I can’t tell you how happy I am to be back as your sit/rep reporter for our 2016 ride! Last year was extremely challenging for Bruce and me. Injuries and health issues kept us from doing what we love. But, we’re back, well and ready to carry the NVAR message of honoring our vets across our great country. Sandy and Ed Kintzel will be at the helm of the chase vehicle that is chock full of our latest merchandise items.
We are heartbroken to report that, after the ride ended last year, one of our riders had a fatal accident. Gary Minkler was killed as he was on his way home. We are proud to dedicate this year’s ride in honor of Gary, a veteran and a really wonderful person. . The spirit of Gary will be riding with us.
Once again, the NVAO Board and the state coordinators have worked very hard to pave the way for a great ride. Let us pray to be blessed with good weather. We wish you safe travels to Auburn. I look forward to your sharing your ride experiences so that all who read this can be a part of our awesome mission. Until then, Via con Dios as we go…All The Way!!.
Julie (First Lady) Manner
(Monday, May 16, 2016)
We made it! We are here in Auburn, CA after many long hours in the saddle. What a memorable ride it has already been. The NVAR hasn’t officially started yet and we already have honored many vets, received donations from kind, patriotic people who believe in our mission, and have enjoyed generous hospitality from friends on the way. Welcome FNG’s Jim (Slingblade) Grant from Kettering, OH, Patrick Mosely of Beavercreek OH, and Dave (Techno) Harris from Beavercreek, OH. Hope you love the ride as much as we do!
One of the places that we always find vets to honor are our gas stops. They see our guys in their leathers and patches and the beautiful chase vehicle and ask about us. This trip we honored the following people with our Freedom medal for those who fought in the war against terror: In Laramie, WY, Afghan vet Dave who was wounded twice and is now retired from the Army; Along the loneliest road in Austen, NV, Rob Edwards, a Navy Desert Storm vet; In Fallon, NV, Navy Iraqi Vet John Goins who served 7 years on the USS enterprise; John Granville, Marine vet from Virginia City, NV; Andrew Anderson, an Air force fireman from Chicago. It is so gratifying to see the tears of gratitude from these vets to have someone acknowledge them.
Wonderful friends Donna and Rich provided a delicious lunch for all 18 of us at their beautiful home in Cheyenne, WY. Donna even allowed us to play with her amazing new vehicle, a Polaris Slingshot. Is it a bike or a car? Some states are still trying to decide how to register it. A Vietnam vet in their neighborhood gave us a generous donation that we added to others we received in Grand Island, NE and N Platte, NE. Mr. Bill Whetro actually chased us down to make a donation from his VFW Post. They were honoring Elmer Bean, a Navy vet who had a very sad funeral and was virtually forgotten. Mr. Whetro was grateful to include his personal donation to an organization that honors vets, especially those who have been forgotten. His lovely wife hugged every one of us and thanked us profusely for our dedication.
What a surprise we got in Austen Nevada! On Rout 50, the loneliest road in the US, our beloved Terry Hoops was waiting for us as we rode in for a gas stop. Terry has had a difficult year health wise, so to have him join us is a gift. Welcome, Terry!
One of the highlights of our cross-country ride is the stop in Virginia City, NV. It’s a picturesque little town filled with folks who have become good friends. A huge thank you to Fred Dalton of Fred’s Closet Costume Shop. Fred has an impressive collection of historic and vintage clothing. He and his staff allowed us to dress in authentic period clothing and wander the town with many locals promoting the historic flavor of Virginia City. Great fun! Also, David John and the Cowboy Band at the Bucket of Blood Saloon do a beautiful tribute to all vets and graciously include the NVAR. Bruce Manner honored the following vets with our Freedom medals that night: Twenty year Marine vet Corpsman Alicia Johnson of Virginia City, NV; Chris Parker of Virginia City, NV, veteran Guard at Tomb of the Unknown Soldier; Pat Burkhardt from Valley Springs, CA, Six year Air Force vet; Nick Salemore, Navy vet from Virginia City. The audience with thunderous applause showed great appreciation. Also, Steve Moore was presented with a hand made quilt. It was requested that he present it to a vet. Heartfelt thanks, too, to Chicago Bob for dinner at the Old Firehouse Creamery. To all of the residents of Virginia City, thanks for your many kindnesses and for treating us as family.
It’s wonderful seeing old friends. Excitement is building, as we get closer to departure. Stay tuned!.
(Tuesday, May 17, 2016)
What an incredible day! At 8 this morning, we visited the Bowman School in Auburn, CA. Principal Kelly Graham warmly welcomed us to an assembly of 500 children from K through 8th grade. The kids enthusiastically treated us to their renditions of The Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America and It’s a Grand Old Flag. Jerry Conner presented a slide program of our previous visits to Bowman. The kids loved seeing people they knew and even themselves alongside our veteran riders. Jerry explained our mission to the kids and why we want to have them join us in respecting veterans. More slides of the vets and our interaction with them brought this home to the kids. Heartfelt thanks to Principal Graham, the teachers, our Chaplain Wayne Worden and Coordinator Rick Dyer for arranging this excellent teaching experience. After we mingled with the kids and certificates of appreciation were presented, we participated in a flag raising ceremony beautifully executed by a distinguished local post guard. When we leave Auburn tomorrow, we will drive by Bowman school where all of the students will wave us off with hundreds of little American Flags (we hope). This is truly a highlight of our trip.
After lunch on our own, approximately 21 bikes and the chase vehicle left for Mather VA Center. This is a very favorite stop. There are so many opportunities to mingle with vets in various stages of life. There is a hospital and many other areas dedicated to veteran’s care. Volunteer Coordinator Maria has been our guide for seven years. We break up into groups and fan out throughout the center interacting with vets at every turn. Two Middle East Conflict Medals were awarded to Army vet Wilson Claire and Army vet and therapy dog handler Joseph Gruenwald. This was truly an inspiring and rewarding experience.
Back to the motel to clean up for our wonderful dinner at Sweet Peas. While we enjoyed a marvelous meal, Jerry and team leaders prepared us for tomorrow’s ride. One really touching new tradition was started by Dan (Sweetness) Kress. 5,575 Californians died in the Viet Nam conflict. Dan has read the names of several war casualties with the intention that we must never forget. Dan intends to read the names and circumstances of death of people from all of the towns that we will pass through on this journey. This took lots of research and dedication. Thanks, Dan. You have added one more way to add richness to this experience and to honor our fallen warriors.
Everyone who makes this pilgrimage finds their own personal way to contribute to the cause and, hopefully make a difference. Our own Uncle Sy told the story of a young man with war wounds and guilt that threatened to take his life through suicide. Sy took it upon himself to present this young man with one of our Mid East Conflict medals. It turned this young man’s life around and gave him hope.
