2017 Ride Prelude: (Thursday, May 4, 2017)

Hello everyone! The excitement is building because in nine short days we are leaving to meet the riders for the 2017 National Veterans Awareness Ride! Sandy and Ed Kintzele and Bruce and I are packed and ready to go with lots of new merchandise and your support vehicle. I am proud to be your Sit Reps person for another year of honoring our Veterans all across the country. I will try to keep you up to date on the wonderful job our riders do to bring recognition, companionship and, in some cases, peace to the many Veterans whose lives we touch.
It's always humbling how life can change in the blink of an eye. In December, valued NVAR brother Dick Lundskow died suddenly the day after Christmas. His loss sent shock waves through our NVAR family. He loved this mission and went above and beyond to support it in every way he could. We can’t fathom a ride without Dick. Therefore, we’ll make sure he is with us in spirit by dedicating this year’s ride to him. He will be sorely missed.
The board has worked very hard since last year's ride to make this year's as safe and rewarding as possible. Can’t wait to see old friends again and we look forward to making new ones. Safe journey to all and we’ll see you in Auburn!

Fondly, Julie (First Lady) Manner

Prelude 2: (Thursday, May 11, 2017)

We are on our way to California! After a grueling 12 hour ride through rain, thunder and lightning and pea soup fog, nine riders and four chase vehicle folks made it safely to the home of Bill and Nancy Luft in Grand Island, NE. These wonderful folks had a delicious spread for us and made accommodations for anyone who wanted to stay. It was truly a wonderful port after the storm. After an excellent breakfast, our ranks swelled to 12 as we headed to Rawlings, WY. The ride was awesome. with sunny skies and perfect temperatures. Here’s to an equally excellent ride tomorrow.

Prelude 3: (Friday, May 12, 2017)

Good Old Wyoming! It was a great ride with warm temps and sunshine, for a while. We landed in Rock Springs Wyoming and picked up two more old friends, Mike and Kat Tipton, which made our group 14. What a beautiful sight they made with the sun shining on the bikes as they rode in neat formation.
Outside of Salt Lake City, we met two of our greatest supporters, Randy and Marsha Knight. They were kind enough to treat us to lunch and donated generously to the chase vehicle. Randy continues to live life to the fullest and overcome the serious injuries he suffered in a motorcycle accident.. He still competes in archery and weightlifting competitions, for which he has received many rewards. He is truly an inspiration. We also found our first recipient of the Freedom Medal. Twenty-nine year old Michael Wilson from Cottonwood heights, Utah served in Kuwait with the Army National Guard. Thanks for your service, Michael!
As we rode through terrible congestion in Salt Lake City, the winds became progressively strong and the salt in the air looked like a snow storm. At this time the temperature was 89 degrees. By the time we made our destination, Elko, NV, the temperature was 39 degrees and our riders were frozen and wind battered. We are grateful for the care and courtesy our riders show to each other. Together, we made it safely.

Until tomorrow, Julie

Prelude 4: (Saturday, May 13, 2017)

Sometimes the ride can seem ten years long in one day. Rain started in Elko and turned to snow on the Route to Battle Mountain. We had to load Dan (Sweetness) Kress' bike for overheating. Of course, the riders thought this suspicious that Dan found it necessary to ride in the truck just as the snow hit. Fortunately, Carson City, NV Harley Davidson proved to be an exceptional store. They fixed the problem quickly and help a few other riders with minor issues. They even offered Dan a couch should the repairs run into the next day. Great folks.
We were pleased to award Freedom Medals to the following employees of the dealership: Tara Janu, U.S. Army, serving a five year deployment in Iraq, and David Ilten, U.S. Marine Corps, who served in Al-Kut, Iraq from 2003 to 2004. Thanks for your service!
When in Battle Mountain for breakfast, we met up with an old friend, Delbert. He told us how happy he was to be one of the 40 Native American Vets to visit Washington DC on an Honor Flight. Also, he heard that a Native American Veterans Monument is being planned for exhibit in D.C. We hope that Delbert gets to visit this tribute to the many Native Americans who have served our country.
Wet, tired and bedraggled, we finally arrived in Virginia City, NV in sunshine and with dry roads. Had a wonderful evening of much needed R&R and are looking forward to kicking back tomorrow. The journey continues on Monday.

Lovin' the ride! Julie

Prelude 5: (Monday, May 15, 2017)

Two last stories from Virginia City: Pete Rojas aka Panama Pete, was one of Virginia City’s extraordinary men. He served our country in three service branches, Marines, Army and Air Force, ending his working career as a civil servant in NASA. He was married multiple times, some say 10, some say 12, and was a superb dancer. Pete died last year under the tender caring of his good friend Carmen Rochette. Her husband gave her up to Pete for the duration of his passing. It is so hard when we return to old haunts to find that good friends have passed. Thank you, Carmen for seeing Pete off so kindly. Rest in peace, old friend.
It always surprises us to hear how the NVAR affects people’s lives. Every year David Johns and the Comstock Cowboys do a beautiful and emotional tribute for us to the tune of David’s original song, “Their Names Should be on the Wall”. Larry Goldman plays guitar for the band. He is one of those soldiers so necessary to any military action. He served as a supply sergeant on a ship in the Bay of Naples. Because his contribution didn’t have a direct impact in battle, he felt wasn’t worthy of recognition, so he kept it a secret. Many of his friends and colleagues didn’t even know he had served. Participating in the first tribute changed everything for Larry and touched his heart.. Bruce reminded Larry that it takes seven soldiers to put one on the battlefield. Everyone who serves is important, necessary and deserves our thanks. We are humbled to learn that we made such a direct and positive impression on a good man who doubted his worth for years. Thank you for your service, Larry Goldman.
We left Virginia City with 20 bikes in beautiful sunshine and dry roads, and arrived in Auburn where we are meeting our brothers and sisters, old and new, to begin the 2017 Mission.
It’s wonderful to be together again.

Prelude 6: (Tuesday, May 16, 2017)

We started the day with one of our all time favorite stops. We visited the Bowman School in Auburn, California. 640 students, grades 1 through 8, assembled in the gym and Principal Kelly Graham warmly welcomed us. Our riders looked so distinguished sitting in the front of the auditorium. What a beautiful sound it was when almost 700 voices were raised in singing the National Anthem, “God Bless America” and “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. Chaplain Wayne Worden presented a framed and signed photograph of last year’s riders to the school. Jerry Conner gave an excellent slide program explaining the mission of the National Veterans Ride and why it’s so important to honor our Veterans. One of the slides was of the Bowman at last year’s assembly. The kids loved seeing themselves on the big screen. At the questions and answer session, they asked intelligent, appropriate questions. Principal Graham had to be proud of how well behaved and courteous his pupils were. As each kid exited the auditorium, we gave them an NVAR “Honoring Our Veterans” commemorative postcard by which to remember us. A flag raising ended an excellent visit with the kids and faculty of Bowman school. As we leave town tomorrow, we will drive by wonderful Bowman school for a final farewell.
At 12:35 PM, we departed for our first Hospital of the ride, Mather Veterans Hospital. We have been visiting Mather since 2005. For the first time we were fortunate to have a dedicated police escort that saw us safely through some very heavy traffic. Over five decades, this excellent Veteran’s facility has served Vets all over the country. They are going through a serious renovation, making the facility one of the largest and fastest growing hospitals for Vets. It felt so good to visit our Vets again. The kindness and ease that our riders use to get these sick soldiers to open up is a gift. We were warmly welcomed and we know that we left a lot of Vets happier for our visit.
An interesting twist on our visit happened today. It’s not only the Veterans that suffer for their sacrifice. The families are equally affected by the scars and injuries of their service. I walked upon rider Marybea Varvel as she was waiting for an elevator. A woman was on the phone nearby in obvious distress. Perceptive Marybea asked, “Do you need a hug?” In tears, the woman said, “I sure do!” First Marybea gave her a serious hug; then I did. She cried harder and thanked us over and over for noticing her suffering and for caring. Also, the wife of another Vet was very upset because her husband was getting an MRI. “He is my life”, she said. Fear and worry was in her eyes and she appreciated Marybea’s caring attention; and all of this without us knowing specifics of their trouble. It gives us another opportunity to help Vets by helping their families when the opportunity presents itself. Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Marybea.
Once again, Sweetpea’s Restaurant provided an excellent dinner. Our in-depth meeting in preparation for tomorrow’s official start of the ride and meeting all our riders has us very excited. I’ll have more stories and pictures to share from our visit to Mather, but need to pack for a very early start tomorrow.
From our visit with the youngest and energetic among us to the oldest and very ill, today was a roller coaster ride. We love what we do. Until tomorrow,

