2022 Ride Prelude: (Monday, May 16)

I'm pleased to welcome everyone to the 2022 NVAR. 
It's been a looong 1,080 days, and we're anxious to visit our veterans. I'm sure they'll be happy to see some fresh faces, too. The pesky pandemic is still with us and precautions will vary from one facility to another, but where there's a will there's a way, and we will get some forms of face time with our veterans.  
We hope all of you faired well, and it would be wonderful if none of you suffered the loss of a loved one from Covid 19. However, given the extent of the NVAR family and friends, sadly, the odds are not favorable for that. Our hearts and prayers go out to all.
Our world has changed since my last post, and yet, some things never change. A constant with the tick of time is mankind's struggle for life, liberty, and happiness. At one point in time, March 23, 1775, to be exact, Patrick Henry spoke to the Virginia militia in preparation to face the British. I know not what course others may take, he thundered, but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death.
Fast forward to Feb. 24, 2022; the mighty Moskva, flagship of the Russian Navy, sat off a rocky outcrop known as Snake Island in the Black Sea. An officer ordered thirteen Ukrainian soldiers to surrender, or face their wrath. The soldiers thundered back, Go F++K Yourself, (a favorite phrase from our dearly departed Brother, Trick, and now a battlecry for the defenders). The thirteen exhausted their ammunition, were captured, then freed in a prisoner exchange”and later, the Ukrainians then sank the Moskva!
The heart of a warrior holds such a weight of compassion for life and liberty, that there is no limit to their sacrifice for it. And to that, veterans from a multiple of countries traveled to Ukraine to join their fight as a foreign legion.
Two acts of exemplary compassion occurred as I wrote this post; former U.S. Marine, Willy Joseph Cancel, 22, was killed fighting alongside the Ukrainian military. He leaves behind a wife and a 7-month old son. On our home front; Bishop Evans, 22, grew from ranks in the Boy Scouts of America and JROTC, to a Texas National Guardsman with service in Kuwait and Iraq. Bishop Evans was on assignment at our southern border when he drowned in his attempt to save two illegal immigrants who survived and were found to be drug smugglers.
Men and women with such compassion, as those, we visit in veterans homes and hospitals across America, we meet them in many places along our journey, and we ride with them. To those veterans and their families, and those before them, we owe a debt of gratitude, and hold a responsibility to Never Forget.
Please join us each day on our ride from Sacramento to Washington, D.C.
May God Bless America, Bless our Military, and Bless the people of Ukraine.
Thank you & Never Forget
Mike "Track" Rinowski

2022 Ride Day One (Tuesday, May 17)

From across the land
they rode with intent,
it’s been two seasons,
you know they rode hell-bent.
Double-D left his ranch in Ohio, for the shore of a great lake, Headdog and his brothers, knew he wouldn’t be late. Westward the pack grew, while Buzz had his crew, with sons and a nephew, and Jerry, too! Late in the eve, in an old west saloon, Quacker and Speedbump strolled in, and they were not aloone! At ground zero for the ride, we met a Dean from Weed, a Wayne, an Ed, and a Fred, and a Whatabout, indeed.
Virginia City welcomed the westward pack for a long awaited reunion; and most of what happens in Virginia City, doesn’t stay there! The Buzz crew arrived in Auburn (Ground Zero) with time to tour: a few miles below Auburn, the fourth highest bridge in America crossed a gorge. The bridge is infamous for jumpers to hurl themselves off, to meet their end; despite a sign that notes an ordinance which prohibits jumping. The Buzz crew went on to visit a peace garden at the home office for The Forgotten Soldier Program (FSP). The FSP, a non-profit organization, was founded in 2005, by Donna Arz, PhD, with Robert Hipwell, Major General USV-A, Brigadier General USAR (Ret.) as president. The FSP offers unlimited services to veterans and their families, with over 22,000 assisted at no cost to the veteran or family. Please refer to their .com website for the extent of their services and support.