So many kind and generous people continue to donate to the NVAR Thank you Fred Young, Rick Dyer, Lon and Marybea Varvel and Kelly Raferty of Grand Island for your gifts.
Now for a list of our FNG’s! Our faithful Norwegian friend Svein Lerbrekk brought his lovely wife Ragnhild Lerbrekk, from Varhaug, Norway to join us on our trek to DC.; Michael E. Linderman of Roseburg, OR; Michael T. Simpson, Amargosa Valley, NV; John Jenkins, Roseburg, OR; Tom Cameron, San Diego, CA; Bob (Whatabout) Ashmore, Oceanside, CA; Duane Festerly, Santee, CA.
What a wonderful crew of newbies! Here’s to tomorrow and the beginning of the NVAR 2016 ride.
2016 Ride Day One (Wednesday, May 18, 2016)
Today is the first official day of the 2016 NVAR. Yesterday’s numbers were certainly impressive with 26 bikes, two trikes and one cage. But today’s numbers were amazing. At wheels up this morning, we were 52 bikes, 2 trikes, 2 bikes with trailers, a Slingshot and one other vehicle, plus the chase vehicle. The view from the chase vehicle was beautiful. The weather was near perfect. Riding Missing Man formation were Rick Dyer and Tony Ivins.
First stop was a great breakfast at the Auburn Veterans Hall. The gentlemen of the Auburn Jeep Club once again fed us very well. To thank these generous folks, we were pleased to award them with a beautiful plaque along with individual certificates of appreciation for their many years of support. We also thanked the Legion Riders for their generous monetary donation and Tom Cameron for his kind donation of beautifully embroidered hats. Two Middle East Conflict medals were given to combat Desert Storm vets Virgie and John.
Before getting on the interstate, we drove by the Bowman school to say our last good-bye. What a thrill to find 500 kids waving flags and shouting joyously as we drove by. It is our hope that the memories we create with these kids will instill a sense of gratitude to our veterans and kindle true patriotism in the next generation
So we started our longest day of 409 miles. As we rode I-80, every overpass for miles was decorated and had people waving flags and shouting good wishes. They had a terrific view of 59 vehicles in beautiful formation.
Our first stop today was a favorite, the Mather VAMC , Reno. Our first sight was the Patriot Guard welcoming us lining the curb and holding flags. This is a great facility with a dedicated staff of 1400 and 700 volunteers and proof everywhere of the exceptional care our vets receive. Director Lisa Howard and Volunteer Director Maria warmly welcomed us. For this visit, our numbers were swelled to 70 bikes. We descended upon the center with many letters from children to share, ride pins to affix and ears to lend to any who needed them. As I wander through the halls, I listen and watch our riders interact with the vets. It is wonderful to see how they touch even the meanest of curmudgeons and have them laughing and interacting. As I passed rooms, our guys were reading the children’s thank you cards to the vets who couldn’t see, while some of our guys had the cards snatched from them so the patients could read it themselves. Don and Sue Tardiff told me the story of Walter who happily survived his military service only to fall backwards off a mountain while photographing a flower. He is now a paraplegic, but maintains hope that he will recover. Jim Grant told the story of Jamie, Viet Nam vet. Jamie didn’t want to talk at first. He had to be removed from his home to have an amputation. He is recovering and hopes to go home soon. Jim got him talking and Jamie has hope again. Our riders are not shy and beautifully impact the lives of those they meet. Unfortunately, our visit here had to be shorter than usual. After a lunch of Elk burgers that they kindly provided, we had to say goodbye. We had a date to lay a wreath at the memorial in the Northern Nevada Veterans Cemetery 38 miles up the road. We were told that a funeral was to be held and that our visit had to be short. Wreath layers were Dan Keupker, Rich Behounek, Mike Tipton and Terry Hoops. What we thought was going to be an intrusion turned into a blessing. The brother of the deceased thanked us profusely for being present for his brother’s funeral. His brother was a rider and our presence was most appropriate, making his funeral very special.
Our day ended in a very special way. Three escorts saw us safely to Elko, NV where dinner was provided by VFW Post 2350. The Amazing Les has coordinated our visits for five years. This tenacious young man has gone above and beyond the call to bring awareness of the NVAO to his area. Also, we were proud to award our Middle Eastern Conflict medal to Les for his service during Desert Storm. Thanks to Les and Post 2350 for their hospitality.
Well, it’s been a long day. Have to stop now for some sleep. Until Tomorrow…
2016 Ride Day Two (Thursday, May 19, 2016)
How would you feel if you were riding down the road on your motorcycle minding your own business when a shrieking pain enters your right ear? That’s what happened to our friend Bill “Mongo” Luft yesterday. A three inch black hornet attacked and stung him repeatedly in the ear. He and his wife Nancy got the bee out and received first aid. He’s fine. The swelling is receding and Bill and Nancy are on the road again!
6:30 AM breakfast really came early today. Wheels up at 8 AM. There were 39 bikes and the Chase vehicle. Riding Missing Man today was Don “Quacker Jenkins, Mike “Crow” Gallegos, Dustin “Peewee” Barker, and Kevin “Navigator’ Liptrot. Thanks to Missing Man Coordinator Dan “Lugnut" Kuepker for the update.
We headed to Wendover, NV to join representatives from seven Utah Riding Clubs. All I can say is WOW! At the Lake Point Flying J, there were over 60 bikes with 70 riders and over 40 law enforcement personnel from various communities to escort us through Salt Lake City and ending in Evanston. This was by far the largest contingent of riders since the inception of the ride. By the time we arrived at the Salt Lake City Veterans Home, there were 278 riders on 214 bikes. So many vets were outside in the sunshine to welcome us. It was thrilling for them to receive so much attention from so many and to enjoy the largest numbers of bikes ever to visit them. After thanks and certificates of appreciation were delivered, the riders went to visit vets wherever they found them, outside on the parking lot and inside along the halls or in their rooms. A beautiful lunch was prepared for EVERYONE! Two surprise visitors were Marsha and Randy Knight. Randy was the Utah ride coordinator for many years until his serious motorcycle accident a few years ago. He and Marsha were kind enough to surprise us and to buy us lunch last week at the Lake Point Flying J. What a treat to have them with us again today. Even though his life has dramatically changed, Randy has found new inspiration and fun by becoming involved with the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. He was last year’s torchbearer and competes in Weight lifting, Archery, Bocce Ball and Air Rifle events. We congratulate Randy these latest achievements and hope he continues to enjoy life.