2017 Ride Day One (Wednesday, May 17, 2017)

From Yesterday: Ray Adams Rick Dyer, Butch Schroeder Mike Linderman and Mayor Jeff Gowing were having breakfast and sharing war stories. A young man was eavesdropping on their conversation. After he finished eating, he walked up to Ray’s table, slapped down a $100 dollar bill and said, “Put this toward your meal”. Behind their table sat a WW II Vet and his daughter. So, Ray paid it forward and treated them to breakfast as well. There is nothing more heartening than the kindness of strangers.
At Mather Veteran’s Hospital, Mike Kline had an interesting conversation with Yvonne Rea, a volunteer advocate for women returning from active duty to motherhood. These women present with unique problems as they try to cope with service related issues when they return to their families. She said that the system is not geared to help women address their special needs as they transition back to family life. This is another instance of the sacrifices our military families make while in our service. By sharing their stories and promoting awareness, we hope to help our military get the assistance they deserve.
Yesterday while most of us were still drooling on our pillows, Steve (Head Dog) Moore and Bill (Mongo) Luft left at 4:30 AM and rode 140 miles to have breakfast with Gunnery Sergeant Nick Popaditch. In April of 2003, Sergeant Popaditch was photographed with a cigar in his hand as the statue of Saddam Hussein was being destroyed behind him. He became known as “The Cigar Marine”. On April 6-7 of 04, the Tanker Commander fought in the first Battle of Fallujah where he suffered terrible head wounds that left him partially deaf and legally blind. He was awarded the Silver Star for his valor and combat innovation. Sergeant Popaditch has written his memoirs in a new book, “Once a Marine”. Since he was born in East Chicago, IN, Steve Moore has nominated him for the Indiana Military Veteran’s Hall of Fame. Thank you for your incredible sacrifice, Gunnery Sergeant Popaditch.
Today: What a fantastic breakfast we enjoyed at the Auburn Veterans Hall cooked and served by the Auburn Jeep Club. Year after year, California Coordinator Rick Dyer, Fred Corcoran and a cast of many more volunteers generously give of their time, labor and donations to keep the NVAR rolling. We left Auburn with full bellies, generous donations, and lots of hugs, good will and prayers for a safe journey. Many jeeps joined our riders as we made a joyous drive through at Bowman School. The entire student body and faculty waved flags and cheered as we said farewell to beautiful Auburn until next year.
43 bikes, 5 trikes 2 cars and the chase vehicle entered the highway on our way to the VAMC in Reno, NV. FNG’s this year are: Shellee Jenkins, Roseberg, OR; Ron and Sheila Bly, Winston, OR; Mike Moritz, Davenport, IA; Rick Little, Arizona. Welcome Friendly New Riders!! Riding Missing Man was Bill Luft and Rick Little.
After riding 110 miles, we were met by an escort in Boomtown, NV and delivered to the VMAC. We are so grateful for the police escorts that assist us through cities. Certificates of appreciation were given the police and all those who provided a wonderful lunch of Elkburgers with all of the trimmings. What a joy to see familiar faces. Chicago Bob welcomed us warmly as did our photographer friend Marilyn. Of course, the vets are what bring us here. I listened as Terry Hoops met a Vietnam Vet and seamlessly engaged him in sharing experiences and memories. It’s like watching someone with a shared memory, even though they served a year apart. Many ride pins were distributed and time was spent visiting, laughing and sometimes crying with the brave men who served us so well.
Thirty eight miles from the VMAC is the beautiful Northern NV Veterans Cemetery. An oasis of green beauty in a harsh landscape, this lovely place is a very special tribute to our honored dead. Wreath Laying Leader Bill Luft lead Ed Norton, Wayne Worden, Tony Ivins and Pete Folberth (carrying a picture of Dick Lundskow close to his heart) to the Paratrooper Memorial. They laid a wreath to honor all who serve. Certificates of appreciation were given to the very dedicated men who maintain this beautiful place.
200 miles later through some snow and 37 degree temperatures, we ended the day as the dinner guests of VFW Post 2350 in Elco, NV. We really appreciated this warm port after a very cold ride. Certificates of Appreciation were distributed with our heartfelt thanks.
Busy Day. The ride has begun.

2017 Ride Day Two (Thursday, May 18, 2017)

At this morning’s rider’s meeting, the weather was our greatest concern. Colorado, Utah and Wyoming are experiencing a bad snow storm with a possibility of authorities shutting down I80. We decided that we would go as far as Salt Lake City and revisit our plans then. Riding Missing man formation were Mike and Kat Tipton. Kevin (Smitty) Smith rode Coordinator position. Our destination was the Salt Lake City Veterans Home. We picked up many more riders, cages and trucks which brought our numbers to around 63 bikes, three trikes, two cages and 2 chase vehicles. Twenty officers acted as escort into Salt Lake City. As a slight drizzle started, we had a flag retirement and Jerry Connor presented a new flag for display. Unfortunately, the Vets who were outside to take part had to be returned to the building because of the worsening weather.
The Salt Lake City Veteran’s Home is a great facility that doesn’t just offer excellent care, but many extra comforts as well. A tortoise roams the garden; a Kangaroo loves to share lunch with anyone offering food; beautiful little finches live in a large habitat and perform for everyone; some kind of lizard moves occasionally to delight whomever is watching; an orange cat roams the facility and really likes people!; and a lovely little white therapy dog gives kisses and love to the residents. This is truly a neat facility. The residents have a stake in the management of their lives here making the facility truly a home. We were served a delicious lunch and had the pleasure of mingling with the Vets and sharing while eating together. At our table, Russell, a Viet Nam Vet, was a new resident and his wife Barbara was visiting. Russell had only been there for a week. His condition has made it necessary for him to make this his home. They will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next year. We also met an incredible guy named Bob. Sharp as a tack, very clever and fun to be with, and we found that 92 is the new 60!
After a very enjoyable visit, we decided to continue on another 80 miles to Evanston, Wyoming. Conditions became a little more challenging with rain turning to light snow and increasing winds. Our riders were heroic in their skill and stamina. We gratefully arrived safely in Evanston, WY. Bill Luft lead Kat Tipton, Ron Patzer, Dean Neeb and Butch Schroeder in laying a wreath at a lovely memorial in the heart of town. A children’s choir braved the weather and added their sweet voices to a beautiful ceremony. A wonderful comfort meal of roast beef and mashed potatoes with all the trimmings was served by the VFW 4280, and certificates of appreciation were awarded. After a very trying day, we are looking forward to rest and some hard decisions tomorrow. We will be carefully monitoring road conditions to decide how to proceed. Prayers are gratefully accepted!.

