Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Photo Selection

I have been looking at "Run for the Wall" photos almost all day to the point that I am dizzy. It is so hard to choose which photos will make the cut and which will not. I thought I'd share a few nice ones I came across today.

A park Ranger makes a rubbing at the Vietnam Wall

Paying Respects at The Wall

Every time I visit a National Cemetery I am reminded of the price of freedom. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

One little muffin

One little muffin can represent so much. The good folks of Meridian, MS served the riders breakfast at the Lauderdale County Agricultural Center. It didn't seem to be a very affluent community but these good people baked hundreds and hundreds of muffins for us. It was extremely touching.  Such a simple, humble gesture showed how much these good people appreciate the sacrifices made by our veterans.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lost in a sea of Harleys

No matter how hard I tried to triangulate our location, after every lunch break I would lose our black Harley amidst the hundreds of other black Harleys on the ride.  This picture shows perfectly how easy it was to become lost in the sea of Harleys. Before next year I need to devise a new system cause triangulation didn't work so well.

Photo Selection

Today I begin in earnest the photo selection for the book, Riding for the Wall. Trying to select approximately 300 photos from the nearly 10,000 taken is very difficult. While reviewing the photos the emotions are returning. What an incredible journey. I am so thankful to have shared it with the good folks from #runforthewall. I can't wait for next year. I look forward to the publishing of this book. My hope is to raise awareness for the veterans that have helped and do help to keep American free and the sacrifices that have been made.

So here's a sneak peak at one of my favorites. I thought it captured a lot of the emotion of being on some of American's most hallowed ground and a being there with the riders that travelled thousands of miles to pay their respect.

Stay tuned for more favorites if I can see through the new tears I am shedding.

Monday, June 9, 2014

SEE & HEAR for yourself - Day #6 - the ride into Jackson, MS

If you recall the earlier post, Day #6 where I stated "today was bigger and better than all the other days put together" now you can see it and hear it for yourself.  Watch the attached youtube link. Mark, a patriotic American citizen posted this video. If you watch closely, Don and I are in the second platoon. You can count out the platoons by the gaps in the groups. First you will see ALL the police escorts, and I mean all, there were a lot. Once you see the riders waving, count down platoons. It appears state troopers don't wave at the people on the bridges.

 See & Hear the ride into Jackson MS

Enjoy & stay tuned for future posts on the nuts and bolts of how the run operates.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Love it, respect it - the American Flag

Check out this rider - it made me sick!!! For days I tried not to take a picture of her, my disgust was so fervent. On what planet could you possibly think it is okay to wrap your backpack in an American Flag and bungee cord it to your motorcycle?  

Clearly a violation of Flag Code 176 (h)
"The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything. 

Second observation of the day

What do you think of this?  It is from a concert I attended Saturday night at Segerstrom Hall entitled "To be American" When the flag was displayed I thought it looked a little off. The union (field of blue) looks out of proportion. Am I wrong?

Suspect it violates Flag Code 176 (d) 

"The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding or drapery. It should never be festooned, drawn back nor up, in folds, but always allowed to fall free."

Does the flag looked drawn…? It is definitely rippled.

And what about bunting????

Section d continues…

"Bunting of blue white, and red, always arranged with the blue above, the white in the middle, and the red below, should be used for covering a speaker's desk, draping the front of the platform, and for decoration in general"

How picky should we be??? I'd love your thoughts and comments.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Love it by respecting it - The American Flag

I have been around a lot of patriotic events and people lately. I find it a little troubling the violations to the flag code I have seen. I know, there's a flag code? Yes, there is and it has some clearly defined rules for how the flag is displayed and when. I thought I would share with you a few of the common, probably unknown violations.

Notice the VET over the flag.  Not okay! Section 176 Respect for the flag

(g) The flag should never have placed upon it, nor on any part of it, nor should attached to it any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture or drawing of any nature.

I know this Purple Heart Veteran, if he knew, he would be mortified.

On the Run for the Wall we stopped in Walmart in Grand Prairie, Texas.  One of the sale displays had American flags stapled to the wall with sale signs stapled on top of them. When my husband saw my mortification he asked to speak to the store manager and had the display taken down. Hats off to the store manager, she was as mortified as I was and immediately had it taken down.