I was introduced to 84-year-old Korean Army Vet Delbert Boyington. If that name sounds familiar, a distant relative was WWII Major Pappy Boyington. The adventures of his Marine attack squad were dramatized from 1976-1978. Delbert has been a resident of the Salt Lake City Veterans Center for 18 years after becoming a double amputee, and was instrumental in the refurbishing of the Veterans Center. Delbert’s Dad served in the Marine Corps in WWI. He has five daughters, 3 boys, 23 grandkids and 32 great grandkids! This delightful man has a lust for life and was a pleasure to spend time with. As luck would have it, he has much in common with one of our riders, Ray, who intends to keep in touch with Delbert and send him a picture of their visit. Again, I received as much from meeting Delbert as I hope he did by meeting me. On a very sad note, Mike Rinowski once again met his friend LaFonda. He had met her on several occasions and they always had a great time together. This year, LaFonda is 90 years old, very, very tired and wants to die. She said that she “just wants to go home”. It is Mike’s concern that she will die alone and he won’t see his friend on his next visit. This is the reality of our visits. We become attached to the veterans who look forward to our visits and friendship. It is very hard to say goodbye.
Awarding the Middle East Medals to those fighting the war on terror has become one of our most important and popular recognition ceremonies. It all started in 2012 when Patrick “Too Tall” Daniels from the Viet Nam Veterans of America Chapter 154 out of Roseville, MI. asked Paul “Buzz” Neeb if the NVAR would help them raise awareness among and for our young veterans. The Viet Nam Vets wanted to make sure the veterans of the war on terror received the respect and positive welcome home that the Nam Vets never received. As an advocate for these young vets, they brought attention to their issues and developed the medal as a tribute to be awarded wherever and whenever these vets are encountered. His vision was well placed. Our young vets all over the country are extremely proud and pleased to receive this award. Thank you, “Too Tall”, for continuing to supply these beautiful medals, and for entrusting them to us. We are proud to assist you in this important work. Today we awarded many of these medals at the Veterans center.
We left the Veterans today with many mixed emotions. This is an excellent facility and the one thing that we can all appreciate is how well our vets are being cared for. Heartfelt thanks to the employees of the Salt Lake City Veterans home for their dedication to those who gave so much and ask so little in return. We hope to return next year to spread a little joy once again.
VFW Post 4280 was our host for a delicious dinner with beef so tender it could be cut with a plastic fork! We awarded our Medal on terror to Shawn Todd from Mississippi and thanked him for his service. All in all, a beautiful evening.
It’s the end of another incredibly busy and rewarding day. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.
2016 Ride Day Three (Friday, May 20, 2016)
I forgot to mention yesterday that we traveled 325 miles. Before dinner at the VFW yesterday, a wreath was respectfully laid at an Evanston Memorial Park. Patrick Martindale led Tony Jackson, Patrick Gordon, Patrick Mosely and Dave Harris in the presentation. Thanks for the update, Patrick.
Also, this morning riders were sharing some truly wonderful encounters that they had with the vets at the Salt Lake City Vets facility. Linda Stucki said that when she read one of the children’s thank you letters to a 90-year-old vet, the tears began to flow. He told Linda that he was so glad that we are teaching today’s kids well.
Another surprise at the rider’s meeting this morning was the appearance of Peggy from the VFW in Evanston. She was the first W. Wyoming coordinator for our ride. She, along with Jean and Robin Lamb, and Randy Knight worked with Steve Moore to bring Wyoming into the NVAR family. She continues to support us and came out to wish us a safe journey.
There are so many wonderful stories that it’s hard to leave anything out. Jerry Connor is always good at acknowledging the selfless and fine work of our riders. This morning we found out that while we were settling into our motel rooms, Steve Moore stayed behind at the VFW to help scrub pots and pans after the fine dinner they served us. Jerry thanked Bruce Manner for his many hours on his feet selling merchandise, with lots of help from Sandy Kintzele. These are only two instances of dedication that we see every day. Riders pitch in wherever they are needed to make the ride run smoothly and be a great success.
I’ve mentioned how good our riders are with the vets. A great example was given this morning. A rider observed one of our new FNG’s going above the call of duty to make a vet comfortable so that they could have a quality visit. A vet had some kind of condition that gave him residue in his mouth making it difficult to talk. Our FNG brought a trashcan to him so that he could clear his mouth. They then spent time together, able to converse without the impairment that could be easily dealt with. Treating people with caring respect is the main cornerstone of the NVAR mission. The appreciation of the sick, sad or forgotten is beautiful to behold.
Rider Don Jenkins told how humbled and honored he was when fellow rider Mike Linderman asked him to ride Missing Man in honor of his son who was killed in Desert Storm. Don had also lost a son at aged 16, so he knew of Mike’s pain. This is another great example of vets caring for vets.
Wheels were up this morning at 8 AM. We had 40 bikes and the chase. We will be traveling 371 miles today. Riding missing Man were Mike and Kat Tipton and Don and Sue Tardif.
Ten Miles west of Cheyenne, we picked up an excellent escort that helped us navigate the traffic safely. Several bikes, cages and trucks also joined us. We spent an hour and a half visiting the VA Hospital residents and touring many new improvements made since our last visit. My group saw the excellent new Rehabilitation Center serving patients who need help with PTSD and Substance Abuse. On February 23 they admitted their first patient. Currently there are four patients. It’s a ten bed facility and treatment begins with 5 to 7 weeks of therapy. This is another great facility and I hope some stories will find there way here tomorrow.
Boy, have we been giving out the War on Terror medals! Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get all of the names of recipients. Dan Keupker gave the first one away today at the Rawlins gas stop, and got his name. Francesco Ladosma did one tour in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan. Seven medals were awarded at the VA Hospital. It’s so good to see the pleasure this recognition brings.
Our good friends at VFW Post 1818 served us a delicious spaghetti dinner complete with fabulous deserts. We were extremely surprised to have so many old friends show up to see us off. Jacque and Wylie Wilson shocked us! They drove four hours to wish us well and join us for dinner. Also joining us were Dana Anderson, our bagpipes guru, Janet Lenox and “Baby face” Wiseman, who’ll be joining the ride. Thanks to them for thinking of us!
After sharing the certificates of appreciation, it was off to the motel for a hard earned night’s sleep. What a great day!
2016 Ride Day Four (Saturday, May 21, 2016)
Six thirty sure came early today and dawned foggy and misty. We felt a lot better after finishing a truly delicious breakfast as the guests of Fraternal Order of the Eagles, Aerie 128. These wonderful folks have been our staunch advocates for many years and we thanked them for their support. Today we will travel 375 miles and numbered 44 vehicles at wheels up. Riding Missing Man Formation were: Mike Ronowski, Wayne “Preacher” Worden, Mike “Pops” Manthey, and Kelly “Big Daddy” Rafferty. Just a word about “Preacher” Worden…we are so fortunate to have Wayne as our chaplain. Every day he inspires us with a story, anecdote or prayer. Wayne has a way of touching our hearts and heads and helping to put our mission into perspective. Especially meaningful to me is how secure I feel after his prayers for the safety of the ride and giving thanks for the many blessings we encounter along the way. Thanks, Wayne, for sharing your gift.