2017 Ride Day Three (Friday, May 19, 2017)

Today we awoke to beautiful sunshine! However, snow and ice is still a concern in Laramie and Cheyenne. We found out that I80 is still closed and there is a barrier up forbidding any vehicles from going any further. Evanston, WY is 357 miles from our destination of Cheyenne, WY. So, things are still dicey. However, the State Police agreed to lift the barrier for us, escorted us to I80, allowing us to ride to Rock Springs. Thank you Wyoming State Police! As we drove, scores of vehicles and trucks were stranded on the side of the road sometimes leaving only a narrow lane for us to squeeze through. So many truckers had to spend the night in their cabs. Many trucks were detoured to the fairgrounds to wait out the storm. But, the roads were dry, even though the 37 degree temperatures stung. The further we went, the more snow we saw piled up on the side of the road.
Rock Springs is the home of the amazing duo Mike and Kat Tipton. When it became evident that we couldn’t get to Cheyenne, they called ahead to Rawlins and got 30 rooms blocked for us in an America Best Value Inn. Also, they contacted their friends at their American Legion Post 24 and asked them to prepare lunch for us. We went to gas up and found that the Post paid for it! When we arrived, an impressive color guard in uniform saluted us in welcome. What a joy to walk into that warm and welcoming place. While warming up with hot coffee, we met John Tammany, a Navy Seabee to whom we awarded a Freedom Medal for his service. No lunch has ever tasted so good. Thanks from the bottom of our hearts, Mike and Kat and Rock Springs Post 24. You provided a true port in a storm.
We were escorted back to I 80 and continued on 110 miles to Rawlins. Again, thanks Wyoming State Police! We will overnight here and just keep monitoring the situation to decide how far we will go tomorrow. We are very saddened that we will have to forego some of our visits to the Veterans. They look forward to our coming every year and it hurts to disappoint them. Once again Mike and Kat have come to the rescue. We left them with medals, pins, letters from students and all they will need when they assemble a group of their riders to visit the VA Hospital in Cheyenne, WY in the name of the National Veterans Awareness Ride. These folks have truly embraced the meaning and mission of the NVAO. Tomorrow our goal, should conditions improve, will be to ride to Grand Island, NE. It will be a 500 mile day and we will arrive too late to visit anyone, but we will be back on schedule.
Here I’d like to acknowledge Chaplain Wayne Worden. Through this stressful ride, he has sustained us with inspirational readings and awesome prayer to keep us going…even though he makes me cry every day!! Thanks, Wayne. You lighten the load.
Thanks for following. We are grateful for your support.


2017 Ride Day Four (Saturday, May 20, 2017)

Last night we got word that I 80 was open! Trucks on the motel lot immediately hit the road to make up lost time. Friends Donna and Rich Behounek who live in Cheyenne, WY received pictures from a neighbor of their home. The snow is ¼ the way up their garage door. They are leaving the ride temporarily to go home for a situation assessment. This storm was serious enough to receive a name… Winter Storm Valerie.
We were very saddened that we had to miss visiting our friends in Cheyenne, especially our Veterans at the Cheyenne VA Hospital. We were sorry to disappoint them, but nature had other plans. Again, we decided to go as far as possible. Our goal was to make Grand Island, NE, a 500 mile trip. We must get back on schedule if we are to make Washington DC on time.
I’ve already mentioned how Chaplain Wayne Worden’s morning inspiration prepares us for a day of riding. Dan (Sweetness) Kress also has established a tradition to see us on our journey. Every morning Dan reads a tribute to a soldier who has given his life in the cause of freedom. He chooses men from the town or state we are in and gives the circumstances of their deaths. It is just a little added incentive to make us more conscious of why we are here.
Wheels up 7:40. Riding Missing Man Formation was Tony Jackson, Ron (Psych) Patzer, and Dan (Lugnut) Kuepker. There were 25 bikes, 3 trikes, one car and the chase vehicle. At a gas stop in Laramie, WY, a man came up to Buzz Neeb and handed him an $80 donation. Again, the kindness of strangers. We didn't even know his name. It truly is humbling to experience the gratitude of so many for what we do. An added treat at one of the gas stops was a really cute colony of prairie dogs! They peeked out of their holes and watched us with great interest. Their warren of holes is sure treacherous, though. The road was great through the rest of WY. Truck traffic was very heavy, so everyone was extra vigilant. We saw a car and a car with a trailer jackknifed off the road. Not long into Nebraska, the rain started and temperatures fluctuated between 36 and 46 degrees. Psycho weather! Our riders were very cold and wet. Again, we were very sorry to miss laying a wreath in North Platte, NE and visiting the folks at the Grand Island Veterans Home. It is the first time since the ride started that we couldn’t make our appointments.
We arrived at the American Legion Post 300 in Doniphan, NE cold, hungry and tired. After Chaplain Jim Jackson passed the blessing, we enjoyed an incredible fish fry that was paid for by an anonymous donor. We were lavished with gifts including many monetary donations, a beautiful work of art by Sam Brandt, and a signed banner. They supported our rifle and quilt raffle, and purchased jewelry made and donated by Nancy Croft. Coordinator Bill Luft presented many certificates of appreciation for their extraordinary generosity. A Freedom Medal was awarded to David Westcott and a ribbon pin to his wife, Kelly Bachman. We were very happy to welcome Rick (Lucious) Lundskow, the twin brother of Dick Lundskow, the person to whom our ride is dedicated. These people are truly family. Their overwhelming support of the NVAR will never be forgotten.
Tomorrow we start out on track again. We pray Mother Nature is finished challenging us and lets us finish our journey with ease. We feel very fortunate to have safely come this far. I am so proud of our riders. We will be going ALL THEY WAY!!
Until tomorrow.


