Monday, May 25, 2015


You may have noticed the FNG buttons on everyone vests. The FNG stands for "Fine new Guy or Gal" (shhhh, we all know the military version). The FNG buttons let everyone know that you are new to the RFTW family. Everyone is just a little more helpful, a little more informative when it is your first rodeo.

You may also have noticed that some people have an FNG button that is upside down. The custom is that once you have completed your first year and you make it to the Vietnam Memorial, a seasoned rider turns your FNG button upside down. Often times riders will ask a platoon leader or someone that they especially connected with to turn their button. Don and I were given the honor of turning some of our platoon members buttons this year.

Day 8 @ Tyner/Silverdale Confederate Cemetery

One of my favorite stops on the Run for the Wall- Southern Route is the Tyner/Silverdale Cemetery, located just behind the Thunder Creek Harley Davidson Dealership. This little cemetery has been neglected for years. The RFTW family donates money to help maintain and restore the cemetery.

A brief history of the cemetery: There are approximately 75 - 100 Confederate Soldiers buried at the Silverdale Cemetery. They are from General Bragg's army and they died in a nearby hospital. The names of some of the soldiers are a mystery. The cemetery continues to identify those buried in the cemetery but headstones can only be requested by family members.

General Braxton Bragg succeeded General P.G.T. Beauregard as commander of the Army of Mississippi shortly after the battle of Shiloh and on July 21, 1862 ordered 27,816 men to Chattanooga, TN in preparation for his famed Kentucky campaign. These med had been in camps in northern Mississippi where poor water, shallow wells, mosquitoes and dysentery had made many of these soldiers sick. Some were still recovering from wounds received at Shiloh. The number of troops sent to Chattanooga made it necessary for most of them to be located outside of town. Brigadier General J.M. Withers' division was placed at Tyner's Station on the railroad 10 miles from town. The men buried at Silverdale are from General Withers' division hospital. His division consisted of men from Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. The hospital was housed in 100 tents.

This poor little cemetery is getting by on a wing and a prayer. RFTW has been instrumental in helping with what little maintenance it does get. While visiting we met Mike who is passionate about helping maintain the cemetery. He loads his lawn mower onto his truck and after work stops to mow the cemetery. His wife is not super happy about the time he spends away from the family or the money he spends on gas for the mower. I am not sure of the dollar amount RFTW donated this year but I am sure it will help with many projects to maintain and restore the cemetery.

I have purchased two of the cemetery patches. I hope there are more patches to purchase next year. Having a background in the funeral business and having a Confederate soldier from Georgia in my family makes this a very special place for me.

The history of the Cemetery comes from A Condensed History of the Cemetery as told by Jerry Wormsley for the Chattanooga Are Relic and Historical Association.

Saturday, May 23, 2015


Day 10 dawned bright and beautiful. Tree of Life Ministries was our host for breakfast and the morning meeting. Many of the agencies and groups that supported us through Virginia were thanked. Jim Zellers, the Virginia State Coordinator did a great job arranging all the stops, food and gas, thanks Jim!

WE MADE IT ALL THE WAY! We pulled into Arlington with much fan fare. The midway route lined the curbs clapping and cheering us into the staging area. Such a bittersweet moment to have completed the mission. 10 days of being driven with one purpose, one goal and one target, Charlie Mike, Complete the Mission.

Pulling into Arlington, VA and the completion of the mission.

Tomorrow we will ride into Arlington National Cemetery and visit The Wall to pay our final respects.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Day 9 - Missing Man Formation

During each leg of the Run for the Wall there is a missing man formation. The missing man formation is two motorcycles in tandem (#1 is the route coordinator, left  and #2 the state coordinator  right) then the rider selected to ride as the missing man and two more motorcycles in tandem (#5 missing man chaplain and #6 missing man coordinator).  FNG's are encouraged to apply to ride a missing man formation. Flame the missing man coordinator then assigns the riders to a leg. I missed it last year as an FNG but sent in a request this year.