Here are a few highlights of the flag code.

Federal law stipulates many aspects of flag etiquette. The section of law dealing with American Flag etiquette is generally referred to as the Flag Code. Some general guidelines from the Flag Code answer many of the most common questions:

  • The flag should be lighted at all times, either by sunlight or by an appropriate light source.
  • The flag should be flown in fair weather, unless the flag is designed for inclement weather use.
  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard.
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind placed on it, or attached to it.
  • The flag should never be used for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.
  • When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.
  • The flag should be cleaned and mended when necessary.
  • When a flag is so worn it is no longer fit to serve as a symbol of our country, it should be destroyed by burning in a dignified manner.

We all MUST treat the flag with the respect it deserves. If we do not treat the flag with respect and honor the flag code eventually what the American flag stands for will lose it's meaning as well.

God Bless America.

More flag violations to come.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

What's in a platoon?

After multiple plane delays, I am finally on a flight headed to LA. The flight has given me a chance to go through photos from the first couple of days. How odd to look through the photos and remember at the time I took the photo wondering who these people were and what prompted them to run for the wall. And now, some 12 days later we are friends and I know them and they know me. 

A little bit about the logistics of the Run for the Wall. The first day in Rancho Cucamonga you check in with Shirley (Top Sarge) she issues you the orange tie for your bike which denotes you as a registered participant. She also pins you with your FNG button, if you are in fact an FNG. What is an FNG, you ask, Fine New Guy or Gal. Hahaha, we all know what it really stands for but this is a G rated event. Which I am grateful for. 

This is Jim, somewhere between California and Washington DC he earned the name Shamu. You can see Shamu's FNG pin. Each year the FNG pin changes color, so with one glance you can tell who the new guys are. I think it's kind of funny that Jim received his road name, Shamu from Spoon. The guys up in Hollister must have a thing for food and eating. 

Once you arrive in DC the FNG pin is turned upside down denoting that you are no longer an FNG and next year there will be a whole new crop of them.  I plan on having a lavendar patch made with FNG 2014 embroidered on it. It is sewn upside down on your vest. I earned it so I guess I'll wear it. It's fun to see the old ones. 

After you check in with top sarge you drive around where a road guard randomly places you in platoons. Once you park and check in with your platoon leader you are given a sticker for your bike. 

I know, I know there are lots of stickers on the bikes. The one I am referring to is the little red number 4. This is how the road guards know what platoon to direct you to when 400 bikes roll into the staging area. 

You might think all platoons are created equal, but it is not so. 

Platoon 1 is comprised of the most seasoned riders and the riders in leadership positions. The first platoon is probably the smallest platoon. The first platoon rides side by side verses staggered. 

Platoon 2 also rides side by side verses staggered. FNGs are not allowed to ride in Platoon 2 until three days into the run after they have proved themselves to be competent riders. 

Platoon 3 -7 is comprised of riders that prefer to ride staggered not side by side. 

Platoon 8 is the trikes

Platoon 9 is lovingly referred to as trailer trash as they are the bikes that are pulling trailers. Most of them camp instead of hoteling it and haul their camping gear in the trailer. 

There's some beautiful trailer trash. 

Looks like we are beginning our descent into LA. I'll bring your more news of the ride in the coming days. It is going to be difficult to return to real life after experiencing Run for The Wall. 

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Day #12 Rolling Thunder

Rolling Thunder cannot be described, it has to be experienced and felt. 

No picture I can take can do it justice. Hopefully when the pro's shots come in they will help you visualize the incredible number of bikes. What you see here is one parking lot but there is another parking full of bikes beyond the horizon. 

Once the first bikes start rolling it takes five hours for the bikes to clear the Pentagon parking lot and make the 6 mile loop around the mall. We arrived to stage at 6:00 am and did not leave to start the run until 12:45.  I thought I would be bored, take a nap, read a book...hah, I could not have been more wrong. There were so many interesting characters to meet, bikes to admire and the food. Plenty of grease to g around.

When we left the Pentagon parking lot and turned onto the Arlington Bridge I was shocked at the thousands of people lining the route. 

Remember this Memorial Day, The price of freedom isn't free.

Thanks Ron Stewart for the great photo.