Lots of times I am unable to get the names of all the people who receive our War on Terror medals. But, I will include names when I get them. From Cheyenne, WY: Thomas Haderlie, Army; Scott Dillingham, Air Force; Tina who did five tours in Afghanistan.
At the Cheyenne Motel, Troy is a 10 year disabled Army vet who had been deployed five times. He has a service dog to help him with his PTSD-like symptoms. His wife Lydia was especially pleased with the medal presentation. She has been trying for years to get him to be more social and not a loner. We hope that our recognition will help him in his healing.
Around 5 PM we arrived at the Veterans Home in Grand Island, NE. Nebraska Coordinator Bill “Mongo” Luft introduced Director Nancy who warmly welcomed us. Many vets were waiting outside on a very cool and cloudy afternoon to see the bikes and talk to the riders. Mongo presented a plaque to Bill “Q” Tip Anderson and Certificate of Appreciation to Frank “Tank” Strefka for their roles as Co-coordinators since 2005. Mongo accepted many generous donations, including one from Kelly “Big Daddy” Rafferty who also paid for our meal. Director Nancy gave me a tour of the new veterans facility to be completed by 2019. A model room was built on the premises so that residents can see what the new facility will be. In a word, impressive! We wish the Grand Island Veterans Home well as they enter their new facility.
I got an interesting story from Kelly Rafferty via Mongo. A vet who was wearing a Korean Conflict hat noticed that Kelly was 82nd airborne. The man told Kelly that his dad was 82 airborne in WWII. He was captured by the Germans, put in POW camp and murdered by the Germans there. The old gentleman asked Kelly if he would be kind enough to take a POW/MIA flag to the WWII Memorial and place it in memory of his dad. Kelley agreed to do it. It would be great if the old gentleman could have gone in person to DC to honor his father. Kelly will do the next best thing. I hope I can be there with Kelly to give tribute to a dedicated son’s father.
The great people at the American Legion Post 300 in Doniphan made us an amazing fish dinner. Boy, were their Certificates of Appreciation well earned! Their kindness and hospitality were greatly appreciated.
Well, got to the motel later than usual. Lots of merchandise got sold; lots of raffle tickets for the rifle, quilt, and other amazing donations were also sold. Our family is working together so well this year to make this ride our most successful yet.
Time to restore some energy for tomorrow.
2016 Ride Day Five (Sunday, May 22, 2016)
In North Platte, there is this neat memorial where the fireman treat us to a great lunch al fresco. Yesterday was a really ugly, misty and cold day. Our Firemen buddies didn’t disappoint! They moved our lunch to the firehouse where we ate in dry, warm comfort. Bill Luft and Bill Anderson did a good job of thanking the guys, as did we!
Mike Barnes shared a cute story with me about yesterday’s visit with the vets. He requested to visit the vets on the Alzheimer’s Unit. Mike’s mom suffers from dementia, so he is familiar with interacting with this condition. He walked up to a table of four ladies, leaned down to their level and asked, “How many hugs can I get from you ladies today”? Lady one hugged him. Then, lady two hugged him. Lady three planted a big kiss on him, much to the shock of the other ladies. “She got a kiss!” they cried. Mike said that they were adorable and, yes, lady four hugged him too. Giggles and laughter aren’t usually experienced on this ward. Thanks, Mike, for making some lady vets happy.
It’s amazing how long a day can seem. We didn’t get checked in until late last night, which made morning come too soon. We had breakfast at a local truck stop. To finance the gas for the chase vehicle, we hold a 50/50 drawing every morning. The generosity of our riders is humbling. Not only do they buy chances every morning and pay their own expenses, but they also make donations, many anonymously, to defray the enormous cost of the ride. Without this kind of commitment, the NVAR would not exist.
Next stop, Council Bluffs, IA. We left the dark clouds and drizzle behind in Nebraska and welcomed warm sunshine! Riding Missing Man Formation were: Logan “Gator” Luft, Chuck Thompson and Duane “Infidel” Fosterly. Thanks, Lugnut.
The Cairns Ville Riders Honor Guard escorted us into Council Bluffs. The local funeral home provided a beautiful cycle pulling a glass antique hearse that is offered to any veteran’s family to make a funeral truly special. Our old friend Norma, who we thought would not be with us this year, turned up after all! She introduced Ben Weiss, president of the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America, who warmly welcomed us. Bayless Park is a gorgeous community gem in the center of town. Its Memorial Wall and authentically rendered statue of Ross Greco’s son, Phillip, who was KIA in Vietnam, is breathtaking. The town raised three million dollars in less than a year to finance the project. Patrick Martindale lead a moving wreath laying ceremony at Phillip’s memorial.
After the ceremony, Wayne Schuler’s famous pulled pork was the centerpiece of a great lunch in our honor. Iowa State Coordinator Mike Kline presented certificates of appreciation to the many folks involved in taking such good care of us. There were a lot donations made, including the proceeds of a raffle done on the spot! Sadly, one of our greatest supporters was buried on Friday. Jack, an Army and Air Force Vet and musician, will be missed.
The honor guard spoke to us of a veteran that died alone…no friends or family to whom they could present the casket flag. He was a Viet Nam Vet, so they requested that the NVAR carry the soldier’s flag to the Wall. We humbly accepted this honor.
Our great friend Larry had back surgery on Tuesday. Here we are on Sunday, and he was present and accounted for! What a guy! He insisted on coming out to be a part of our mission. As everyone was leaving, Larry shouted “Where’s the guy with the Bassilone Patch?” One of our riders knew that it was John Rauch, so he went to get John. When I asked Larry if he had served on the Bassilone, he said, “No, but I steamed alongside that son-of-a-bitch for a lot of miles!” It seems that Larry served on the Ellison in the same squad as the Basilone and at the same time. What a small world we live in. Thanks to all of the folk of Council Bluffs for a memorable visit.
“We don’t know them all, but we owe them all!” Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II.
