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Travel Log

Run For The Wall

May 26, 2010

Knoxville, TN

Run For The Wall are Veterans of our Armed Forces, predominantly Vietnam Vets, who ride their motorcycles to the Viet Nam Wall In Washington, DC every Memorial Day Week. Their motto is We Ride For Those Who Can't – in memory of the POWs and those still MIA from all the wars.

They start in Los Angeles and pick up riders along the southern and central routes as they come across the country which culminates with a ceremony at Arlington, followed by a convergence of Veterans at The Vietnam War Memorial Wall. (over 300,000 bikes including those of The Rolling Thunder ended up in DC this year!)

The following are images I took of our Veterans at the TA Truck Stop in Knoxville and 2 days of updates from Sgt Maj Doug Lyvere , US Marine Retired. Doug is the brother of Ginger who organized our DiVAs! (Dames in Volunteer Activities!) group to make over 200 sandwiches for our Veterans.

Day 6 of Run For The Wall by

Sgt Maj, Doug Lyvere, US Marine Retired:

RG= Road Guard. The ride leaders.

FNG = Fine New Guy; a new rider. In Viet Nam, FNG= F’ing New Guy (because they screw up everything)!

FD = Fire Dept

LEO = Law Enforcement Officer

What a day - I'll skip the morning stuff, mostly, as its always the same. Today they read off a half dozen names from 1968, same day. In 1968, in Vietnam, we (combined services) lost over 14,000 of our young and finest.

Reminds everyone of one of the reasons we ride.

Today we also had our first accident - RG pretty banged up, and probably will not finish this years run, and one rider slightly injured (back up and riding). Details when I see the final report.

Almost everyday we see certain things over and over, and today we probably saw everything at one time, plus a whole lot more. When we left Monroe, Louisiana, we were shepherded first by the Louisiana State Police (and LEO's) and then by the Mississippi State Police (and LEO's). Sit back and think about this. Our guesstimated scoot count, was 650 to 900. The Police blocked all the lanes to give us full access. Then they shut down EVERY on ramp AND kept a rolling road block behind us so we would not have cars, trucks, whatever causing any delays. This was for approx 200 miles!! In front of our pack were 50 to 75 motor officers, in formation, with blue and whites flashing. Our RG's still had duties to perform and we rode with our flashers going. I had to go from the back of the pack to the front, at one point, and with a Police Officer riding with me, at slightly higher speed (>:-} ), it took 17 miles. By my math, that's about an 8.5 mile long footprint. As we passed the on ramps, many of the officers either outright held a salute, or stood with their hand over their heart (as did the FD's that came out). Many civilians and vets did the same thing. Again, in stretches of freeway where there was no sign of habitation, we would see families that had been sitting there waiting for us just so they could wave as we went flying by. Little kids, teenagers, adults, grandparents, veterans, men, women - some with flags, some with signs, some with nothing but a camera. All showing their love and respect for veterans and service members. Again on many of the over passes - jammed with people holding flags and cheering. One over pass looked like a complete company of Marines. Part of the way we had a Huey slick (Medevac) chopper flying with us, a Huey Cobra flying with us, and a couple of fixed wing aircraft. More people than before by a long shot. 200 miles. Mid day we went off the freeway to the Jackson (MS) Harley Davidson dealership for lunch. The owner makes his sales floor into a restaurant (for 1000 Riders and passengers).

Chicken quarters with potato salad and rice with alligator sauce. For 1000 riders and their passengers. Prior to lunch we got gassed up at the Shell Station next door for FREE. All paid for by the owner (owns both places).

Assuming 800 bikes - that's an easy $7500.00 - plus food plus him closing his sale operation while we are there. Behind his place he has set up some military hardware that the riders can shoot up a stack of wood. He pays for the ammo. A Memorial walk that he paid for. And when we first arrived, several hundred people waiting for us. And the US Army's Black Daggers parachute team skydiving (for us). A segment of the US Army horse patrol showing their riding skills. A civil war reenactment. Flights in the choppers. Etc. Guest speakers - Mayor, Bataan Death March survivors, WWII, Korea, and 'Nam survivors. Former POW's, Medal of Honor recipients. Senior Officers and Senior enlisted from the local units.

Then we got back on the road and went to Meridian (with a continuation of the freeway escort) and the "Agricultural" building for more free food and drinks. Huge portions. And equally as well managed and paid for. On the way into the site many people again, holding signs, flags, cheering over and over again. Whenever we stop, dozens and dozens of people come to thank us, to shake our hands - over and over again. They give us cards, flags, hugs, water (ice cold).

Every veteran responds to this attention - and all in a positive way. Its heartwarming and for many of the Vietnam Vets, is a beginning of the healing - its a lifetime of healing, not a quick fix. Knowing that people care this much is fantastic. The voices in The Wall go softer and more gentle everyday of the Run For The Wall.

The Mission Rules.


PLEASE CHECK the Veteran and Family Support Events Calender at:

Click on the images for a larger view.

Local Veterans setting up the Flags.
Here they come!

It took 8 1/2 minutes for all the riders to pull in from I40!