2017 Ride Day Five (Sunday, May 21, 2017)

At last, serious sunshine! If only the temperature was 15 to 20 degrees warmer! The Grand Island folks showed up to wish us well and continued to shower us with gifts. We received 12 cases of water, small American flags to give out, and boxes of snacks. Two strangers had been following our blog and showed up at our ride meeting to give us to give us hundreds of dollars in donations. They were all anonymous. One member of a local HOG Chapter handed me $100, said he’s also been following our blog and is very grateful for our mission. He didn’t give his name. Once again, we experience the kindness of strangers.
Nancy Luft took a good supply of medals, ride, flag and ribbon pins. When State Coordinator Bill Luft gets home from the ride, he will assemble a group of riders to visit the Grand Island, NE Veterans home in the name of the National Veteran’s Awareness Ride. We are thankful that these Vets won’t have to be totally disappointed. Thanks, Lufts!
I’d like to mention how grateful we are for the wonderful cooperation we receive from our riders. This truly is a joint effort. Whatever the need, there is always someone to jump in to help. The photos we are enjoying on the blog are provided by many of our riders. Thanks to Sparky Otte for taking over the rifle raffle and Marybea Varvel for doing the quilt raffle. Our State Coordinators are exceptional and a more energetic and thorough group than our National Leadership Team you won’t find. Proud to be among you, ladies and gentlemen of the ride! Also, we heard from the Tiptons. They hope to have 20 riders by today to make up the cancelled visit to the Cheyenne VA Hospital. Thanks Tiptons!
After a hearty breakfast, we were wheels up at 8 AM. We had 30 bikes, 3 trikes, 4 cars and the chase vehicle Riding Missing Man were: Mike Moritz, Jim Kearney and Roland (Sparky) Otte. We love the positive recognition we get while on the road. From people who stopped their cars on the side of the road to salute, to beeping horns and waves, to folks slowing down traffic so that we can stay together, it’s wonderful to have this support. Barring any complications, this ride will put us back on schedule.
It was a great, if blustery, ride to Council Bluffs, IA. We received a police escort into the beautiful Bayless Park. The impressive War Memorial there was the staging ground for a precision flag raising performed by the Air Force ROTC. Bill Luft led Logan Luft, Mike Shafer, Mike Sadler and Sam Hedges in a wreath laying ceremony at the Vietnam Memorial. The town Mayor recited a poignant history of the Vietnam War, once again reminding us that wars are fought by the young. The average age of the Vietnam Soldier was 20 years old. Taps ended the solemn ceremony. Last year, State Coordinator Mike Kline was approached by a Viet Nam Vet here at the memorial. He handed Mike a marble and asked him to take it to the wall. The vet said that while engaged in a fire fight, he found this yellow marble. He kept it with him and called it his good luck piece because it got him through the fight alive. Mike took pictures of the marble at the wall and hopes to find the gentleman again to give him this memento.
After this excellent ceremony, we walked across the lovely park to the Masonic Lodge 259. Wayne Schuler’s signature pulled pork was as good as ever. Many monetary donations were received, as well as pop and various snacks and dozens of packs of playing cards that the Vets certainly will enjoy. State Coordinator Mike Kline delivered our certificates of appreciation for the generosity of the fine folks of Council Bluffs. We were introduced to a wonderful group of young adults of the JROTC 951 Cadets. Four of these youngsters have been chosen for the honor guard that will travel to France for the 75th Anniversary of Normandy. We were pleased to donate $300 to finance their trip. It will be an honor to have these wonderful young people represent our Country. A raffle of a fine knife was held by the Viet Nam Vets of America, and the proceeds were donated to the chase truck. Jerry Conner explained how the generous donations we receive go toward providing ride pins for our Vets and all who care for them; memorial wreaths to honor our dead; American and POW flags; financing the huge expense of the chase vehicle; plus various other ways that we can help Vets or others in need. It was also mentioned how fortunate we are to have Mike Kline as our State Coordinator. The State of Iowa is the gold standard in Veterans affairs. They can be very proud of the wonderful care they take of our Vets.
Our visit to Iowa would not be complete without a visit to the Freedom Rock. Our friend Bubba Sorenson has outdone himself with the beautiful depiction of the hero of Hacksaw Ridge Medal of Honor recipient, Desmond Doss. Ashes of our own Dick Lundskow are now part of this shrine. We are honored to have Dick’s twin brother Rick with us in tribute.
At last we get to spend some quality time with our Vets! The Des Moines VAMC is always a favorite stop. Sandy and Ed Kinzele visited the dementia ward and were very impressed with the facility. They have workshops set up for the clients, so that if a guy thinks he is an executive, they provide an office for him to use. If the client thinks he is a carpenter, they have an area where he can build things. This gives the patients purpose and a sense of accomplishment.
Bruce Manner held the hand of James, who had lost much of his memory and ability to speak comprehensively, but knew he hated Westmoreland and served in black ops. He sailed up the rivers and saved lots of boys. He is a victim of Agent Orange and recently lost a leg. He held tight to Bruce’s hand for ten minutes, not wanting to let go. We hope that he has someone to come and hold his hand every day.
Bart is a Army Veteran who served in Riyadh from ’86 to 92. He suffered a heart attack at a young age and spent a long time in a coma. He has been hospitalized for a year. We were pleased to give him a Freedom Medal, which brought him to tears. He is so young for such a terrible illness. He has an eleven year old son that was coming to visit today, making him happy.
Mary is the first woman from Monroe, IA to serve in the military. She was the fifth child of eleven and worked at Ft. Lee in payroll. She is very proud of her service.
We could have spent all day visiting with the amazing people who are our Veterans. Unfortunately, our schedule had to be kept. We were the guests of American Legion Post 663 who surprised us with a delicious steak dinner. As Mike Kline said, “Holy Mackerel, Holy Cow, Wow!”. He admittedly is not much of a word smith, but these words are certainly appropriate for a truly wonderful meal. Thanks so much, Commander and Post 663.
Well, there’s more to say, but I’m out of steam. More tomorrow. Thanks so much for following us and for your support.

Until tomorrow,

2017 Ride Day Six (Monday, May 22, 2017)

Clearing up a few things from yesterday: We heard from Mike Tipton. Their visit to the Cheyenne VA is scheduled for May 28, not yesterday. They expect to have 20 plus bikes. Excellent, guys. Thanks!
I want to acknowledge the lovely little therapy dogs we saw yesterday. Champ, the Havanese, adorable in his motorcycle garb, and Teaser, the beautiful flat coat fur child of Patrick and Lori Martingale. Teaser’s beautiful little son Jester also came to give us some love. I hope to have some pictures soon.
Another very important acknowledgement is to the fine folks that donate our Freedom Medals. Several years ago, Patrick “Too Tall” Daniels and Charlie Babcock introduced us to these beautiful medals that were designed and provided by the Mt. Clemmons, MI chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. They did this to ensure that our young Vets returning from the War on Terror conflicts receive a better homecoming than the Nam Vets did. They will not accept any money for these medals. They are donated by an anonymous donor. What joy they bring to our newest veterans! Heartfelt thanks to the dedicated man who is making a difference in the lives of the newest generation of veterans.
Lastly in old news, Jerry Connor’s bike took him to the roadside with a problem yesterday. When we were at Post 663 last night, Connie (Little Bit) Major, Auxiliary President of 663 just happened to know Craig Waddle of Big Barn Harley Davidson, who will see that the bike is serviced early tomorrow. As luck would have it, our old friend Richard (Spook) Hayden joined us pulling the sweetest bike trailer you’ve ever seen. They loaded the bike on Spook’s trailer and hauled it to the Harley dealer this AM with Jackwagon assisting. They all were able to rejoin us before 2:00 this afternoon. Thanks for the great care and service Connie, Craig and the Big Barn H D! Thanks to Spook for allowing the chase vehicle to stay with the pack. Because of your efforts, our fearless leader is back in the saddle again!
Today dawned sunny and dry and, gods be praised, WARMER! Our fine friends at AMVETS Post #2 got up before sunrise to fix a most delicious breakfast, for which we were very grateful. As Mike Kline says, it’s like going to grandma’s house! Commander Mary played a beautiful video about how the Vietnam wall heals and changes all who visit there. We received many kind donations, including a very generous one from Lori and Patrick (Jackwagon) Martindale.
Kickstands up at 8: AM. Riding Missing Man Formation were Pete (Too Tall) Folberth and Mike Rinowski. Thanks to Dave (Double D) Clemmons for not making me chase him down for the Missing Man information. There were 31 bikes, 3 trikes, 5 cars, 1 bike trailer and the chase vehicle.
A 50 mile ride and excellent police escort got us to the beautiful Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, IA. Not even the many trees downed by a severe storm can mar the beauty of this place. Our excellent guide Heather gave a great tour to our group of 7. Each section of the facility houses fifteen vets. They all have their own room and access to the lovely grounds, if they are able. They have the capacity to fill 530 beds, but are down to 516 due to many recent deaths. Today a bus full of residents attended a ball game, as they do several times during the season. Here are a few vignettes of Vets we met today:
Jim wasn’t able to speak. He just nodded his head. So, we talked to him, left him a pin and thanked him for his service.
80 year old Albert served 8 years in the Army, Korean theater, and 5 years in Germany. He loves bikes, but had to quit riding because of back trouble. This brought him to tears.
Max is 96 years old, one of the dwindling WW II vets still with us. We felt honored to spend time with him.
A flight engineer in WW II serving three years, William was one of a group of 12 who were part of the brain trust. His high MOS rating kept him out of action, but very busy nonetheless. He said it was frustrating because they wanted to serve in action. At 92, he was extremely sharp and interesting.
Virgil spent time in the Air Force as a mechanic. He also joined the Peace Corps in the Philippines for a while.
One especially poignant veteran was William. He served in Desert Storm from 86 to 93. We awarded him a freedom medal that was hard to place over his head because of his severe illness. He was supported by a neck pillow. Boy, was he ever happy to received the recognition. Tears.
We were surprised at the number of women we met in this unit. Violet was a charmer. At 92 years old, she was slightly in dementia, but still able to converse and was a real hoot. Her daughter is a vet whose service of tours in the Army has allowed her mother to be housed here. Violet was very proud to be the baby of 8 children and was born in Royal, MO.
Janelle was a Mechanic in the Army and proud to be married to a Green Beret. Speech was difficult, but she was pleased to visit with us.
Judy was very chatty and upbeat. A Korean War era veteran serving in the Air Force, she was proud of having earned three stripes as a radio mechanic.
Cindy was a talented and alert lady who was crocheting an afghan as we visited. She was an operator in the very early days of computers.
What a wonderful cross section of humanity we found here. It was a joy to finally meet and interact with our beloved Vets and show them just how important their contribution is to us. We didn’t want to leave!
We were served a fine lunch and presented Director Timmon Opery a copy of the framed poem “It Is the Soldier”. More about this poem later. We awarded a freedom Medal to a gentleman named Dave who was also a Purple Heart recipient. With full hearts, we left Marshalltown with wonderful memories.
One hundred miles down the road, we received yet another wonderful police escort to the Iowa City VA Health Care System. This is another favorite stop. Certificates of Appreciation and a framed copy of the Poem “It is the Soldier” were presented. The employees are so kind and helpful and make our visits to the vets very easy. Public Affairs Director Bryan Clark personally accompanied us throughout the facility giving us easy access to the vets. A veteran named Kenny served in the Army in Nam getting POWs out of areas in which he should not have been. He saved many lives risking his own every time he went on a mission.
Unfortunately, our group encountered lots of sleeping vets, so we went down to the clinic waiting room and mingled with folks waiting for appointments. As happens sometimes, we encountered a disgruntled vet upset with the government and who needed an ear. Our guys gave him a sounding board and left him happier than we found him.
One story was really entertaining. Ed and Sandy Kintzele spoke to Paul Schollmeyer who was a Boatswain’s Mate on a ship in Malta in 1988 when President Bush and Gorbachov were negotiating a treaty. Of course, Bush was accompanied by his huge contingent of Secret Service. It was a very formal affair, everyone in dress uniform standing at attention. Unbeknownst to the guys below, a sailor was climbing a ladder far above the proceedings carrying, of all things, a toilet. For some reason, the sailor lost his grip on the toilet and it came crashing down, hit the deck and shattered in a million pieces. It sounded like a gun shot. Pandemonium ensued. One Secret Service man screamed in another’s ear piece “What the hell was that?” Another yelled back, “A shitter just exploded!”. The first yelled, “What?”, The reply, “A shitter just exploded!” The first, “Did you say shitter?”. The second, “Yes, damnit, a toilet! The proceedings halted for a while and what could have been a very bad situation turned into a good laugh. I only wish all of you could have been there as Paul told the story. The guy ought to write for SNL. He is a chiropractor today and was waiting to see his own doctor. After telling the story, he gave Ed some great chiropractic advice. This was a stellar moment in a VA waiting room.
We reluctantly left our friends at the Iowa City VA to meet other very good friends at the American Legion Post #26. What a beautiful ceremony they had for us. An excellent Honor Guard, Pledge of Allegiance, Gun Salute and Taps started us off. Inside, the elegant Table Ceremony for POWs/MIAs was performed. The rose was awarded to Steve Moore in memory of his dad who recently died. Certificates of Appreciation were awarded and several generous donations were received. Among them was a beautiful quilt donated by Carolyn Kimmel, and a check from our dear friend Ron Immosoete. The excellent turn out also supported our rifle and quilt raffle. Man, can these folks put out an amazing fried chicken dinner! Homemade desserts made it perfect. Heartfelt thanks for one of the best stops of the ride.
Well, I’ll have to stop now. There’s a very early start tomorrow. Today was wonderful. Tomorrow, we get to sleep in our own bed in Michigan City. Until then,