If you take exit 86 off of I80 and take a right at the end of the ramp’ and drive south one mile, you will come to an amazing piece of art, The Freedom Rock. The above sentiment is the most recent one on this shrine to our veterans. Bubba Sorensen just keeps getting better. His goal is to put a rock in every county in Iowa and, eventually, in all 50 states. What was once an eyesore of vandalism has become an almost sacred work of art and a reminder of the sacrifices of our veterans. My dad’s ashes have joined those of hundreds of other veterans who are mixed into the very fabric of the rock. The following honorees are currently on the rock: Pearl Harbor Survivor, CPO Clarence Pfunaheller; WWII Veteran Pvt. Joseph Medicine Crow; Viet Nam Medal of Honor recipient Sp. 4 Leslie H. Sabo, Jr; A-10 Pilot Col. Kim Campbell. Bubba’s vision is an inspiration for us all.
A stop at the Des Moines VMAC is always a rewarding one. Many of the residents in wheel chairs came out to the parking lot and rode in between the bikes, some telling us they were thinking of the days when they rode. The resilience of these vets is wonderful.
Our last stop of the day was American Legion Post 663 in Urbandale, IA. Commander John and his volunteers had a wonderful meal all ready for us, allowing us to eat and drink heartily and get to our motel for some much-appreciated R and R. We traveled 289 miles today with 58 vehicles through a lot of traffic. Tonight we will sleep well, grateful for our safe arrival.
2016 Ride Day Six (Monday, May 23, 2016)
I really wish I could record each and every remark, encounter and experience. This ride is an amazingly rich tapestry made up of the perspectives and interpretations of each rider. It is wonderful.
Yesterday, after lunch in Council Bluffs, an elderly lady requested that she would love to have a ride on one of our motorcycles to the Freedom Rock. Mike Barnes immediately volunteered to take her, and he did! Her grandson picked her up after her thrilling ride.
Also yesterday we awarded five War on Terror Medals. I hope “Too Tall” and his Viet Nam brothers are pleased with how we are spreading respect with the medals that they developed and provide. We are honored to complete this mission. It was great to see Doc Rohde last night. Our family seems to become more complete each day.
Dawn was amazing today and promised a warm, sunny ride. Three of our riders made emergency visits to bike dealers for repairs. Svein and Ragnhild got new brakes and Gary, who was backed into by a policeman, received repairs and great service. Tom Zinn from Garvis Honda opened early and personally got these guys on the road in record time. Thanks, Tom! Thank the stars for Patrick Martindale. These are his stomping grounds and he knew exactly what to do and where to go.
All were able to make the sumptuous breakfast at AMVETS Post #2. These great folks solicit help from so many people just to put out this outstanding meal for us. They don’t just make great meals. This small post has the AMVETS Career Center. A gentleman started the center as a tribute to his fallen son. They assist returning vets in becoming employed. They give them one on one, personalized help. Twice yearly, on Easter and Thanksgiving, veterans are bussed in from homes in the area for a feast. What a wonderful, active group of resourceful and generous people! Iowa coordinator Mike Kline delivered heartfelt certificates of appreciation.
We were on the road again at 8:00 AM with an escort Riding Missing Man were: Patrick Gordon, Dennis (Stuke) and Linda Stuki, and Dan “Sweetness” Kress. There were 46 bikes, three cars and The Schneider Ride of Pride truck. Destination was Marshalltown and the largest Iowa Vets Home that we visit. We were received very warmly and didn’t waste any time getting to our vets. Lori Martindale, Patrick’s wife, joined us with her therapy dog, Teaser. The dog is the highlight of their day for many vets. Kris the recreation coordinator said that she wishes they had many more visiting pets. She even hopes to get a resident dog some day.
I chose to visit the residents of the Ulery Alzheimer’s units. An example of the respect the residents enjoy is this saying that is painted largely on the wall: “Our residents do not live in our workplace. We work in their homes”. Once again, I was so impressed with the finesse and gentle interaction our riders used to engage the residents. They were at different levels of awareness, but our people adapted their approach to touch them. ¾’s of the people do have family or friends visit. They enjoy many outings, like fishing or lunch or dinner out. Here are a few vignettes of how our visit went. There was Chuck who was inarticulate through the whole visit, until he said in a loud voice, “Thank you, guys!” This guy had a great handshake; Larry Lewis loves Ohio State and bonded with rider Dave Clemmons from Ohio; Resident Phil bonded with rider Fred, as they were both mechanics in Nam; A sweet gentleman named Nelson Nichols gave me his card that he had made from the instruction slips on his dinner tray. Clever; When we told Harry we were going to DC, all he said was “Good luck!”; When Dave Clemmons said hello to one old curmudgeon, he told Dave to get lost. When I tried to engage him by shaking hands, he said in no uncertain terms, “I don’t shake hands with women!” Even though these folks are ill and will only get worse, they have character and somewhere inside them, they are still in there. The one thing we heard over and over again is how much they liked their home and how good everyone was to them. One of the most rewarding stops of the ride happened today.
Preacher Wayne reconnected with an old friend named John who he visited last year. Wayne sent John pictures at Christmastime. John invited Wayne to his room for show and tell. Jackwagon had a very, very long conversation with a resident about nothing but motorcycles! Sandy Kintzele met a 98-year-old volunteer driver who lives alone. When she asked the secret of his longevity, he said he was very good as a young man.
These are only a few examples of the wonderful experience our visits are. The staff kindly served us lunch. Commandant Jodie said that they 549 residents and 950 employees. They have an 85 million dollar budget and are currently refurbishing all rooms to single occupancy. Iowa could teach the rest of the country a thing or two about successful veterans affairs!
Next stop was the Iowa City VA Health Care System. Again, this is an excellent facility. I had a wonderful conversation with Jim Current. He is a flight instructor who served 6 years in the Navy and 7 years in the Air Force. He loves to fly ultra lights and is looking forward to getting well so that he can visit his son, daughter-in-law and their new baby in Germany where they are serving. I’ll bet I asked 5 patients how they would rate their care, and they said excellent.
One excellent surprise was a visit from the extended Stucki family. 18 family members showed up to see us off and to give us cookies that the grandkids made to thank the vets. I think this was the fourth year this delightful family has provided thank you cookies and come to wish Dennis, Linda and all if us well. Thanks so much for your enthusiastic support. It means so much!
Our last stop before dinner was to the beautiful All Veterans Memorial in Davenport Memorial Park. Patrick Martindale lead a somber wreath laying to honor all who have died on our behalf. Laying the wreath were, Duane “Infidel” Fosterly, John Jenkins, Bob “Whatabout” Ashmore, and Don “Quacker” Jenkins. Gary White welcomed us. There was a young color guard and gun salute, followed by taps. This beautiful monument to all of the wars that have engaged the U.S. was completed by a handful of dedicated vets. Major Scott Fluegel was the guest speaker and was also awarded the War on Terror medal.
We finished a very busy day with a delicious fried chicken dinner at the American Legion Post #26. Mike Kline did a fine job of acknowledging everyone with Certificates of Appreciation.
May tomorrow be equally as fine as today was.