Board members, state coordinators, and countless volunteers across the country have totaled an excess of 1,001 hours in preparation for our ride, and with that behind us, the mission of the NVAR is rocking!
TThis year’s ride is dedicated to our Dearly Departed Brother, Patrick Gordon, aka Trick, whose slogan has become a battlecry for the Ukrainians: GFY, or Golf Foxtrot Yankee, or frankly speaking — Go F++k Yourself! The spirit of Trick rides with us.
Tuesday began as each day will, with a riders meeting led by our Ride Coordinator, Jerry Conner, who briefs us with particulars on the days events, the Ride Guard Captain, Patrick Martindale, will have words for our safe passage, and our Chaplin, Wayne Worden, will have words for our blessed guidance. Wayne, also the state coordinator, along with Kristin Wells, Principal of Bowman Elementary School, arranged for the first visit of our ride. In a packed gymnasium, Headdog, our Ride Leader, led all in the Pledge of Allegiance. It was great to hear the young echos in the gym. Then, Jerry narrated a slide presentation to explain the purpose of our mission, with time for some very good questions afterward. A flag raising followed in the warm California sunshine with the Star Spangled Banner sung by a member form the VFW. Our visit was not lengthy, but our message remained strong; to remember those who sacrificed for us, and to Never Forget.
Back at the hotel, Crazy Larry and Svien had shown up, a surprise to me! Larry was the past Road Guard Captain, and Svein, retired from the Norwegian Military, has been a regular on many NVAR’s, usually barefoot in sandals, but with socks this year. Go figure!
We rode through the heat of California sunshine and traffic without an escort to the Mather VMAC in Sacramento. Thirty five bikes stretched across a center lane looked more like a hundred, and traffic was considerate to our formation. John Larson, the director at Mather, welcomed us and gave us the low-down on Covid restrictions. Sadly, we would not visit veterans in hospital rooms. Masks were required on the property and the extent of our contact was limited to a common waiting area. Yet, we met with veterans, wives of veterans, and those who care for them. The veterans have a great appreciation for the cards from kids that we’ve collected from our support around the country. They write their thanks and get well the way a first grader does, and it just thrills the vets.
A Medal of Freedom was given to an Iraqi Veteran. These medals were give to us by the Vietnam Veterans of America for a presentation to all veterans we meet who served in the War on Terror. As the Vietnam Vets were not given a proper welcome home and thanks for their service, they want to insure that never happens to another veteran from any service to their country.
We lucked out with no delay on our ride back to Auburn, and found Rick Dyer, aka The Lion, who rode down from Livingston, as in Montana. Glad to have him as far as Cheyenne.
As usual, Sweet Pea’s Restaurant hosts our last evening meal, and a fine feast it is with selections of our choice. While we dined, Jerry had a long list of information to share for the ride we’re about to make, with Patrick taking charge to lay down the law for our safe passage across America.
And to that end, riders full from the feast, fill their tanks for an early ride to a hearty breakfast.
I hope you will enjoy the photos and follow the NVAR to Washington D.C.
Thank you & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Two (Wednesday, May 18)

At 6:45 sharp, we departed the hotel for the Auburn Veterans Hall, where the Auburn Jeep Club grilled breakfast: eggs, sausage, and the fluffiest pancakes this side of the Mississippi. If last night’s dinner hadn’t settled, yet, this breakfast would surely weigh it down.
California weather was ideal; clear skies and warm temperatures; an unusual start for the NVAR. After our fill, certificates of appreciation were handed out to representatives of the many who support our mission; the jeep club, fire department, police dept., American Legion Riders, and VFW Aux. We could not do this without their support. An addition to our regular riders meeting, Sweetness, aka Dan Kress, read tributes, with recognition to the loved ones they left behind. Army Chief Warrant Officer, Jonathan R. Farmer, Navy Chief Cryptologic Tech, Shannon M. Kent, and Scott Andrew Wirtz made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom. They are not forgotten.