2017 Ride Day Seven (Tuesday, May 23, 2017)

I would like to introduce Jon Ritscher, our 2017 Schneider Ride of Pride Driver from Crown City, OH. He spent eight years in the US Army as a petroleum supply specialist and did two tours in Iraq. He has logged over 255,365 miles on the road. Jon has a wife and a five year old son, and loves the outdoors. These beautifully patriotically painted trucks have accompanied the NVAR for a few years and are a wonderful addition to our ride. We are pleased to have another join us for 2017. Welcome aboard, Jon!
Well, it’s cloudy, but a lot warmer than it has been. We are anticipating a little rain down the road, according to our weather guru Big Daddy Rafferty. It’s still an improvement. We said a reluctant good-bye to Davenport at 7:30 AM. An escort saw us safely on our way. There were 25 bikes, 4 trikes a trailer, 4 cars and the chase vehicle. Riding Missing Man was Mike (Popps) Manthey and John (Sparkles) Jenkins. Destination…Marseilles, IL, a 114 mile, and rather harrowing ride through lots of traffic. We are always thankful for the Police escorts that help us navigate the crazy traffic. We are also blessed with some of the most skillful road guards to ever sit a bike.
“A tribute to the Heroic Service Men and Service Women who sacrificed their lives in the Middole East Conflict while keeping America free.”
This is inscribed on one of the most beautiful and poignant memorials in our country, The Mideast Conflict Wall. Illinois Coordinator Gary Croft prepared an excellent program of honor for these fallen Soldiers. The Illinois Valley Marine Corps League presented the colors. Larry (Crazy Larry)McKay presented the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem was sung by the Marquette Acedemy High School.
The focus of the program was Remembrance and was dedicated to the Gold Star Family of Jim Frazier. Jim’s Son, Air Force Staff Sgt. Jake Lee Frazier lost his life in Afghanistan. Also remembering the Gold Star Family of Christopher J. Boyd, 22 who died 8/19/2010.
Buzz Neeb read a story about Chris Choy the who through calm and poise under fire singlehandedly took out enemy fighters one by one. Dan Sweetness Kress offered tribute to four Illinois men KIA: PFC Tyler Lubelt of Tamaroa, IL, aged 20, Died 11/12/16; CPO William “Ryan” Owens, aged 36, Died 1/29/17; SPC Joshua P. Rodgers, aged 22, died 4/27/17, Afghanistan.
Marseilles Mayor Jim Tragor welcomed and thanked us for what we do for veterans. Gold Star Dad Jim Frazier had touching remarks of how lives are dramatically changed forever with the death of a child. He said that as long as names of the deceased are mentioned, written and remembered, no man will be forgotten. Mr. Fisher works with families that have suffered tragic loss through war, accident and Suicide. He also said that he is amazed at the world of bikers. They are the greatest patriots there are. We agree, Mr. Frazier!
Gary then asked our own rider and brother, Bill ( Mongo) Luft to say a few words. Commander Sgt. Major William Luft served 22 years, 7 of them in combat. He tragically lost lost nine of his men and has spent many years coping with this horrible loss.
Their names are on this wall. It took a couple of years and the support and love of friends and family for Commander Sgt, Retired Luft to overcome his demons. He said that the NVAR has helped him more than any shrink or therapist could. Now Bill is paying it forward and helping others overcome similar trauma from war in others.
For the first time, we will publish the names of Bill’s lost soldiers in rembrance:
Sgt. Darrin Potter, SSG James Mowris, Sgt. Ariel Rico, SPC Richard Orengo, Sgt Stephen Strasheim, SPC Aaron Clark, 1LT Joshua Hurley, SPC Eric Ramirez, SSG David Perry. Rest in peace, gentlemen. A grateful nation salutes you.
As a gentle rain fell, Bill Luft lead Dave Clemmons (A Gold Star Dad), Dan (Lugnut) Kuepker, Mike Croft and Marybeth Richardson in laying a wreath at the memorial. A gun salute followed. We will always remember.
After two police officers were awarded the Freedom Medal, a short ride took us to a fabulous lunch at the American Legion 235 in Marseilles. Jerry awarded Certificates of appreciation for one of the best meals on the ride. Also, he thanked Gary and Nancy Croft for paying for our dinner and for the tireless fundraising efforts they have done on our behalf! Thanks, also, to Ken Layton for his generous donation. Virginia Profitt was recognized for her continuing work among the homeless of Chicago, and for the generous donations she continues to make to the NVAO.
We can’t say enough about the wonderful police escorts that help us stay safe in some hazardous conditions. 94 miles down the road, we joined the JROTC at Portage, IN High School. Master Sgt Bowers works with these kids diligently to help them become masters of armed and unarmed exhibition. They practice in the morning, during class the last period of the day, and after school…every day; and it shows. We were treated to exciting precision stomp, fancy rifle movements and a riveting routine set to the music of Cliff Lin, “Ultraviolent”. Watching these kids perform and experiencing the respect and intelligence they exhibit makes one really have hope for our future. We made a $200 donation the Portage High School JROTC Program.
Once again, our escort saw us through Portage to Michigan City, where we assembled at the Harley Davidson dealership. We then paraded to the Medal of Honor recipient Danny Bruce Memorial in Washington Park for a Wreath Laying ceremony. Bill Luft lead Mike Rinowski, Mike (Popps) Manthey, Roland (Sparky) Otte and Donna Behounek in this solemn ritual.
A delicious and very welcome meal was provided by the St. Joe Club and certificates of appreciation were awarded.
I’ll have more on this day tomorrow, The washer has finished the last load of laundry and I have to pack for a REALLY early day tomorrow. This was a very good day. Thanks for following us.