2016 Ride Day Seven (Tuesday, May 24, 2016)
55 bikes and four vehicles left the Country Inn and Suites this morning with an escort at 7:30 AM. Riding Missing Man formation were Ed Norton and Bill “Mongo” Luft. Our destination was 116 miles down the road to the Middle East Conflict Memorial in Marseilles, IL. We were greeted by outgoing State Coordinator, Mike Malmgren and the Mayor of Marseilles. This beautiful memorial has withstood so much in the last five years. Severe flooding, storms and softball sized hail did its best to ruin this beautiful place, but did not succeed. Situated on the Illinois River, it is a serene and peaceful location where one can go to remember those whose names are listed on the walls. On June 19th, 2004 the Granite Memorial Wall was dedicated commemorating the servicemen and women who have lost their lives in worldwide conflicts since 1979. The project was conceived by Tony Cutrano and Jerry Kuczera, built with donated material and labor and is the first of its kind in the History of the United States to give honor to our fallen by name while a conflict is ongoing. It took 20 years to Honor our Vietnam Veterans. Almost 60 years to Honor our World War II Veterans. The names on the wall represent our fallen heroes from such diverse locations as Panama, Lebanon, the Balkans, Grenada, Somalia, Haiti, USS Cole, USS Stark, Terrorist attacks in Italy, Greece, Scotland, and the current conflicts in the Middle East.
Patrick Martindale led a poignant wreath laying ceremony. Wreath layers were Dennis “Hack” Olson, Sue Tardif, Bob “Whatabout” Ashmore, and Ed “Silvertop” Kintzele. A color guard, rifle salute and the playing of taps followed.
This was an especially difficult stop for our own rider, Commander Sgt. Major Retired Bill Luft. There are nine names on the wall that were Bill’s comrades in arms. He read their names and a moment of silence was observed in their honor. The mood lightened a little when Volunteer Susan brought several vets from the Local Veterans Home to interact with our riders. Any opportunity to mingle with veterans is greatly appreciated. Mike distributed certificates of appreciation and was awarded a plaque for his two years of service as Illinois coordinator. One war on terror medal was awarded. A delicious lunch was served at American Legion Post 235 in Marseilles. Next stop, Portage High School in Indiana. The ride through Illinois would have been so much more dangerous if not for the police escorts through Illinois and Indiana. Safety is the greatest priority as we navigate big city traffic Heartfelt thanks to all of the police who help us arrive safely. Also, a shout of thanks to our Road Guards. We are grateful for these savvy riders, led by “Crazy Larry” McKay, who protect and guide us on the road. After 94 miles through crazy traffic, we finally reached one of our favorite stops. The JROTC drill team of Portage High School is excellent. It’s a treat to see them perform. We were happy to donate to this program that produces disciplined and talented young men and women. Dan “Lugnut” Kuepker distributed certificates of appreciation to the school and police officers for their support of our mission.
With the temperature at 91 degrees, we rode the last 27 miles to stage at the Michigan City Harley Davidson dealership. We were met by many other bikes that joined us to honor our Medal of Honor recipient Danny Bruce. A police escort led us to the lakefront and Danny’s beautiful memorial. Kelly “Big Daddy” Rafferty, Bill “Mongo” Luft, Will Luft, and Logan Luft laid a wreath at the memorial under the direction of Patrick “Jackwagon” Martindale. Well-deserved certificates of appreciation were awarded to the Michigan City Police Department and the Indiana State Police. The St. Joe Club warmly welcomed us and graciously served us a wonderful dinner. In recognition of many years of support, Lugnut gave them our certificates of appreciation. Another surprise was that our friend Julie Runzel from Elgin, IL was at the club and had prepared a beautiful table of goodies. For thirteen years, Julie has been providing our riders with amazing sweet delicacies. She would meet us at one of our gas stops, open her trunk and bring out wonderful desserts or candy. Tonight she outdid herself. The dessert table was incredible and everything on it delicious. We were pleased to present her with a plaque for her many years of dedicated support.
Well, friends, this old girl is tired. If there is anything I missed, I’ll try to include it tomorrow. It was a great day!
2016 Ride Day Eight (Wednesday, May 25, 2016)
I can’t believe I’m writing Day 8. These days are flying by! Two things from yesterday to mention…Mr. Charles Babcock, one of the suppliers of our War on Terror medals, kindly visited us at the Danny Bruce Memorial. He and his lovely wife are so supportive of the NVAR. They joined us for dinner and gave us 16 more medals to distribute. Thanks, Charlie. Senator Jim Arnold, a very good friend of the NVAR, said some fine words about our mission and wished us well and God Speed.
Also yesterday a guy saw us turn into the Mideast Memorial wall, so he followed to see what we were about. He was a vet and we awarded him one of our medals. We also gave one to a female vet holding a baby. That was very special. I walked up to that late, so I didn’t get a name, but that’s ok. She was very appreciative, as we are of her!
What a fantastic breakfast we had at the DAV this morning! It was not only delicious, but also very generous. Certificates of appreciation were given out to all of the hard working members who were there before the birds were up. Jerry Connor also praised Dan “Lugnut” Keupker for the exceptional job he did as Indiana coordinator.
Special appreciation was given to Jeremy Davis and Nate Radke of Central States Mfg. These generous folks donated the materials to complete a shelter for our beautiful NVAO trailer. There are many ways of supporting the ride. These folks demonstrated their belief in our mission in a very caring and generous way, and we thank them.
Steve Moore introduced Robert Dorshak, the Wall Gang’s choice to honor with their 2016 ride. Robert was KIA in February of 1968 in Viet Nam. There was an impressive number of family member, friends, and even Robert’s commanding officer that came from far and wide to honor this exceptional soldier. A poster signed by all present will be laid at the wall in Robert’s memory.
Medals were awarded and many donations were presented to cover the chase truck gas. Thanks to the Wall Gang and the DAV #23 and Central States Mfg. There were many anonymous donations as well. Heartfelt recognition was given to Karla Lloyd for providing all of the certificates of appreciation and buttons that we distribute across the country. Karla was also responsible to organizing the happy birthday cards and glasses for Svein, Ed and Terry. Thanks, Karla!
Steve Moore proudly introduced his 12-year-old granddaughter Mia who will travel with him to DC. Welcome Mia! Dan Kress and Don Jenkins were surprised by the Wall Gang who issued road names to each of them. Dan’s is “Sweetness”, and Don’s is “Quacker”…and they have the patches to prove it!
Wheels were up at 8:00. Riding Missing Man were Jason and Carey Masterson, Steve “Rickey” Moore, and Jim “Slingblade” Grant.