About a month ago I received an email from Flame telling me I would ride the missing man formation on the 9th day, second leg. she said it's only a short leg but it's a very special one. I didn't think anything about it with all the preparations for the run, until yesterday. Then I looked at the schedule and saw that it was indeed a short run (15 miles) but it was very special. Flame gave me the special experience of riding in the lead pack to Montvale Elementary School.

We left the Exxon Gas Stop with numerous Virginia State Police riding out front with their blue lights a blaze. It was beautiful! Something you can't see from the middle of the pack which is where I am as a tail gunner for the 4th Platoon. Then the road guards ride out with their lights a blinking and then the lead pack. Because the lead pack sets the pace there is no need to keep your eyes fixed on the bike in front of you. It was so refreshing not to worry about staying close to the bike in front of you and worrying they would slam on their breaks.

As we came around the corner and up to the top of the hill, there was Montvale Elementary School with all the children out front dressed in red white and blue and waving American Flags. The tears welled at the beautiful display of patriotism before my eyes.  I get very emotional over children and flags for all kinds of reasons. Flame gave me a wonderful gift that she had no way of knowing ahead of time(maybe she did). I took some great video of the kids singing, I'll post them later updates.

The next generation of patriots are being raised in Montvale, Virginia.

From the Elementary School we left amidst much flag waving and cheering. We rode 13 miles to the National D-Day Memorial. As the majestic smokey mountains came into view, my breathe caught at the beauty of the lush, green valley. Definitely a view I would not have seen in the middle of the pack. The rode wound around for a few beautiful miles and once again we came up upon a small rise and laid out before us was the National D-Day Memorial Park. It was gorgeous. I wish I could find the words to describe it for you.  This was one of the most amazing experiences in my life. Once again tears welled up in my eyes. We had to wind around quite a bit before we parked. What a treat to be in front of the pack to have such a panoramic view.

Once we parked I turned around to Flame and she was grinning at me. I got off my bike and went to give her a big hug. I gave her an inquisitive look, I did not understand how she could have known how meaningful both of those legs were to me. She just smiled and said, "when I saw on Facebook all of you posts about Remembrance Poppies, I knew this was the leg for you". Wow, was it ever!!! Thank you Flame, I will never forget today!!!  Maybe someday, I will share the what and why both of these legs were so meaningful to me. How Flame put it altogether is a mystery to me.

The National D-Day Memorial is one of the nicest memorials I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot. I suggest if you ever go to visit, find a docent to show you around, they have so much information and insight to share. Definitely adds to the experience.

So day 9 has come to an end and there is just one more day left.  What a bittersweet time. I am glad I won't be riding 80 MPH in the pouring rain another day. Sad it is over and the friends/family I have met will be scattered around the country until next year when we all come together again. I have learned so much, felt so much and experienced so much.  I have so many people to thank but tomorrow is a super early day. The alarm is going to go off at 4:30 AM so it's lights out, until tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Day 8 - Donut Day

Another great day on the mission. We travelled from Chattanooga, TN to Wytheville, VA a total of 285 miles done in just four legs. It was a little dicey getting out of Chattanooga. The Platoons stayed tight but with a lot of rubber banding which is not fun for a tail gunner.

The day began with a wreath laying ceremony at the Silverdale Cemetery. I purchased a cemetery patch for the second year in a row. It was half the price of last year's patch :)

Here is a link to the cemetery's Facebook page if you would like to learn more.

Once we rolled out of Thunder Creek Harley Davidson we rode 79 miles to the Knoxville Truck Stop. This is one of my favorite stops on the entire route. The community comes out to show their patriotism and support of Run for the Wall. I must admit though, it's the donuts. Dunkin Donuts hands out hundreds of FREE donuts to all the riders. I love them, I ate two.  No calories on vacation, right?