Before our departure prayer, Wayne spoke of the crisis of veteran suicides at 22 per day: that means 220 will take their lives during the time of our ride. We must do more to recognize veterans in crisis situations and prevent tragedy. If you suspect someone in crisis, politely ask if you can help, or contact a person with a connection or qualifications.
We rolled out with more than 35 bikes, a few would return from Reno. Onto the Donner Pass and through forest we climbed. Near Colfax, patriots cheered from an overpass with flags and banners, and probably some hooting and hollering! Great to see them. At 4,000 feet in elevation we felt crispness in the air; but just enough to compliment the leathers. I didn’t even turn on my heated liners! Traces of snow laid on high east and north facing slopes, sure to be gone soon, with heavier patches in the shade of dense forest that will be a little slower to go. We crested Donner Summit, 7227 ft. elevation, in the best of conditions.
From the Boomtown gas stop, the Reno Motor Police escorted us through the city to the VMAC,. We were grateful for their support, and Reno traffic should be thankful for that, too.
From the Boomtown gas stop, the Reno Motor Police escorted us through the city to the VMAC,. We were grateful for their support, and Reno traffic should be thankful for that, too.
Glenna Smith and Joann Sarris gave a cheerful welcome to the 2022 NVAR arrival. The hospital was off-limits, however, for the first time since the pandemic began, a few privileged and healthy veterans were allowed outside, and quickly overwhelmed with greetings from 40+ riders anxious to meet them, from a safe distance, of course. Two medals of freedom were presented to veterans who served in the War on Terror.
New to the Reno VMAC is the Veterans Guest House across the street, with accommodations for 33 veterans and their families. It’s decked out with fully furnished bedrooms, dining area, living room, reading room, and an expansive kitchen, with a nice covered patio. A pleasant setting for comfort during stressful and anxious times. And for lunch each year, we’re treated to elk burgers, smothered in mushrooms and onions. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Our escort arrived on time and cleared a corridor for our safe passage to I-80, and east we rolled in the heat of the Nevada desert. Sharp dark shadows followed each rider. Two gas stops later we met our next escort for passage into Elko for dinner and social time at the VFW Club. Those people have been fantastic hosts for years beyond my time with the NVAR.
Three healthy meals and a day in the sun had taken a toll on all riders. Social time was short, as was the ride to the hotel. More desert lays beside our trail tomorrow as we roll to Salt Lake City for whatever surprise changes may be for our visit to the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home.
Thank you & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Three (Thursday, May 19)

Dawn cracked, and a little later we went out for breakfast, because the hotel restaurant wasn’t open. At our new breakfast spot, we ate well and had our regular meeting.
The day’s tribute was to Sgt. Cameron Medock, 26, who died 1/17/2019 from injuries sustained in Afghanistan. He left a wife and unborn child behind. He is not forgotten.
Wayne’s wise words spoke of the many veterans who needed help, and as an individual, the only way we can help them is, one veteran at a time!
Our ride started below an interesting arrangement of clouds, perhaps equal in area to the amount of crystal blue sky. All were dressed a little warmer than yesterday for a comfortable ride, another without my heat turned on.
The line for Mountain Time was in the same place as when we rode out; now one hour closer to my internal clock. We crested the hill at West Wendover for a marvelous view of the Great Salt Lake Desert beyond. Wow! What a wagon train, or lone cowboy, must have thought when they saw that!
Thirtysome Utah Riders waited at our gas stop, with Jayson Stephenson, aka Fatguy, the Utah State Coordinator leading the pack. After a quick reunion, the local police and fire department cleared traffic for our passage to our desert crossing on I-80. (In the mix of this, we bid farewell to Ray, Butch, and Mike, who had matters to attend to in Oregon. Their presence was a pleasure, and we’ll see them next year.) And so we rolled. Sixty or seventy bikes looks like a thousand to passersby, so we looked pretty strong out there at 79 mph! At exit 99, more riders waited, along with a dozen plus motorbike policemen to escort us through Salt Lake City; and that was a blessing. The moto-cops and auto cops maintained a rolling block over I-80 and I-15 for an easy ride through town to the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home. Those guys rock’n’roll around traffic!