2017 Ride Day Eight (Wednesday, May 24, 2017)

A few things I didn’t mention last night are: I met Dick Lundskow’s daughter, Angela Childers, and his nephew Gary Lundskow. They are the winners of the Wall Gang essay contest and will be joining Dick’s brother Rick for the ride to DC. Angela will be wearing her dad’s colors, sunglasses and NVAR gear. It’s a pleasure to have you with us, Angie and Gary.
Also, How I could have forgotten to mention Julie Runsel, I don’t know. She is a friend of Buzz Neeb who used to meet us in a parking lot and pass out her incredible baked goods. Well she has taken that one step further. She brought the most amazing array of desserts to the St Joe Club in Michigan City for us to enjoy. And, She packed them all up and drove them here from Elgin Illinois! This room of sweet toothed bikers thanks you for such a thoughtful and delicious gift, Julie! Your dedication to the NVAO is so appreciated.
Boy, 4:30 AM surely comes fast. We packed up and headed for a delicious and hearty breakfast at the American Legion Post 37. The National Anthem was sung and Certificates of Appreciation were delivered. Heartfelt thanks to NIPSCO for a generous donation.
Long time Wall Gang member Chuck (Tuna) Coleman who passed away recently will be remembered in a special way. Steve Moore will carry his ashes with us to the Wall. Here’s to your last ride, old friend. Rest in sweet peace.
Francis W. Harter, KIA on 9 November 1970 is the person to whom the Wall Gang ride will be dedicated. A remembrance of him will be left at the Vietnam War Memorial. His best friend, Randy Kethcart, was present to see us off today. He was presented with a beautiful memento in honor of his friend. We wish you beautiful memories of Francis, Randy.
Brenda Wallace from Operation Brenda’s blankets will go with us today to visit the Vets at the Indiana Veteran’s Home in Lafayette. She has made 120 fleece blankets that will be given to the Vets. Brenda has delivered her blankets to the needy in Chicago and Crown Point as well. Thank you Brenda!
The Safe Harbor Program has made cards for us to deliver to the Vets. Thanks, Kids!
We awarded conservation officer Derrick with the Medal of Freedom and yellow ribbon for his wife. After Dan(Sweetness) Kress gave the tribute and Chaplain Wayne gave his inspirational reading and blessing, it was time to leave.
We were an impressive group of 47 bikes, six trikes, 2 bike trailers and 13 vehicles, plus the chase truck. Riding Missing Man formation was Dan (Watch Dog) Davis and Terry (Easy) Hoops. The first stop was a 50 mile ride to West Central School. Even though school is out for the year, many students and their families and teachers came out for our Flag Raising Ceremony. We provide new flags for the school every year and take the spent flags to the Wall. Ed (Silvertop) Kintzele, Tony Ivins and Rickey (Captain Hook) Davis comprised the Flag Raising Squad. The kids, their families and teachers saw us off with cheers.
Next destination…The Indiana Veteran’s Home in Lafayette. Rain was spitting most of the way, annoying, but not bad. It is thrilling to have whole towns come out to cheer us on. Dozens of flags lined the property of Ken (Pojo) Zarazee. In Wanatah, there was a color guard, huge flag and lots of banners; the citizens of LaCross lined the streets waving flags and cheering. Fire engines displayed and waved flags as well. The whole town of Francesville came out. Farm families waved us on in Monon. Don’t ever let anyone tell you patriotism is dead in America. They are wrong!
We arrived with a fine sight of dozens of vets in wheelchairs, canes and ambulatory ready for a visit. Indiana Coordinator Dan (Lugnut) Kuepker awarded certificates of appreciation to our police escort and all who prepared our delicious lunch. We love this stop because we get to visit and eat lunch with the vets. Some of us went into the buildings to see those who couldn’t come outdoors. Wall Gang members delivered many recreational items for the staff and residents to use. We donated snacks, distributed pins and Brenda’s colorful blankets looked wonderful on the Vets. We hope to find many of our old friends again next year.
20 miles later in Frankfort, we picked up our escort for the 137 mile ride to Brookville. Just outside of Indianapolis, the rain started in earnest. It continued to monsoon proportions and made for very stressful and challenging travelling. Again our riders amazed us with their patience and skill in very adverse conditions. Then our luck changed. Just short miles from Brookville, two bikes went down. Bob Fletcher sustained some damage to his bike, but was not injured. Jason Masterson’s Bike has considerable damage, but he was not injured. His wife Corey, however, has an injured, possibly broken hand. The Mastersons are renting a truck and trailer and returning home tomorrow, we are sorry to say. Bob will take his bike to the Harley dealer tomorrow to assess the damage and make a decision then. Again,our friend Spook came to the rescue with his excellent trailer. Thanks, Richard!
We were so happy to be with our very good friends at the Brookville AMVETS. 39 bikes, 5 trikes, 2 trailers 7 cages, Ride of Pride and the chase vehicle greatfully pulled in to a very warm welcome. John and Lisa Childers folks at AMVETS treated us royally with an delicious meal and all the warmth of family. Our traumatic day in the saddle left many of us frazzled and certainly soaking wet. Their kindness was just what the doctor ordered. Thank you once again AMVETS!
Mother Nature just insists on challenging us at every turn. We are determined to continue and go ALL THE WAY!!!
Until tomorrow.