 Last story for tonight, this was shared with me by Gonzo, the one on the right with his friend Weasel. They were telling me about the coin Weasel is wearing around his neck. It is a coin that their buddy was wearing when he was killed in Afghanistan. The coin was returned to his mother who asked Gonzo to take it on Run for the Wall with him. Gonzo carried it half the way and then handed it off to Weasel who will carry it the remainder of the way to the Vietnam Memorial.
A great tribute to the fallen because,  at Run For the Wall
"We ride for Those who Can't"

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Day 7 - Spyder in Chattanooga

I would like to introduce Spyder, my new Run for the Wall friend. Since day one, he has been kind, consider and shown me and the entire 4th Platoon kindness and encouragement. The staging team wanted to give him another Platoon's placard and he said, "No" this is my platoon. He is very patient with me when I am not sure where to park.

Let me explain, my bike has a tail gunner sticker on the front windshield but I have been riding as Assistant Platoon Leader and then today as Platoon Leader. Each job requires a slightly different parking place in the staging area. It's all about the order the bikes pull out. He has been very kind in getting me to the right place. Some of the staging crew or road guards just yell at you without hearing where you need to go. The more experienced leaders tell me to just go where I need to go and leave them yelling in the parking lot. It's not really my nature. Spyder has always been very patient with my every changing assignments.

Spyder is great guy, sadly today he got a flat tire on his bike. Hopefully the Chattanooga Harley Davidson will get it fixed tonight. Oh, did I mention the Harley shop stays open all night fixing the bikes in need of repair. GoldWing people don't you dare say a word!!!!

We stopped for lunch at the Tuscaloosa, AL Veteran's Hospital. Oh my, I anticipated seeing the old guys that live in the extended care facility. I did not expect to meet the young guys. I forgot my camera so I ran out to my bike to grab it and there walking in the parking lot was the head nurse for the hospital walking with a young men by the bikes. I took a closer look and realized he was a patient at the hospital. He was wearing a Marine Red shirt and plaid pajama bottoms. I stopped to talk to them. She told me his name, Fred and that he used to work on Harley's. I asked him if he rides bikes and what kind. All he could answer was Harley. I thought he might tell me the model but all he could manage to say was Harley. The nurse told me he was not yet 30 and that he suffered a dramatic brain injury in Afghanistan. Broke my heart to see a strong young man injured in such a way. I asked him which branch of service he was in and he told me he was a Marine. I ran to my bike to get him a Marine Corps sticker which I put on his shirt. I also gave him a Run for the Wall Pin and gave him a big hug. I hope I made a difference in that young man's day.

We proceed inside where we wondered around the hospital meeting veterans, talking with them and giving out pins and stickers. We met another young vet, Bob Tomlin, he also suffered a traumatic brain injury only in Iraq. Bob told us an IED the size of a school bus blew up in the vicinity of where he was.  He wanted to show us pictures that he posted to Facebook but there wasn't any cell service where we were standing in the hospital. I took down his name to friend him when I got service. I have searched his name on Facebook but he is not coming up. I am sad, I thought I had a new Facebook friend. He was a very nice young man. I hope he recovers enough to someday live on his own.

I was so nervous this morning when Old School told me I would be running as Platoon Leader. What the heck???? I barely figured out the tail gunner position.  Old School was very good in explaining the duties of the Platoon Leader as he leads the pack down the road. 1. Throttle up and down slowly to keep the platoon from rubber banding. 2. Maintain 1/8 of a mile between you and the 3rd platoon in front of you. 3. Before changing lanes make sure it is safe. 4. Pass back the appropriate hand signals.

Piece of cake! I enjoyed the job. I think because I had the fun part of the job without the responsibility. I was able to drive out in front of the Platoon for two legs today. approximately 200 miles. Our Assistant Platoon Leader was back for the last leg into Chattanooga. I was once again int he back of the pack.

I best get to bed, early day tomorrow. Excuse any typos or grammatical errors, I am too tired to read it over and tomorrow is a big day.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Day 5 & 6 - A game changer

Sorry to skip a day of posting. Yesterday was a very, very emotional day. Let me give you a little recap.

