The 29th annual Run For The Wall roared past OOIDA headquarters Monday morning en route to Washington, D.C., for the annual Rolling Thunder parade on Memorial Day Weekend.
Nearly 1,000 bikers departed from Ontario, Calif., on Wednesday, May 17, with plans to arrive at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The riders plan to arrive in Washington, D.C., on Friday, May 26.
Photo by Nikohle Barnes
The first wave of hundreds of bikers participating in Run For The Wall 2017 make their way eastbound on Interstate 70 near OOIDA headquarters in Grain Valley, Mo.
Among their numbers this year were OOIDA Member David “Bounce” Talley, an Air Force veteran, and Life Member Gary “Doc” Wells, an Army medic.
Talley is one of several bikers who will be monitoring channel 19 on the CB to communicate with truckers on the path. The bikes will be moving five miles below the posted speed limit. Hundreds of riders are convoying along three separate routes before meeting back up in D.C.
“The (truckers) that have turned their radios on have been wonderful,” Talley said during a pit stop Monday at OOIDA. “Normally we get about 2 percent of ‘Silly bikes, get off the road.’ They don’t use ‘silly’ either. Every year, more and more of them know who we are before I get a chance to say anything. … Now I’ll get a truck that will come across and say ‘That’s Run For The Wall,’ don’t you listen to the radio?”
Talley is making his 11th ride this year carrying a special memento of his late friend Mark Tilkens, a fellow veteran who also participated in the Ride. Talley says his job is to monitor the CB and alert truckers about the convoy’s presence and travel plans.
“I try to encourage (truckers) to go into conserve fuel mode, and back off,” Talley said. “Do that for about 10 or 15 minutes so we’ll be so far ahead of them we won’t be a problem. If they do try to pass us, we’re five miles long this week. If they do try to pass us, it’s going to take them all day, and they better pack a lunch.”
Fellow rider Eamon Tansey is an Australian Army veteran who served in Vietnam in 1970 and 1971. He’s riding for 18 members of the Australia Army who were killed in the Battle of Long Tan in August 1966.
“We have 10 percent of the trouble (with trucks) we used to have 10 years ago,” Tansey said. “We really appreciate the patience and understanding when we go through.”
Eamon’s wife, Teri, says it’s the camaraderie with fellow riders that keeps her coming back on the Run, year after year.
“This is one big family reunion,” she said.
The Run For The Wall (RFTW) was started in 1989 as an effort by James Gregory and Bill Evans, a pair of Vietnam veterans who traveled across the heartland of America on motorcycles, talking to local radio, TV, and newspapers about the thousands of men and women still unaccounted for from all U.S. wars.
The trip takes 10 days to reach the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, where it officially ends on the Sunday evening before Memorial Day. Many events are scheduled for the weekend, ending with participation in the Rolling Thunder Parade in Washington, D.C., on Sunday.
Edwin Musto, of New Zealand, is making his second run to the Wall. He did his first run last year in memory of Richard Frank Musto, an American soldier who was killed in Vietnam. Edwin Musto served two years in the South African Defense Force. His wife, Janet, is accompanying him this year.
“For all the veterans who are out there, thank you for your service and welcome home,” Edwin Musto said.
“When my husband came back last year with all his stories, I said he has to do it again and I have to go with him. It’s been an amazing experience,” Janet Musto said. “The passion and enthusiasm, and just everything that goes into the Run is amazing.”
Land Line Now News Anchor Reed Black contributed to this report.
Volvo honors military heroes with Ride for Freedom truck during Run For The Wall
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