Time to travel home and then I will blog the details of the Run for the Wall that I didn't have time to do while we were riding. 

Have a great Memorial Day. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Day 11 Arlington Cemetery & Vietnam Memorial

The mission was completed today. I am not sure how I feel. After 11 days of being focused on one thing, getting safely across the United States to arrive at the wall. It is a strange feeling not to have a schedule to keep or someone telling me when to eat, when to put gas in the bike, when to stop and drink. I can only imagine what it must be like after a six month deployment to come home and be on your own. I am struggling after an 11 day mission. I love our military personnel and the job they do.

After the group photo all 1,000 or so of us filed over to the wall. It was very emotional, many of the Vietnam Veterans cried, which is a good thing. Many, many items were left at the wall. 

I was surprised at some of the items left at the wall. Someone's motorcycle vest. I would love to know the story behind tis item being left on this day.

I was able to look up my friend's husband's name. I was very moved by her loss that happened years ago that I didn't know about for years. What great tragedies we suffer because of war. 

It was very moving to go to National with the Run for the Wall group. After spending the last eleven days together, learning the sacrifices and heartaches and physical wounds suffered by our road mates made it that much more emotional. 

As we met up to ride into Arlington the three routes of Run for the Wall staged together. This gave us the opportunity to meet individuals from other routes. I was staged next to two young Afghanistan Vets. I was so impressed by these two young men and felt an instant connection with them. We talked about their story but I did not get their names. I hope someday they read this and will contact me so I can send them some of the pictures I took. Great boys that have honorably served our country. I want to make sure the world treats them right. 

This young Veteran is riding a totally custom bike. The Jet Aviation company held a contest for a custom Harley. This young man's wife wrote to the company and told them about her husband, an Afghanistan Veteran whose unit suffered serious casualties and he suffered serious injury as well. He won the contest and had the bike detailed in honor of his KIA buddies. 

dog tags from the KIAs in his unit.

The picture of his unit is painted on the side of the bike. If you notice there are 13 pictured in the photo and 8 dog tags. Tragic percentages. 

The other veteran was super polite, friendly and disciplined. He waved at every person that waved at him. He saluted every veteran standing on the side of the road. He is post president of his American Legion Riders post in New Mexico. Usually that position is a gray haired guy that's been around a long time. Impressive responsibility for one so young.

Tomorrow we are going to Rolling Thunder. I am not excited! Staging begins at 6:00 AM but the rolling doesn't begin until noon. We sit in the Pentagon parking lot for six hours for a 15 minute ride around the mall. Okay, okay I am pessimistic and whining. I will try to remain open minded, perhaps it will be a great experience. 

I will write more about the ride and the logistics, bike and riders in the upcoming days and weeks. 

I want to investigate sponsorships for young Wounded Warriors. See what we can do to help our newest Combat Wounded. 

Please stay tuned for more and thanks for riding with us as we Run for the Wall. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day #9 Wytheville, VA to Lynchburg, VA

 The nation which forgets its defenders will be itself forgotten - Calvin Coolidge

This ride has proven to me that our defenders have not been forgotten. The American people love and  support its veterans and activity military. Yet, there are many veterans that don't know. As part of this year's Memorial Day celebration, share this blog. 

Today we rode through some of the prettiest country I have ever seen. Green rolling hills, beautiful vistas with lush green hill sides. If it were like this all year it would be a nice place to live. 

I have been super impressed with how well organized the Run for the Wall is. Each route has a coordinator who I guess over sees everything for their route. Then there are various committees I guess you could call them. 

There is the advance team, they wear blue hats. They ride ahead of the pack and man the gas pumps and the staging areas. There are nine platoons, the first day you pull in you are assigned to a platoon. You place a sticker on your left hand window and from then on when you pull into the staging area you are directed to your platoon's staging area. 

If the advance team doesn't have to rush to the next stop, they honor the veterans as they ride by. This run to the wall would not be possible if it weren't for these hard working volunteers. 

Then there's the road guards. These guys are just plain crazy!!!! They are the traffic controllers. They are up super early and stand on the corners near each hotel guiding the riders to the morning staging area. They control traffic, blocking intersections and highway on ramps while we are en route. They also help in the staging area getting the bikes where they need to be. 