I rode tail gunner the first two legs yesterday. I have decided I like the tail gunner position. Once I figured out the purpose and function of the tail gunner, I kind of like it. I am pretty good at maintaining a steady speed and not getting caught up in the speed up, slow down, hit the brakes pattern so many riders get into. Maintaining a steady speed helps the platoon behind you set a steady speed. It's a nice job, you get to interact with the riders, learn about them and learn their story. Why they are on the ride, if and when they served in Nam. What they hope to get out of RFTW, all good stuff.

The last two legs of the day Slacker had an errand to run so Old School asked me to ride as AAPL, Acting, Assistant Platoon Leader. I thought he was feeling sorry for me because he knew I had, had a rough day. I didn't know Slacker was gone. So anyway, rode two legs as AAPL. It's pretty easy to ride at the front of the pack, you only have one bike to watch and match speed with. It gave me time to think and ponder some things and events of the day.

Jump to the evening program at the Shriner's Hall in Monroe, LA. I was still pretty much a mess, I had been mentally working through my emotions during the evening program. There was a slide show of war pictures, funeral pictures and military pictures, some pretty graphic stuff. Then the POW MIA ceremony was performed by the Monroe High School ROTC. By this time I had worked out that I needed to get over my bad day because I wasn't on the Run for me, I was on the run to help the Vietnam Vets that needed my help to get to the Wall and to listen to them when they wanted to share an experience or their feelings. The saying, if you're feeling sad, go lose yourself in service and you'll forgot your own woes. By the time the program was over, I knew that's what I needed to do.

Everyone stood up to leave the hall, I turned around to file out and there sitting across a table from me was a Vietnam Vet with his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands crying. I pushed the tables aside and pulled him into my arms. He cried and cried on my shoulder as we stood there hugging. He said, "this is the first time in 45 years I have cried". He talked about the 50 caliber guns he used to fire or something about big guns, I admit I don't know anything about that stuff. I don't need to know, what I do know is that he was in pain and I was there to hug him, to love him and to help him heal.

Yesterday was a life changer for me. I have a much deeper understanding of PTSD and of the pain our veterans face upon their return from war. I love our military and veterans so for me to have a DEEPER understanding and appreciation is a pretty big deal. i understand so much more than I did when I came on the 2015 Run.

Sorry, this was just a bunch of words but I thought readers should know that amidst all the fun pictures and patriotic ceremonies the mission is what is important. To help heal ALL veterans, that is why we ride.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Day 4 - Mini Marines

Wow, another great day. We have been riding a day and a half and are still in Texas! What the heck?

Our first stop today was at the Permian Basin Vietnam Memorial. It is a beautiful place with very powerful visual displays that emotionally deliver a very hard punch to the Vietnam Veterans. Many shed a tear or two as memories came flooding back. I have provided a link to their website if you would like to pay a virtual visit.

At the basin the colors were presented by, I believe they are called Junior Marines, I call them Mini-Marines. Are they not the cutest things? I know, I know, Marines are not "cute" but these are!

I spoke with the youngest one's mother (Pictured here). His name is Rieker and he loves participating in the Junior Marines. He took his job as a member of the color guard very seriously, as you can see.

Also at the basin there is a Native American  that blesses the riders and all the bikes. 

I believe all of the gas today was donated, I can't remember giving the fuel team any money. All of the food is donated for all ten days. I will try to get a list of all the organizations that donate food and money for gas to post here to publicly thank them. 

I think I am getting the job of tail gunner down but every run it seems something comes up that I am not sure of. Old School (Platoon Leader) has got to be sick of my questions. He patiently answers them though. 

As we came into Colorado City today there was quite a bit of traffic. All the LA Riding paid off! Traffic is no big deal to this Southern California girl! 

Mileage today, 351 miles and yes we are STILL in Texas! Till tomorrow, God Speed and good night! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Day 3 - and a Wild Ride

Today was really something, I experienced a lot of firsts! We'll get to that later....