An EMT vehicle with flashing lights, and a fire truck, with a flag on its extended boom, claimed an overpass to welcome us into Salt Lake City. (And the same would be on an overpass on our departure.) People notice the NVAR!
We arrived to the surprise of about two dozen residents waiting outside. (It was unfortunate that we could not visit more residents inside the facility, which is one of the finest, but safety comes first, and we hope for old times next year.) There was a bit of chill in the air, and warm blankets were wrapped around many. Bagpipers played tunes as soft as a bagpipe can for background music while we dismounted and swarmed over to greet the residents. On our last visit, 2019, Rick, The Lion, and his wife Carol, met Carol, age 101, and they were all giggly for the reunion. And I have a photo, somewhere, of Nora and her daughter, who lives part-time in Mpls and Florida. Nora, a WWII veteran, wanted someone to sing the National Anthem, and we were all happy to sing along with her in the lead. It was nice to have so many residents for so many riders to visit together, and we had two hours for leisure chats and ice cream snacks.
As the Ride Chaplin, Wayne made a management decision to award one of the residents an Honorary Membership in the National Veterans Awareness Ride; and that made his day a jolly one, which he will no doubt let everyone know about. We were missed the past two years.
Jayson and the Utah Riders were beholden to many, for not only this year’s support, but for last year’s, too. He had certificates of appreciation for everyone from the director to the maintenance guy, from policemen to firemen, and to the bagpipers, too. The NVAR doesn’t just happen, it takes many people many hours, with contingencies to prep for.
As U.S. forces withdrew from Afghanistan last August, thirteen soldiers died in a suicide attack. Jayson (Fatguy), and his riders, laminated individual cards with each of the soldiers names and personal statistics. On the back is star with signatures of riders who carried the card from Roy, Utah. He passed them to Jerry for the NVAR to deliver them to the Mid-East Conflict Wall and Museum, in Marseilles IL, where their names will be recognized and remembered along with their many brothers and sisters. RIP. They are not forgotten.
Bill Luft, aka Mongo, presented a Medal of Freedom to a young lady for her service in Iraq.
The nursing home has always had a creature of some sort hopping or crawling around during our visit; like the little kangaroo, and a turtle that looked as old as a rock, which was what it looked like when it receded into its shell. This year’s pet was a baby wombat, on loan from a petting zoo in Washington state. A strange looking critter, comfortable in a nurse’s cradle.
Dean Neeb, one of our champion road guards, doubles duty as the weatherman, and he came up with the threat of rain near our evening destination, Evanston WY. Some guys took a chance without rain gear, and myself and a few others dressed for the worst.
A lot of traffic came to a standstill as our escorts cleared for our Salt Lake departure, and barely a sprinkle splattered on our arrival in Evanston.
The first order of affair was a wreath laying ceremony, followed by the harmonies of young voices to sing Amazing Grace and the National Anthem. Well done!
And then it was time to eat!
Thank you & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Four (Friday, May 20)

The sun rises later and later.
After all the patriotism we see and feel across this great land while on the NVAR, we are stunned that such a lack of recognition could, and did, happen. After all that has happened; since the Vietnam War and then after 911, how could any veteran feel so, unnoticed, unwelcome, that they would be deeply and emotionally startled to receive recognition for their service?
We bid farewell to our Brother Rick Dyer, The Lion, of Livingston MT. As I write, he should be home having dinner with his lovely wife, Carol.
Our ride began straight into the blaze of a giant morning sun that crept into another crystal blue sky. Sharp dark shadows stretched out from the front and rear tires of each riders bike, and swayed slowly to the right and left as they swept through turns and curves. That was the best of it. The temperature began at 28 degrees, and through the day across 360 miles, it didn’t change much, but the weather did.