Showing Respect for Fellow Veterans.
In line to gas up.
Just a few bilkes.
Sharing time between rides.

DiVAs! & Veterans

Sgt Maj Doug Lyvere, his sister, Ginger Peck & her husband, Robert Peck.

Day 8 of Run For The Wall by

Sgt Maj, Doug Lyvere,

US Marine Retired:

Getting closer to DC. Although I have not commented on it lately, the landscape has changed considerably. From flat desert, to a more lush and slightly "lumpy" landscape to lots of green covered hills. Homes out here have one very specific difference - they have big yards!!

The morning routine didn't vary - BTW, in the morning meetings we also try to give back lost & found items - from fairly mundane stuff to IPODS. All is found along our route. Its amazing how much stuff is not claimed. After the morning meeting we did a wreath laying at the Confederate Cemetery behind the dealership. 25 Confederate soldiers are buried there but only 3 have been ID'd. Then we are off and flying!!

4 legs today - 1st is 79 miles is to Knoxville. Traffic is far worse then its been. But we still have people on overpasses and along the sides of the freeway!! For the RG's to even move attests to their motivation. Getting from the rear to the front is extremely difficult. We don't ride on the shoulders so we need to get creative. When we "push" while leaving, the semis see us standing along the side and change lanes most of time without us even asking. Most of them give us a thumbs up as to most of the cages - pretty impressive to us. Especially when you consider they are waiting on us to move out of their way - sometimes that takes as much as 20 minutes to get thru an intersection or transitioning on to the freeway. Not to mention 400 to 600 bikes due to the traffic anyway. And they still love us!!

In Knoxville, at the fuel stop, I find my sister and brother in law along with his Dad and my sisters "Woman's Club" (DiVAs! Dames in Volunteer Activities!) - they have brought sandwiches and snacks and I believe water and a donation - not sure as after all the trouble she goes to, I spend maybe 5 minutes with her as I'm off and running!! It was really great, though, for them to that for the RFTW Riders. And a very nice "sign" was made for me. The TA Truck Stop was exceptionally busy with our bikes, trikes, and all the rest of the Rolling Stock. Current estimate for all the vehicles would be about $350,000 worth of stock (and that's very conservative).

Next leg is to the Baileytown for a gas & go. 90 miles. At least the weather is cooperating - not much heat (85 to 95 degrees?). At Baileytown they have hot dogs and 'Burgers and all the trimming so it becomes a blessing and a we stay a little longer (to avoid the traffic). Hydrate and mount followed by another run up the freeway!!! Thanks to everyone there for all the free food and for their support!!

Then a short run to Bristol and BlackWolf HD - 45 miles. Into there for fuel, food, assistance whatever!! And cheering people. LOTS of people and lots of food.

The last leg is 66 miles - into the City of Whytheville. We go straight to the Memorial Park. Much of the way we are surrounded by Americans that want to cheer for us, Welcome us home, thank us for the mission we are on. All are very nice and very respectful. The adults do all the talking tonight. And there are the trucks here with all the fancy and patriotic designs on them. We filled the park with our scoots, and took some time to talk to the attendees that are their for us.

Only 280 miles today - great as the longer we are on the road the more exhausted we get. The heat sucks it out of you. You need to drink GALLONS of water everyday and eat two or three bananas everyday (for Potassium, I believe) - otherwise you cramp or die. Cramping and/or dying on you scoot is not a great idea. Sort of destroys the good of RFTW.

Tomorrow AM we start back at the Park with the school kids - they will be putting on a surprise for us.

Closing for tonight as I'm truly exhausted. We are getting close to our goal, the Vietnam Wall. Although much of the ride is emotional as the devil to us, and we see many Memorials, the Wall and it two adjacent Memorials are heart wrenching. On almost every trip, I meet someone that was at least in the same proximity to me, or an actual friend. I don't ride alone. I have a back seater with me all the time. The Memories that combat veterans have are very different from all others. When I meet a fellow veteran, I can see or feel his (or hers) hurt. Sometimes at places like the Wall, we can just reach out to each other and try to help in the healing process - in some cases we can do absolutely nothing, nor can anyone do anything for me and the others. Sometimes our brothers will want to remember a battle or location where something happened. The bulk of the Memories are not fun, and in some cases, extremely painful. For you out there - this is a very very solemn time for many of us - a chance to remember the not so happy stuff when we are surrounded by our brothers and sisters - the emotions will flow much more freely at The Wall - to us its sacred ground.

Every mile starting tomorrow will get more and more filled with Memories. Every Flag we see will make us teary eyed. Every person cheering, every little child that can not possibly understand, will bring emotions out. I'm traveling with veterans and Americans that understand - people that stand and shut up when the National Anthem plays WITHOUT having to be told. People that don't need to know anything more than you're a veteran, and you have memories.

The Mission Rules


The water trailer.
Singing the Praise.
Backs of colors.
Just one of the decorated bikes.
More bikes than the eye could see.
Dogs are Veterans too.
Man's best friend will go with you anywhere!
Leaving Knoxville.

Image courtesy of Larry Perry. Thank You!

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