knee. However, it has its up side. Rick “Spook” Hayden, who was kind enough to offer help for my knee problem, kept me company for breakfast. What an interesting man! Unfortunately, much that we discussed can’t be recorded here (the reason for his handle “Spook”). When I asked if he knows any of the names on the wall, he said yes, starting with the very first name added. What most people don’t know is that our involvement started as early as 1961, and Spook was right there beginning his top-secret activities. If you get a chance someday, ask “Spook” for some stories. You won’t be disappointed!
Bruce returned from accompanying Dave Clemmons to the grave of his son. Dave said he really appreciated the 25 or so people that were there to give him support. It is especially gratifying when we can give some comfort to a brother or sister on the ride. Our last formal time together took place at the Accokeek Volunteer Fire Department. The DC Ramblers Motorcycle Club provided lunch. The chase vehicle got a head start and arrived early to set up the merchandise. Folks are always so generous here. Sales were brisk, providing continuing support to the ride. We were there about 20 minutes when we hear the sirens of fire trucks and the unmistakable growling of many cycles. What an escort! Three fire trucks, sirens screaming, and one Fire Chief truck lead the bikes into the parking lot. Then came six beautifully decorated Snyder Ride of Pride trucks! What a wonderful sight that must have been to see them processing down the highway. Heartfelt thanks to Mike, Click, and all of the wonderful people who provided a generous and delicious lunch. Jerry Connor presented certificates of appreciation to all. Head Dog Moore was also recognized for how he donates his life and time to the NVAR. Also thanked were two young boys who saluted respectfully as our riders came. Thanks also were given to the Ride of Pride drivers, Chuck, Bernard, Jay, Richard, Dave and Randy. All of these gentlemen are Veterans. Until next year, Ramblers, be well and safe riding!
A tradition that some of our riders cherish is to visit the Vietnam Wall Memorial at night. A few even spend the night there. It is an intensive time for reflection, remembrance and healing for so many. We wish them peace as they continue their journey.
Tomorrow will be the Protest/Freedom Ride. Everyone joining will leave at 5:30 A.M. and assemble on the Pentagon parking lot where they will wait until around 1:00 in the afternoon. It is an intensive time for participants. The wait is long for such a quick, but very important ride. It sends a pointed message to our government that Veterans, POWs and MIAs will not be forgotten.
Unfortunately, the knee won’t allow me to go tomorrow. If there is anything more to post, I’ll be here again.
Thanks for your loyal attention… Julie
Freedom/Protest Ride - Sunday, May 25 (by: Julie Manner)
Our last day in DC is a beautiful one. The weather is perfect for the Freedom/Protest ride. The riders left at 5:30 this morning for the lineup at the Pentagon. They’ll stage there and wait until 12:30 or 1:00 this afternoon when they will become part of the magnificent ride down Constitution Ave. Following them will be six of the Snyder trucks. What a sight that will be.
One of the great things about our ride that I really respect is that politics don’t interfere with our mission. Among us, there are many diverse opinions and beliefs, but the one we have in common is concern for our Veterans. Our Vets have bound us together as brothers and sisters in a common cause.
I was fortunate to have breakfast again with Rick “Spook” Hayden. Sandy Kintzele and Bruce were also there. This highly educated man spent over 20 years in the often-thankless clandestine service of his country. Because of the nature of his work, sleep, to this day is evasive, and recognition was almost non-existent. Thank you, Spook, for serving your country on our behalf. We appreciate your many sacrifices. The scars of war aren’t only earned in combat, but in the myriad of tasks our Veterans were asked to do without question. They did their duty, for God and Country.
This will be my last post for this year. We’re so blessed to have completed another ride. On this Memorial Day, 2014, we thank all those who have served, especially those who are still suffering the effects of their service. God Bless them all. Please remember a Vet today, and, if possible, get involved with Vets in your area. You will be amazed how rewarding it will be. God Bless America.… And bless all who have followed us across the country.
Until next year, Julie “First Lady” Manner