Just a little explanation of the origin of the Missing Man formation: It began with pilots who fly this magnificent and solemn aerial maneuver for presidents, potentates, astronauts, and other pilots of note as a tribute and showing of love, respect, and camaraderie for a brother pilot. This maneuver is sometimes flown with the wingman spiraling off or it is flown consistently with a hole where another should be. There is a tradition of Honor that goes along with motorcycles called "The Missing Man Formation". This is a motorcycle formation which rides directly behind the lead riders at the front of the procession and is set up as a "missing man" formation where there are two riders side x side followed by a single rider followed by two side x side riders = the missing man formation. Those who ride as the single rider are riding to honor a fallen comrade or comrades who they have known. To be asked to do this is a distinctive honor.
The first stop today was the 50-mile ride to West Central School where we presented a flag ceremony. The old flag will travel with us to be placed at the wall. All along this route people lined the streets and bridges to honor us. We are so humbled by the wonderful displays of patriotism.
40 more miles down the road brought us to The Indiana Veterans Home. What fun it is to have lunch al fresco with the vets. We had a beautiful day for it. A couple of cute stories: Judy McMurray is the wife of a Navy man. They have been married for 58 years. When I told her that it was really refreshing to talk to a lady for a change. She said, “Yeah, there are a lot of guys, but they sure do come in handy sometimes!” Another elderly resident loved our ride pins and allowed me to put it on her cap. She then proceeded to steal the mustard and catsup off the table and put it in her bag with the 8 apples and 5 bananas she confiscated. Light fingered Lena!
147 miles of exceptionally bad road in Indiana made Brookville, OH more welcome than usual! John and Lisa Childers and their elves at AMVETS put on a wonderful spread for us. The Mayor welcomed us warmly. Tony Cunningham awarded many certificates of appreciation.
Another beautiful riding day, although bad roads and wind was an issue. Here’s hoping tomorrow’s ride is good. Until tomorrow.
2016 Ride Day Nine (Thursday, May 26, 2016)
The day dawned warm and a little cloudy. I was selling 50/50 chances on the parking lot before the sun was up! The amazing thing was that I had customers! We had an early date with the folks at the VFW Post 3288 for yet another delicious and excellent breakfast. Commander Paul and the Men’s and Women’s Auxiliary really makes us feel welcome every time we visit. They also gave us a huge donation, which will help finance our mission, as will a generous donation from “Too Tall”. Tony “Squirt” Cunningham distributed certificates of Appreciation and ”Sweetness” delivered his tribute to those fallen soldiers from this area. The Mayor of Brookville came out extremely early to see us off and wish us safe travels. We love you, Brookville! Thanks for everything.
As we were preparing to leave, we heard a bird in distress. Of all the things, a mother Plover had laid her eggs in the parking lot among some stones. We brought it to the attention of the VFW folks, and we hope they took steps to protect the birds.
Wheels up was at 7:15 AM. We picked up a few more riders at the Bicket Exit 58 and began the 112-mile trek to the Chillicothe VA Medical center. We had 8 cars, 4 truck 2 trailers and 89 bikes. Our procession was 1.1 miles long! The excellent police escort stayed with us giving us the entire highway to ourselves. It’s seldom that we feel so safe. Everyone really enjoyed this ride. After meeting with the vets, it was down the road 12 miles to the Southeastern School. This is a very important stop for us. It was here that we met Dave Clemmons, a Gold Star Dad. Dave’s son was killed in action and was a student at Southeastern. They have erected a monument on the school grounds to honor Dave’s son Brad. Since we met Dave four years ago, he has become a very important member of our ride. We have watched him grow from a solemn individual to one who actively takes part in the ride with enthusiasm and is very outgoing with everyone. He is our brother and we hope we have helped him achieve some level of piece. Another example of vets caring for vets. The school provided a wonderful patriotic program for us, followed by a sumptuous lunch. A table a block long was laden with delicious delicacies. We loved interacting with the students and include this stop as one of our most important.
Our fabulous police escort saw us safely to the West Virginia line. Officers exited their motorcycles and saluted as we went by. It felt strange to be on our own again.
Clarksburg-Louis Johnson VMAC was our next stop. This medical center is nestled in beautiful scenery at the top of rolling hills. Again, we were given the run of the facility and we did what we do best, visit the vets! This time I chose to visit the long-term intensive care unit. The suffering here was terrible. For the most part, we find patients up beat and in high spirits. This time, we encountered fear, pain, and sadness. It was evident that some of these patients had a struggle ahead. They were very well cared for, but were very sick. One man, who was barely coherent, asked if we believed in the lord. When we said we did, he said, “Then please pray for me!” This was a reminder to us that their sacrifice continues, in many cases to the end of their lives. To be able to provide some comfort is a gift, and I hope we did.
Ten miles down the road, the folks of VFW Post 573 were our hosts for dinner, and we thank them. This is also the spot where we have our last formal gathering. It’s a time to reflect on the ride and to acknowledge all who make the ride run smoothly. I’m not going to go into the details of each certificate of appreciation, except for one. Jerry Connor is a remarkable leader. His sensitivity, diplomacy and organizational skills have pulled us all together in ways that are remarkable. People in the NVAR come from all walks of life, with different backgrounds and histories. We represent many religions, and, in some cases, no religion. We have political views across the spectrum. And yet, we have come together with one mission that is designed to honor our vets while healing our hearts, minds and souls. So many of our riders have said that the NVAR has saved them in one way or another and enhanced their lives tremendously. It’s what keeps us coming back year after year.
One last story before bed: Jerry asked me to share a memorable story at the dinner tonight. Instead, I asked Mike “Hammerhead” Burke to relay an experience that he shared with me that still haunts him. The vet he chose to visit was in hospice. He was mostly incoherent and Mike was told that he did not have long. Mike spoke softly to the man, explaining who he was, and giving him a ride pin. He was unresponsive, so Mike held his hand and prayed for him out loud. Mike liked to think the man was praying with him. After a while, Mike said good-bye and left the room. He didn’t get 20 feet away when flashing lights and warning sounds told him the man had passed. This was a real blessing for Mike. To be with a vet as he took his last breaths, possibly bringing him some comfort was an honor and privilege Mike will never forget. It was a life changing experience for him.
Well, tomorrow we will be in DC. I can’t believe it’s almost over.
2016 Ride Day Ten (Friday, May 27, 2016)
Well, it’s day 10, the last official day of the 2016 NAVR…and what a ride it has been. It’s another great day, 87 and sunny, but promises to get hotter later. This could prove to be uncomfortable for the riders. I guess that’s better than rain and snow!
Riding Missing Man formation were: Yesterday – Dave “Double “D” Clemmons and John Jenkins. Today - Steve “T” Bone Bowen and Terry Hoops.