Most riders, like myself, dressed for the extreme with everything they had to stay warm and dry. Body heat stuck with me for about a half hour, and as I looked to riders ahead and behind, I admired their commitment and sense of adventure. I’d freely give any of them the shirt off my back, but my heated liners would take some persuasion!
Within the hour, we rode under a heavy band of cloud, and then it cleared at our gas stop in Rock Springs. The police, sheriff, and fire departments were together as our escort through town to flag line at the Archie Hay American Legion Post 24. For the past three years, or so, Mike and Kat Tipton, WY State Coordinators, arranged a hearty breakfast brunch; scrambled eggs and hash browns, thick country bacon, biscuits and gravy, and a selection of fruits.
Our morning meeting followed with an unknown as to restrictions at the Cheyenne VAMC. Since we will not be allowed inside, the weather will be the factor.
Wayne shared wise words, as usual, with the point being that as we improve our relationship with Jesus, we make a difference not only in our life, but in the lives of others.
The morning tribute was to Army Staff Sgt. Joshua “Zach” Beale, 32 years old, He was killed during combat operations during his third tour in Afghanistan. He leaves behind a wife and two children. Zach is not forgotten.
While a snow squall blew through town, we had time to check out the club next door. A very long wall presented artifacts, mementos, and items from WWI and WWII. Ceiling tiles were photos of veterans of those wars, with the NVAR banners among them.
It might have been 38 degrees for our departure, but that was not relevant, as most riders were toasty warm in todays wired riding apparel and heated grips. (Back in the day, truck inner tubes for leg covers and newspaper for jacket insulation did a lot less and a lot cheaper.)
From the gas stop in Rawlins, we rounded what was visible of Elk Mountain. The low clouds had most of it covered, and the wind wasn’t too awfully bad, or we’re just getting used to it! Somewhere out there, we blew through a bit of sleet, but only enough to say we did.
East of Laramie, we roared up the snow covered pass like we owned it. The winds picked up and our trail to Cheyenne looked, ominous. Our escort waited about 10 miles out of Cheyenne, with support for clear passage to the VAMC.
The weather was not fit for the fair or faint, or veterans with guarded health, but it was just fine for riders on the NVAR. We rode around the parking lots and made a lot of noise to let them know we were there. We will expect better next year. In the meantime, Mike and Kat will give a bag of ride pins and post cards from kids to a director to pass on the the veterans.
Steve “Babyface” Wiseman joins us this evening. Glad to have him back on the ride.
As you’ve read, or not read, I have no contact time with veterans to report. This pandemic and its lockdown continue to plague the nation. We hope it passes soon.
The fine members of VFW Post 1881 prepared a fine dinner to finish our blustery day of travel.
In the meantime; Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Five (Saturday, May 21)

After yesterday’s rain, and this morning’s 23 degrees, frost was not a surprise. My bike groaned as a new lithium battery persuaded the engine to start.
There’s a guy at the Fraternal Order of Eagles that loves to cook, and breakfast seems to be his specialty. Check out the cuts of ham! It’s like this every year.
Yesterday I spoke of the commitments these riders make. Each rider pays their own way for fuel, hotel rooms, and you know how little we spend on food. The ride and the mission are bigger than any one person. It’s something each is drawn to with a sense of obligation, gratitude, and fulfillment to such an extent, for example: after breakfast, Fred Young called Willa, his wife, with his phone on speaker, when Willa answered, everyone shouted, “Happy Anniversary Willa”, in honor of her and Fred’s 56th wedding anniversary. This was not the first anniversary Fred spent on the NVAR, either. There have been other such occasions spent by many in gratitude to those who served and sacrificed.
Jerry started the regular meeting with bits of info for the days events. He received news about our ride around the Cheyenne VAMC; veterans waved at us from each window at the front of the building. They were no doubt more disappointed as we were. Damn covid!
Patrick, aka Jackwagon, Road Guard Captain, hasn’t spoken in a couple of days, so I guess we’re all doing well. Dean’s weather report did not include rain, sleet, or snow, which is a good weather report.