I'll have to work on getting better pictures of the road guards tomorrow. They are super hard working dogs! 

Today was a fun day, we visited two schools, Spiller Elementary and Montvale Elementary. Both schools are doing an excellent job teaching their students love of country and patriotism.

I am going to jump to Today's heroes. If I don't get to bed earlier I am going to fall asleep and fall off the bike.

Today WE were joined by some young Veterans. They are my heroes for serving their country!!!!

These young vets said to me, "we've got to get more young guys coming". Get the word out folks, let the young veterans know about Run for the Wall.

And one more hero, meet Dennis

Dennis was awarded a Bronze Star for his service in Vietnam. Dennis' wife told me, he had to eject twice from an airplane and was offered a Purple Heart but he refused it. A True American Hero! Dennis is still unable to visit the wall. 

Tomorrow is the selection process for which of the FNG's get to ride into Arlington. RFTW is the only organization that is allowed to ride motorcycles into Arlington. They are only given passes for 400 motorcycles. The 400 are divided amongst the three routes. Apparently those that have ridden "All the way" meaning all the way from Rancho Cucamonga are amongst the first to be allowed in. We're hoping we get to go. 

Well, until tomorrow. God Bless America, Land that I love, stand beside her, and guide her.....
finish it for me, I am too tired. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day #8 Chattanooga, TN to Wytheville, VA

Another amazing day on the run.

The day began with our usual Southern Route Riders meeting. At the end of every minute there is asegment I'll call, "why we ride" where someone either reads a biography of an MIA or shares a personal story. Today was a personal story told by Gump. I mentioned Gump in an earlier blog. Today the story he shared was of his 22 days as a prisoner of way in Iraq. There were five captives, two died in captivity. Gump said, I have never been so happy to see a Marine as we they arrived to rescue us. Gump also said, "the reason we did not leave any behind in Iraq is because of the lessons learned in Vietnam."  When Gump returned home he was given 20 POW bracelets with his name on them from COMPLETE strangers. How loved and appreciated it made him feel.

  Gump sharing his story. 

On to Knoxville, TN for one of the best donuts I have ever had, okay, truth be told I ate three. Delicious, super fresh Dunkin' Donuts donated by TA Truck Stop. 

Somebody set up a hydraulic lift and was giving rides so I went up in the lift and snapped this picture. I am missing half the bikes which are off to the other side. Our numbers swelled to 500+ today. 

Off to the Blackfoot Harley Davidson for lunch along their river bank. 

Onto Waytheville, VA and let me tell you that town loves Run for the Wall. The mayor and his two sons were on the ride with us. The mayor's 22 year old cutie son has been on 14 runs to the wall. His road name is Hooky because he played hooky from school to go on the run. You gotta admit he's a cutie. 

The people of Waytheville go absolutely all out for the riders. I believe everybody in that small town was on the street to welcome us. Had a wonderful reception in the park. I posted a video on the Facebook Page - Riding for the wall, you can check it out there. We were treated to a steak and baked potato dinner at the Moose Lodge. What a great all American town. 

Today's tip of the day: Flag waving locals-you can't buy it, you can't raise it, you can't teach it. Mayor of Waytheville. Interesting statement, still pondering it. 

And our Hero of the day, meet Bill 

Bill was what he calls a closet Vietnam Vet meaning he hadn't come to terms with the his role in the war and therefore just wasn't dealing with it. It took him years to finally "come out" and accept the war. Almost all of Bill's platoon was wiped out. It has taken Bill years to find peace and the Ride for the Wall helps him and of course his faith. 

Bill, if you ever read this, thank you for sharing your story with us today. I enjoyed breaking bread with you today. 

And finally for today, I received a few photos from the photographer that is shooting fabulous, beautiful majestic photos of the run. My plan is to compile his majestic photos and some of my average photos to capture the spirit and mission of the Run for the Wall. My hope and prayer is that the closet vets, that BIll refers to, not just Vietnam Vets but the young ones, just home from Afghanistan and Iraq that are suffering with PTSD will somehow get a copy of the book and it will help them "drive the demons" out and they can find peace.

Enjoy the teaser shots and thank you Ron Stewart, you are absolutely magnificent. 

Until tomorrow. I am giving the "why we ride" message tomorrow, Yikes!