The day began with breakfast at American Legion Post 10. It was delicious; sausage patty, scrambled eggs and biscuits and gravy, a good ol' southern breakfast. I snapped this picture of the two Legion Riders that were serving us. During the rider's briefing Stoney announced a Gold Star Mother was with us and it was Paula, the blonde pictured below. Oh my goodness, she was serving me eggs! I should have been serving her!!! After the meeting, I went up and hugged her and we cried a little together. I asked her about her son. She told me he was on patrol when an IED that was attached to a propane tank exploded. A piece of the tank hit him under the chin and up and out, killing him instantly. She was thankful his remains were intact and she was able to have him come home.

We had a little more of a cry together when she thanked me for asking her about him and giving her the opportunity to talk about him.  I guess it takes a mother that has lost a child to understand the joy in getting to talk a little bit about your child even if they're no longer with us. The pain is still there whether you talk about it or not. I attached a little bio I pulled from the internet about him Please remember his family in your prayers tonight.

Army Spc. Jose Zamora, 24, of Sunland Park, killed Aug. 6, 2006, when a roadside bomb exploded in Baghdad during combat operations. Zamora, a 2000 graduate of Santa Teresa High School, was assigned to the 2nd Brigade Troop Battalion, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) from Fort Campbell, Ky.
Gold Star Mother Serving the potatoes (the blonde woman)

Bikes as far as the eye can see. We are lined up visiting the Veteran's memorial Park. When we pulled out of here Platoon 4 was chosen to go for a test ride to try out a possible new route. I had the Second in Command riding behind me for 75 miles. Talk about intimidating!!! 

After lunch I was asked to go participate in a wreath laying. When they asked they didn't tell me I was going to have to ride 90 MPH to catch back up to the group. Yikes, that was a hair raising 55 minutes. I got up to 98 MPH trying to keep up with them. Made it safely back to the group 17 miles from the next gas stop. :)

And finally, because I am exhausted and have to get to bed, I share this picture of "Smoke" one of the Road Guards. The Road Guards work super hard, blocking traffic, keep the platoons nice and tight and moving us down the road. Smoke here has been especially kind to me, encouraging me and helping me out whenever I need anything. I am so grateful for the Road Guards!!! 

I am sure tomorrow will bring many more special moments and learning experiences. Once again, thank you Ron Stewart Photography for the great picture. 

Oh today's count, 340 riders, 398 Miles! No wonder I am so tired. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day 2 - Riding Sideways

I have never ridden a motorcycle sideways, didn't even know it was possible. Crossing the Arizona desert into New Mexico there was a strong wind warning. Hahaha, we found the wind and rode right through it. All the bikes were riding sideways trying to counter act the wind gusts that were trying to blow us over. Woohoo, what a ride!!!!

We have enjoyed catching up with friends we met last year, like Sergeant Major, out of Texas. He served 34 years as a Marine, three time purple heart recipient.  Picture below. I guess he is happy to see me too :)

Photo by Ron Stewart Photography, thanks Ron!

The police escorts are so helpful and make the trip across a state go so much smoother. New Mexico had six police escorts guiding us into Las Cruces. These six guys worked hard riding from one freeway on ramp to another, shutting it down until all the bikes passed and then riding ahead to block the next on ramp. They did this for roughly 100 miles. I think they have fun doing it as much as we enjoy watching them.

Funny thing, I am the tail gunner for fourth platoon. Every time a police bike would pass into my view, I would hear someone on the radio say 4. I finally figured out someone was stating that the police escorts were approaching the 4th platoon, roughly the middle of the pack. While riding I couldn't imagine that the police were transmitting on Channel 2, the channel we were using.  When we stopped for dinner I asked if it was them saying 4 every time they passed me. Sure enough, it was. I guess they didn't want to clutter up the airwaves saying 4 over and over on the police bands.  Pretty cute boys I think.

We traveled 398 miles today, serious wind, a little rain, a little wind storm and a nice cloud cover that kept things cool. I am so busy herding the platoon down the road I don't have too much time for visiting. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a little more time for stories. Tomorrow, 345 miles, Las Cruces, NM to Odessa, TX

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

First Day as a Tail Gunner

Southern Route had a great day today, 333 miles across the California and Arizona Desert. The platoons learned a few things along the way,  rubber banding, alligators, riding the zipper to name just a few.