Today’s tribute was for two Army soldiers killed March 22, 2019, during combat operation in Afghanistan.
Sgt. Joseph Collette, 29, of Lancaster OH. Shortly before being deployed, through out his house, he hid 30 love letter for his new wife to find. He left her and four children behind.
Sgt. 1st class Will Lindsay, 33, of Cortez CO was deployed five times to Iraq, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and four daughters. They are not forgotten.
Waynes wise word came in a story of our perception of aging; we’re never just five years old, we’re five and a half; we can’t wait to be 21, and at 30, well, we’ve crossed a threshold, and at 60 we want to stop counting, and at 99 we wonder if we’ll make the big 100. The point was that the decision in life are ours to be the best we can be and leave kindness behind.
We never have too many road guards, and it was great to have Steve, aka Babyface, back in the pack. This group of guys waltz their machines around the highways like Al Pacino controlled the dance floor in the movie “The Scent of a Woman.” They’re amazing to watch. Also, a return to the NVAR is Janette Lennox, who rode in from Greeley CO. Welcome back Janette.
The sun burned brilliant in another crystal blue sky, with the same shadows swerving from each riders bike. The thought of no inclement just made the day feel better, as long as we were dressed well and turned on, with heated liners, of course.
From the first gas stop in Sydney, I led a wreath laying detail on a unique mission, to locate the memorial for Kathleen Kintzele, aka Lovie. She died on the first NVAR. I did not have the privilege to know her, but I know those who did. Her road name, Lovie, spoke volumes of her character and personality. Major construction at the merge of interstates removed it, but from a photo and local evidence we found the exact location. On each ride, this detail parks beside the interstate to salute the NVAR as they pass by. Bill Luft, aka Mongo, the NE State Coordinator, will arrange a new memorial to replace the old one. Lovie is not forgotten.
We caught up with the NVAR in time for……you guessed it, LUNCH. Each year, the North Platte Fire Department sets out a tasty treat of Subway sandwiches; and this is a treat because how can we gorge ourselves with one subway,,,,unless we have two!
Riders of the Purple Fish Motorcycle Club, PFMC, of which Bill Luft, aka Mongo, is the International President, and other riders were there to participate in a wreath laying ceremony. The Veterans Memorial is exceptional, with an expansion to include memorials to the North Platte Canteen, and Lincoln County Law Enforcement Memorials. If you are passing through Nebraska, this is a memorial you will enjoy with heartfelt emotions of sorrow, gratitude, and pride for those who served and sacrificed.
Wandering among us, we met a veteran of the War on Terror, and a Medal of Freedom was presented.
More PFMC and a Police escort waited for us at the Kearney gas stop. An emergency came up, and the Police had to make it a quick escort, which we appreciated! Then, with great disappointment, we were not allowed into the Central Nebraska Veterans Home, or even have contact with them outside! This is such a beautiful new home I could boast about, but trust me, its nice and the residents love it.
Back in 2014, Don Jenkins, aka Quacker, befriended a resident, Donald, who could not follow in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter, to put it politely, but instead, he became an electrician. Don, as a retired carpenter on a scale of bridge building, hit it off well with Donald and visited with him on each ride. Since we were not allowed inside, Quacker gave a ride pin to an attendant to give to Donald, along with greetings and the promise to visit next year.
To fill time not visiting with resident veterans, we found their new Central Nebraska Veterans Memorial fascinating, and quite thorough with recognition to wars back to the Civil War. It ended with the Iraq War in 2011, and had three pillars for an expansion of memorials. (Is there an end to memorials?) This memorial encompassed a large area in a layout similar to the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C., with benches set on lawn and landscape; another site to visit in Nebraska.
Bill and Jerry returned with a plan; to ride onto the patio at the center of the facility raving our engines and blowing our horns. We were glad, and sad, to see the many veterans on the inside, smiling, waving, and pointing, but no human touch! This lack of contact and communicating face to face bothers us, and we can only imagine the isolation they continue to endure. Damn Covid.