We traveled 120 miles from Bridgeport, WV to one of the loveliest Veteran Cemeteries in the country. Rocky Gap Maryland Veteran Cemetery is nestled in a gorgeous setting of rolling hills, surrounding forests and lakes. The only sounds to be heard in this peaceful place are birdsong and gentle breezes. This is the 12th year we have been invited to lay a wreath at the memorial in honor of Memorial Day. Wreath layers chosen were Jerry Conner, Steve Bower, Bruce Manner and Butch Schroder. Patrick “Jackwagon” Martindale led them. A color guard was in attendance, Gun salute was presented and Taps played. Also in attendance were high school students who greeted us warmly and thanked our vet for their service. Representatives from various veterans groups were also there. The cemetery was resplendent with hundreds of American Flags that the kids had placed on every grave. Maryland Coordinator Steve “Head Dog” Moore, thanked everyone for inviting us. He distributed certificates of appreciation to all who arranged the ceremony. This was truly an inspiring and beautiful stop. The young people’s respectful behavior impressed us.
80 miles away was our last stop, the Martinsburg WV VAMC. Last year was the first that we visited this center. It provides services and medical care to approximately 35,000 Vets, with about 300 as residents. Our first visit was a hit and they hope to have us back every year. Director Timothy Cook warmly greeted us and took us immediately to the cafeteria for lunch. Approximately 75 riders were dispersed throughout the center-visiting vets wherever they found them and giving our thank you cards from the children of three states and ride pins. We also had patriotic posters that many really like to hang in their rooms or decorate their wheel chairs.
One good story I got was from Director Cook. A 91-year-old man came into the medical center looking a little lost. Tim asked if he could help him, and the man loudly said he needed the hearing department. As usually is the case, he asked where the man served. Turns out, the old gentleman and Tim’s dad served in the same regiment, One in I company, one in J. The old man loudly proclaimed, “We walked all over Europe together, and got our asses shot off!” I just love the old stories, but when I think of how many VA facilities we have because our vets need help, it overwhelms me. When I think of the many cemeteries holding our best and brightest because of the ravages of war, I feel a terrible sadness. If only we could leave war behind, what a wonderful world it would be. We said goodbye to the wonderful folks of Martinsburg and tackled the last harrowing 80 miles in heat and traffic to our motel in Alexandria, VA.
Tomorrow will be a very special for me and three of my friends. We have been chosen to lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier representing the NVAR. Joining me in this honor will be Sandy “Fancy” Kintzele, Dan “Lugnut” Kuepker, and Mike Barnes. What a superb way of ending the best ride to date. My heart is full. If time permits, I'll try to post a little more.
Thanks for following along as we crossed this great country. I hope to be back next year. Until then, Via con Dios.
Fondly, Julie "First Lady" Manner
Ride Epilogue: (Tuesday, May 31, 2016)
Well, we are home after traveling 6,700 miles. This ride will go down in our memories as one of the best. Very good weather, with just an occasional sprinkling, no one got hurt, no major bike disasters, and what a fantastic group of people! As my final sit/rep, I’ll add a few stories that trickled in and some end of ride happenings.
Notes from Friday’s ride via Peter “Too Tall”Folberth “On the ride ending at the hotel in DC, our group got separated from the lead pack of bikes. We were in difficult traffic and could not maintain contact with the lead. Traffic was so bad that the road guards also were stuck. Celia Gowing was the lead bike of our remaining bikes, trikes and trucks. This was the first time she had gone on a long ride let alone All The Way as a proud green dot rider. She did one stellar job leading the rest of us to the hotel. She deserves great credit for Soldiering through a very difficult hour. Jack Wagon did take the lead for the last 5 turns and it was quite the relief. Way to go Celia!”
An early morning visit to The Wall was the first order of business. We delivered all tokens of respect as promised. Of course, the laying of the wreath was a highlight on Saturday. Dan “Lugnut Kuepker, Mike Barnes, Sandy “Fancy” Kintzele and I had that honor. Thanks to Dick Lundscow, Tony Cunningham, and all the other wonderful people who sent us great photos.
Our lunch with the DC Ramblers was excellent. These are some of the most generous folks around. They have supported us for years and we really appreciate it. See you next year!
Larry “Crazy Larry” MacKay Celebrated his 70th birthday on this ride, and my scribbled notes said that Baby Face Wiseman also had a birthday, but I could be wrong.
The Protest Ride with many thousands of riders was the spectacular finish to the mission. There are many good stories about this ride on line. Check them out and you will be inspired.
Kris Koch relayed a haunting story…
Kris’ sister lives in the DC area and belongs to a golf team made up of many women who work at the Pentagon. On September 11, 2001, these women saw the faces of the people on the plane as it went down. These women are suffering their own brand of PTSD. Also, thousands of pairs of shoes were found on the Pentagon grounds from people running from the chaos. They literally ran out of their shoes in panic.
A shout out to Cori and Jason Masterson, recipients of the Wall Gang Essay contest prize. They said the really enjoyed the trip.
Last year our ride was dedicated to Jimmy Profitt, a man who, along with his wife, dedicated himself to the cause of caring for the homeless for 25 years. His widow Virginia is continuing this tradition. Virginia, her son and volunteers continue to feed, clothe and meet the needs of as many homeless as possible. It is estimated that at least 40% to 60% of the homeless men in Chicago are veterans. Virginia goes above and beyond to support our ride and our vets whenever she can. She and another good friend, Jenny Ori, came to DC this year to honor our vets. We were very happy to have them join us. One nice thing that happened to them…they were having breakfast in a rather upscale restaurant and struck up a conversation with another couple. As the conversation progressed, Virginia’s work with the homeless came up. Long story short, they ended up paying for Virginia and Jenny’s breakfast. The kindness of strangers…
Bad news is on the way…
I’m going to end this with a little foxhole humor. Anyone who knows Mike Barnes knows what a wonderful, kind person he is; But, not when addressing some problematic soldiers. Complaints were made to him about a soldier that kept falling asleep on watch. Bad news is on the way…Mike found the soldier asleep took a hand grenade, pulled the pin and placed it in the man’s hand and squeezed, waking the soldier. He told him he would be back when his shift up, but that he’d better stay alert. He did.
Another young recruit kept whining that he couldn’t keep up on a march. Three times Mike went back to the lagging man urging him to get with it. Finally the man refused to get up swearing that he couldn’t walk another inch. Bad news is on the way…Mike said ok, took out his 45 and rammed one in the chamber. The guy asked what he was going. Mike said, “Well, I can’t leave you here alive.” The guy got up and finished the march after all.
Thanks for following us. Please remember to thank a vet. Until next time…
Fondly, Julie (Return to Top)