2017 Ride Day Nine (Thursday, May 25, 2017)

I have one correction from yesterday’s report. The generous donation attributed to NIPSCO yesterday was actually donated by United Steel Workers 12775. NIPSCO was responsible for the magnificient flag flying over us in Wanatah. Thanks James (Bingo) Sawyer.
We had another very early morning today. Breakfast was kindly provided by the good folks at the VFW Post 3288, and it was delicious! State Coordinator Tony (Squirt) Cunningham distributed certificates of appreciation to the many folks who fed us, supported our raffles, and still gave an incredibly generous contribution. The NVAR presented a handsome plaque to Commander Paul Griffin for the many years of support Post 3288 has given us. Heartfelt thanks to all. We were pleased to award two Freedom Medals and Spouse pins.
At the rider’s meeting, Weatherman Big Daddy gave a better, but not perfect, forecast. Departure was at 6:45 AM. Riding Missing Man were: Gary (Wizard) and Nancy Croft, Jim (Slingblade) and Tish Grant, and Don (Quacker) Jenkins. Joining us were 46, bikes, 5 trikes, 7 cages, 1 trailer, the Chase Vehicle and the Ride of Pride.We are very happy to have one of our Norwegian friends joining us this year. Welcome back, Einar Lerbrekk!
We had 112 mile ride through a steady rain…again. It’s getting so bad that guys wallets are very wet, thus wiping out the printing on checks. Bizarre. Our destination on this leg is the Chillicothe VA Medical Center. We were warmly welcomed. For years we’ve wanted to stop here, but time constraints wouldn’t allow this to happen. So Jerry Conner and State Coordinator Tony Cunningham found a way to make it happen. After we all rode in and presented certificates of appreciation, Kris and Andy delivered a copy of the poem “It is the soldier” by poet Charles Michael Province. Fifteen riders stayed behind to visit residents and would catch up later as we rode on. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Seeing their appreciation was so gratifying. A VA policeman William Brook, who served in Korea and Iraq; and VA employee Counselor whose name we didn’t get, received the Freedom Medal. Thank you for your service, Gentlemen.
One of the best stops on the ride is the Southeastern School’s program. This is a real Memorial Day remembrance ceremony in every way. This is the school that Brad Clemmons, son of Dave (Double D) Clemmons attended. As we walked into the school, we were flanked by the Paint Valley ROTC Cadet Corps. Drill Team and all of the students. We were impressed by this grand welcome. There were patriotic readings by Ashley Triplet and Student Council President Matthew Skeens. One very interesting commemoration was the awarding of an Honorary Diploma given posthumously to PFC Martin “Snerd” Richardson. Martin quit school to join the service, only to lose his life without having graduated. It was lovely to see his family proud to have their loved one honored and to know that his sacrifice was not in vain. There followed an excellent musical salute, “From Sea to Shining Sea” by the Southeastern Marching Panthers. Buzz Neeb gave a poignant reading. Ride Coordinator Tony (Squirt) Cunningham and assistant Coordinator Dave (Double D) Clemmons were introduced, and certificates of appreciation were distributed. The Benediction was passed by Anna Evans and Mr. Steyer closed the ceremony. What an excellent program! Then there was lunch…We have never seen such a spread. It was set up in the middle of the hall way, miles and miles of deliciousness for all of us and the students to enjoy. We estimated that when we were all in the cafeteria eating, there were about 450 of us. Thanks so much, Southeastern! You made us so welcome! 103 miles down the road is the Clarksburg-Louis Johnson VMAC. Tony (Squirt) Cunningham awarded certificates of Appreciation to all who facilitate this visit. I have a case of laryngitis, and was nervous about going into a Vet’s room being possibly contagious. Riders spent 70 minutes going throughout the hospital engaging vets wherever they found them. I enjoy talking with the vets and love hearing their stories, but it is nothing like the conversations our rider vets have with them. So many times they share similar stories of action in places I’ve never heard of, in language I don’t understand. No one can engage a vet like another vet. Steve (Head Dog) Moore reported that three members of a PTSD class received Freedom Medals for their service. They were: Jason Craig, Hans Palmer and Winston DeHart, III. Thanks to them for their service.
One interesting incident: When the chase pulled up to the curb, a couple and their grandson were walking toward the bikes. They come every year to see them. Sandy Kintzele engaged them in conversation, gave them ride pins, and then she and Ed went into the Medical Center. The grandmother found Sandy sometime later, said that she’d been hoping to find her because something told her she had to give Sandy a gift. She took off a beautiful bracelet that she was wearing that was engraved with the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish and gave it to Sandy. Sandy was reluctant to take such a beautiful bracelet, but didn’t want to insult the lady by refusing it. The woman was very adamant that Sandy have it. Yet one more lovely gesture on the ride.
Our last stop was 75 miles to VFW Post 573. We were invited to a spaghetti and meatball dinner with all the trimmings. On display was an amazing rider’s cake. This was our last formal meeting together. After we enjoyed our meal and talked about our other obligations coming up, Jerry invited us to share our stories, feelings and experiences. Terry from Michigan City said he really appreciated the ride and giving joy to our vets. He said to expect him every year. The National Veterans Awareness Ride is an incredible family.
Dick Lundskow’s family were so gracious about their ride experience. It was an honor to have them celebrate his life and to fulfill one of the things Dick had wanted to do this year. Pete (Too Tall) Folberth was Dick Lundskow’s best friend. He has been a real comfort and help to the Lundskow family. He’s made it his business to fulfill Dick’s bucket list by taking his ashes along to the places Dick always wanted to visit. You are truly a dedicated friend, Too Tall. We are family.
Gold Star Dad Dave (Double D) Clemmons presented special E.O.D. pins to those who laid a wreath at the grave of his son, Brad last year. They were: Steve (Head Dog) Moore, Bill (Mongo) Luft, Tony (Squirt) Cunningham, Patrick (Jackwagon) Martindale, Jerry (Five Minutes) Connor, Jim (Slingblade) Grant, Kelly (Big Daddy) Rafferty. Supporting each other every day, we are family.
I’m going to end remarks here for now. We are so grateful to have safely made our destination. There will be more tomorrow and a few epilogs as we end a most memorable 2017 ride.
Tomorrow, friends. Thank you for following.


2017 Ride Day Ten (Friday, May 26, 2017)

Before adding today’s sit-reps, I’d like to mention again how grateful we are for the superb escorts we had in Ohio. It’s amazing how much safer and faster our ride is with the expertise of the officers who volunteer their time to see us through some dicey conditions. Sheriff George Lavendar authorized the use of county vehicles and fuel. Thanks, Ohio officers!
Well, we are on the last day of the ride. Our last rider’s meeting was held on the restaurant parking lot where we had breakfast. It was somber, but also joyful. It’s always hard when we get close to saying goodbye. A big topic was, what’s the weather going to be like? Big Daddy the weather guru, aided by his sidekick Mia, said partly cloudy with a chance of showers. The day ended up sunny, windy and beautiful. We’ll take it! Steve (Head Dog) Moore introduced Sara Carr, daughter of Kieth Carr, who joins Mia and becomes the youngest on the ride.
Missing man Coordinator Dave (Double D) Clemmons named Patrick Gordon and Tony (Squirt) Cunningham the Missing Man riders for today. The vehicle count was: 51 Bikes, 5 trikes, 1 trailer, five cages, the Ride of Pride and the chase vehicle. We are happy to report that a second Ride of Pride truck arrived this afternoon.
We love the ride down I 68. It is one of the most beautiful roads in the country. Spectacular rolling hills carpeted with forests, farms and old mountains, there is beauty at every turn. Our destination was the gorgeous Rocky Gap Maryland Veterans Cemetery. Pristine and so very peaceful and quiet, this space surrounded by mountains is something to see. Many volunteers were responsible for seeing that each veteran’s grave was decorated with an American Flag that waved in the brisk breeze. Mr. Mike Gregory welcomed us warmly and mentioned the importance of remembrance during this Memorial Day weekend. Laying the wreath under the direction of Coordinator Bill Luft were: Bruce (Almighty) Manner, Navy Cadet Zak Hendricks, Don (Quacker) Jenkins, Shelley (T-Bone)Jenkins, John (Sparkles) Jenkins, and Terry (Easy)Hoops.
A color guard was in attendance, gun salute presented and Taps played. I was honored to sing the National Anthem, laryngitis and all! What a great turn out we had! This is the 13th year we have been invited to lay a wreath at the memorial in honor of Memorial Day. Maryland Coordinator Steve (Head Dog) Moore introduced those responsible for organizing this event and distributed Certificates of Appreciation. This was a truly inspiring and beautiful stop.
As luck would have it, we had another breakdown shortly after we left Rocky Gap. Sheila and Ron Bly’s trike was experiencing difficulties, so we had to take it and them to a Harley dealership in Hagerstown. We hope that the problems with it aren’t serious. It was disappointing to miss the visit to Martinsbug, WV VMAC, another of our favorite stops, but gratifying to help riders in distress. That’s what we’re here for! So, after we got them settled at the dealership, we plunged through the horrendous traffic to our motel and look forward to Sheila and Ron joining us soon. The rest of the riders got in about 5:45 PM, just in time for a wrap up board meeting. Time to relax.
The 2017 ride has truly been challenging, but rewarding as well. Weather-wise, it’s certainly been the worst riding year ever. From heavy rain and pea soup fog, to, would you believe, a salt storm? That’s right. Near Salt Lake City heavy winds stirred up salt from the salt flats. At first, I thought it was snow, only to find out it was salt. Then there was the closing of I 80 because of Snow Storm Valerie, which caused us to miss some of our scheduled visits and put us off schedule. Once we got back on track, there were some breakdowns, two bikes in a fender bender, but nothing serious. So, amidst adversity are many blessings. Our riders were certainly up to the challenge, faced whatever the weather and road had to throw at them and forged on. We are so proud of them and thank them from the heart for their courage and commitment.
This ends the formal sit-reps, but I’ll be publishing an epilog for the next few days to cap off the trip. Tomorrow is going to be an emotional one. The Wall, special wreath laying, and the Tomb of the Unknown. Again. We appreciate your support and following.