I learned Tail Gunner is a harder job than I thought and for different reasons than I thought. I was assigned to the 4th Platoon with Old School as the Platoon Leader, Slacker as the Assistant Platoon Leader, Tex and Eyes (that's me) as the Tail Gunners.  Great group of guys to work with!!!! It didn't take Tex and I long to get in the groove of things at the back of the platoon. I'd ride with him any day!!! I also discovered I am the only girl in Platoon Leadership on the southern route. What's up with that?

Slacker is the tall one in the picture (the orange sleeve says, assistant platoon leader) Old School is the one with his back to us and the guy with the beard is Smoke, he is the road guard assigned to our platoon. He is the best!!!! The road guards help block traffic, keep the pack moving and guide us into the stops. Smoke is my buddy!!!!

This is a picture of  Stoney and Old School (holding the orange hat) Old School is telling the group about the last gas stop that was donated by Father Steve. Father Steve was a Run for For the Wall rider for many years. He came on the run incognito (wasn't wearing his collar) rode halfway and then came out of the bathroom with his collar in place. After that first year he rode as a Chaplain. Father Steve was diagnosed with cancer and passed away last year. One of his dying wishes was that Old School sell his motorcycle and with the proceeds pay for one gas stop this year on the Southern Route. Mind you, there are 285 bikes right now on  the Southern Route and it is approximately $10 a bike to gas up. Pretty nice gift to the riders from Father Steve. Thank you Father Steve!

And finally I will leave you with a little slice of our dinner entertainment. They sang for us last year too. So fun!!!!

Looking forward to tomorrow's adventures.

Monday, May 11, 2015

RFTW -2 days, check-in & Meetings

Hahaha, check out that outfit. This is what I will be wearing for the next 13 days.

We arrived at the host hotel in Ontario, checked in and attended the Platoon 4 leadership meeting. Super informative, and well run. I think Platoon 4 has the best Platoon Leader of any Platoon and am thankful I was assigned as tailgunner to "Old School" he was organized, gave clear instructions and expectations.

He shared with us his story, actually many stories. I will share them at some point but not tonight.

As a tail gunner I have a few jobs. Check the gear on every bike in our platoon, make sure nothing is going to fly off while on the road and to stay alert to road conditions, traffic and that the platoon is moving down the road without any issues. The tail gunners are also to  give the Platoon Leader a count of how many bikes are in the platoon every morning. Relay any messages from the front of the pack to the back. That's incase the CB radios can't transmit the distance, we might be spread out for a couple of miles.

Tonight I have to memorize ALL the hand signals, there WILL be a test in the morning. I also had to hook the orange sleeves onto my vest. I am not to leave my hotel room without the lovely orange hat and orange sleeves. (putting those on my vest was a bit of a challenge).

Well, off to bed, we have another meeting at 8:00 AM and at 9:00 AM.  Then we have to add the Platoon stickers, tail gunner stickers and registration tie to our bikes.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Gratitude Project-A tribute to America, American Vietnam Veterans and Vietnamese Veterans

I happened upon this 6th grade school project while visiting a flag shop in Newport Beach, California. Linda Lang shared with me her feelings after attending this amazing 6th grade class assembly entitled "The Gratitude Project". As I watched the video of the project, my eyes filled with tears and my heart swelled. I can't think of a better tribute to America, American Veterans and Vietnamese Veterans.

"The Gratitude Project is an oral history project in which students conducted a parallel study of gratitude evolving from the Vietnam War as experienced by Vietnamese and United States Veterans. They questioned and identified evidence that concludes gratitude is present even in the aftermath of war. "

A special shout out to Valerie Del Carlo, 6th Grade Teacher at John A. Murdy Elementary School, Garden Grove, California. I know it took a lot of planning to pull this off. It is beautiful, thank you! Clink on the link below to watch the video.

The Gratitude Project