By Pam Young
The annual Run for the Wall Motorcycle Event pulls over at the Van Horn Convention Center tomorrow, May 20 for their lunch break. This is a group comprised of mostly Vietnam Veterans who “ride for those who can’t.” Their destination is Washington, D.C. arriving for a Memorial Day Celebration called “Rolling Thunder”. Three groups, northern, central, and southern, converge making thousands of motorcyclists honoring the soldiers who served. Not all are Vietnam Vets. Some are from more recent conflicts.
It is an amazing sight to see when over 300 riders roll down Broadway in Van Horn. Van Horn has hosted the lunch detour for 9 years now beginning with the late Mayor Okey Lucas accommodating the group. We encourage the community to line the streets and cheer these riders on in gratitude for the message Run for the Wall sends to our service men and women and their families. The symbolic laying of the wreath ceremony will be at the Clark Hotel Museum Veterans Memorial in the center of town between 2:30 and 3:00 or possibly a little later depending on their schedule. The wreath will then finish the journey to Washington DC to be laid at the Vietnam Wall Memorial.
Run For The Wall, (RFTW), was started in 1989 by James Gregory and Bill Evans. They are a couple of Vietnam Veterans who traveled across the heartland of America on motorcycles. They talked to local radio, TV, and newspapers about the thousands of men and women who are still unaccounted for from all wars. The need for this awareness continues today and we carry on this tradition every May.
We don’t give political speeches or stage demonstrations. Run For The Wall gets its message across to the public by riding through the United States. We obey traffic laws and treat all citizens with dignity and respect.
The issue of public awareness is only part of the reason for Run For The Wall. We also give Vietnam Veterans and all Veterans the opportunity to get their own “Welcome Home” and start their healing process.
Everyone who has fought or has friends or loved ones who have fought in a war, has their own issues from their experience. Everyone has issues — the welcome home, the good-bye to buddies lost, the ability to finally help the young men and women we watch every night on TV, or just trying to accept coming home alive. Many who participate in Run For The Wall find that whatever they’ve been missing can be found in the Run For The Wall family. They can finally start settling issues that have been “stuffed” away for many years.
There is a nominal charge for participating in Run For The Wall, plus you pay your own expenses, like lodging. We have been very fortunate in the past because we receive support from organizations and people along the way. Most evening dinners are provided free or for a small donation by concerned citizens; many breakfasts and lunches are also provided. There are many generous groups who have paid for gas and lodging on occasion.
The trip is a 10-day ride from Ontario, CA to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, where The Run officially ends. We meet on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just before noon on Saturday before Memorial Day. From there, we walk as a group to The Wall and declare our Mission complete by placing a plaque at the apex. There are other non-RFTW events scheduled throughout the weekend, including the opportunity to participate in the Rolling Thunder Parade in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. This is a sight to behold, 350,000 plus motorcycles all starting from the Pentagon parking lots, parading through downtown Washington, and ending at The Wall.
During the journey across the U.S. we make stops at memorials, Veterans’ Hospitals, and schools. We enjoy parades, escorts, and “Welcome Home” receptions provided by the patriots in our host cities.
Participants range in age from 8 to 80. These include mothers, fathers, grandfathers, and grandmothers (some of whom ride their own bikes!); veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan; active duty military; supporters; friends and family. Everyone is welcome. The main rule is NO ATTITUDES.
Some people join Run For The Wall and think it is just a vacation or another motorcycle event. After a day or two, one realizes this is something very special. It is unlike anything you have experienced, and it becomes a MISSION! You become part of the Run For The Wall family whose members come from all over the United States, Australia, Canada, Netherlands, and other countries. What could be more perfect than riding on a mission, making new friends, and helping a very good cause, POW/MIA?
You don’t have to ride a motorcycle to participate. By joining or supporting Run For The Wall, you can share in our Mission: promoting healing among ALL veterans and their families and friends; calling for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA): and honoring the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from ALL wars. The important thing is to join the cause. So come out and experience some American Pride. You’ll be glad you did.