Fondly, Julie

Ride Epilogue: (Saturday, May 27, 2017)

Today was a day of high emotion and reverence. We arrived at Arlington Cemetery seamlessly thanks to the special help of Steve, the operating manager at Arlington. Jerry (Five Minutes) Connor and Patrick (Jackwagon) Martindale were waiting for us and we were ushered on to the parking lot without a hitch. We have been visiting Arlington since 2005 and laying wreaths at the tomb since 2010. The level of cooperation that we receive is a testament to the high regard and respect in which we are held. Special thanks to Jerry Connor and all those he works with for being the catalyst that has enhanced our reputation. Thanks especially to our riders that are serious about maintaining and fostering the dignity and patriotism that this hallowed ground deserves.
A portion of our group accompanied Gold Star Family Dave and Brenda Clemmons to a special wreath laying at the grave of their son, Brad Clemmons. We were honored to do this. Wreath Layers were: Bill Luft, leader, Ron Patzer, Pete Folberth , Jim Grant, Terry Hoops, and Bruce Manner.
Others of our group went to the wall to visit, remember and honor our fallen soldiers. Many mementos were left, some tears were shed and lots of memories were shared. Tonight some of our people will choose to go to the wall and hold vigil all night, in remembrance.
From there, we boarded a private tram for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Our Wreath layers this year were: Dave Clemmons, Gary Croft, Dan Cress and Rich Behounek.
“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”
This is the inscription on the magnificent Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Its story is an interesting one and I urge everyone to Google information on it and the amazing commitment of the Tomb Guards. There are four women guards and we were very fortunate to have one of them direct our squad today. She was very impressive! It was noted that the Tomb Guards were asked to stand down during a hurricane and the 9/11 terrorist attacks. They did not do so. It is very rare to see such dedication. Our gentlemen did us proud. They were striking in their NVAR uniforms and performed their duty with solemnity and respect.
After the Tomb ceremony, we were off to another favorite stop, the DC Ramblers. The Akokeek Fire Department met us and gave us a grand entrance with lights and sirens “ablazing”. This is the 80th anniversary of the DC Ramblers. They were incorporated in 1937. They have been supporting our ride for 12 years. Mike Martin and his volunteers warmly welcomed us with a sumptuous meal. We were treated to the reading of a beautiful card by Miss Riley. Harry Ritter, Jr. is a 93 year old WW II Vet whose story of valor was shared. He was a medic and was honored with a bronze star for saving countless numbers of soldiers. He was also responsible for founding the Akokeek Fire Dept. Thank you for your service, Mr. Ritter.
Tony (Squirt) Cunningham introduced special speaker and Gold Star Mom, Jill Stevenson. She told the story of her son Ben. He was an Army ranger that served three tours in Afghanistan before he was tragically killed. The Book “The True Story of Ben Kopp, American Hero in Life and Death”, was written to honor this amazing young man. Jill attended an affair where the Ambassador of Afghanistan gave a speech thanking the Gold Star families who have sacrificed their sons to the war on terror. Jill, in turn, thanked the Ambassador for his gratitude. The Ambassador was so touched by her thanks that he invited her to the Afghanistan Embassy for dinner. His kindness made her feel that Ben did not die in vain. Jill is an excellent speaker who does so from the heart and we thank her for sharing the story of Ben with us.
The generous folks at DC supported our quilt and rifle raffles. A gentleman from The Wall Gang, Moses Pagan, won the beautiful Stucki quilt. I didn’t make note of the person who won the rifle, but will publish it in my last blog .Certificates of Appreciation were awarded. We thank the DC Ramblers for their continued support of the NVAR. See you next year!
I’ll be posting one more epilogue to wrap up this year’s ride.
Thanks for following.
Fondly, Julie

Ride Epilogue: (Sunday, May 28, 2017)

Well, here it is, the last post. The winner of the rifle was Denny Lewis of Evanston, WY. Congratulations, Denny and thanks for supporting the NVAR.
The sound of motorcycles fills the air as riders prepare for the Protest Ride. This incredible protest is brought to you by the United States Veteran, without whom protest would not be allowed.
The poem that we have been presenting to the Homes and Hospitals across the country is very appropriate for making this point. In Gettysburg, PA, Kris Koch saw a poem on a t-shirt and really liked it. It was called “It Is the Soldier” by Charles Michael Province. Kris called the poet and asked permission to use his poem for the NVAR to share with veterans. He not only agreed, but sent Kris a beautiful frame worthy print. She and Andy Toth had them framed and have been presenting them to places that the NVAR visits. I’d like to share it with you, as it is very appropriate for Memorial Day.
“It Is the Soldier”
It is the Soldier, not the minister , Who has given us freedom of religion.
It is the Soldier, not the reporter , Who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the Soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the Soldier, not the campus agitator, Who has given us the freedom to protest.
It is the Soldier, not the lawyer, Who has given us the right of a fair trial.
It is the Soldier, Not the Politian, Who has given us the right to vote.
It is the Soldier who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag, Who allows the protester to burn the flag.
Thanks Kris and Andy for providing this special gift for our vets. Following is Charles Michael Province’s information if you want to contact him for use of his work or any other reason:
Charles Michael Province cmprovince@gmail.com
Copyright must be visible if framing
The Patton Society http://pattonhq.com
And now for the hardest post I’ve ever had to make. This is my last blog for the NVAR. Bruce and I have decided to retire from doing the full ride. He has been doing the ride four ten years and me for five. We feel that we have to take what’s left of our years to pursue other things while we can. We will always support this wonderful mission and will perhaps join you for portions of the ride in the future.
Heartfelt thanks to the incredible riders from whom I have learned so much. You are strong, brave, kind, caring, compassionate, and good people. Also, you have proven that diversity in beliefs does not have to separate us. We are Americans first, brothers and sisters under the flag.
Please know that we love you all and will miss you more than you know. We are so proud to have been associated with The National Veterans Awareness Organization. We have certainly received more than we have given. Thank you for loving and supporting our Veterans and our country, and for allowing us to be a part of this wonderful movement. Via con Dios.

Julie "First Lady" Manner
Bruce "Bruce Almighty" Manner

2017 Ride - Supplemental Photo Resources:

Mac Henderson Photos - Bowman School (Auburn, CA)

Mac Henderson Photos - Legion Breakfast (Auburn, CA)

Northern CA Patriot Guard Riders - NVAR 2017 (Reno Fernely, NV)

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