It’s an honor to ride in the Missing Man Formation; a position directly behind the Ride Leader, Headdog, with the State Coordinator beside him. Beside the rider of honor, which was me on the final leg of the ride today, is an empty spot for the missing veteran no longer with us. Behind the rider of honor and missing man ride two more; all told to protect the missing man. Its ridden in a tight formation with lane changes made in unison.
We crossed a threshold in the weather world into something that held a sense of short sleeves and suntan lotion. Not yet, but there was a promise in the air!
With that, we rode straight to the American Legion Post 300 in Doniphan for dinner, actually, a feast that rivals only with turkey and Christmas dinners. They do this every year. Did I mention the desert bar?
Bill and his support from the legion, the Purple Fish, his association with the police and sheriff’s departments, his wife, Nancy, facility directors across the state, and more, all make Nebraska another great place to visit.
And with all that said, we’ll get our rest for more of our mission tomorrow.
To fill time not visiting with resident veterans, we found their new Central Nebraska Veterans Memorial fascinating, and quite thorough with recognition to wars back to the Civil War. It ended with the Iraq War in 2011, and had three pillars for an expansion of memorials. (Is there an end to memorials?) This memorial encompassed a large area in a layout similar to the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C., with benches set on lawn and landscape; another site to visit in Nebraska.
Bill and Jerry returned with a plan; to ride onto the patio at the center of the facility raving our engines and blowing our horns. We were glad, and sad, to see the many veterans on the inside, smiling, waving, and pointing, but no human touch! This lack of contact and communicating face to face bothers us, and we can only imagine the isolation they continue to endure. Damn Covid.
It’s an honor to ride in the Missing Man Formation; a position directly behind the Ride Leader, Headdog, with the State Coordinator beside him. Beside the rider of honor, which was me on the final leg of the ride today, is an empty spot for the missing veteran no longer with us. Behind the rider of honor and missing man ride two more; all told to protect the missing man. Its ridden in a tight formation with lane changes made in unison.
We crossed a threshold in the weather world into something that held a sense of short sleeves and suntan lotion. Not yet, but there was a promise in the air!
With that, we rode straight to the American Legion Post 300 in Doniphan for dinner, actually, a feast that rivals only with turkey and Christmas dinners. They do this every year. Did I mention the desert bar?
Bill and his support from the legion, the Purple Fish, his association with the police and sheriff’s departments, his wife, Nancy, facility directors across the state, and more, all make Nebraska another great place to visit.
And with all that said, we’ll get our rest for more of our mission tomorrow.

Thank you & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Six (Sunday, May 22)

As with each morning, blazing sunshine graced our trail under the brilliance of a blue sky. The temperature fluttered at 42 degrees with a promise of more. From the home of our past master weather man, Big Daddy, what else would we expect!
Our day began with another fine breakfast, of course. Then came our regular meeting. Jackwagon, our Road Guard Captain, finally spoke, although lightly it was with reminders, mostly. Passing gets a little sloppy and we’re sure to tighten it up, or he will tighten it up!
Sweetness, Dan Kress, read the tribute to three Marines killed on April 8, 2019 in a roadside bombing in Afghanistan.Staff Sgt Christopher Slutman, 43, of Newark DE is survived by his wife Shannon, three daughters, and his parents.
Staff Sgt Benjamin S. Hines, 31, from York PA is survived by his mother, step-father, his fiancé, and six siblings.
Cpl. Robert A. Hendriks, 25, of Locust Valley NY, survived by his parents and a brother.
They are not forgotten.
Wayne’s little story of the day spoke of hope and optimism, and the difference between them. Optimism is based on circumstances, and hope is based on faith. Big difference! His example went back in time to pre-JFK assasination when America was optimistic about the future, and post assasination America needed hope.
We roared into a rising sun to our first gas stop in Waverly, where we bid farewell to Bill Luft, aka Mongo, who had state duties to attend to. We picked up my sister and her husband, Amy and Tom, who would ride all the way to Council Bluffs, and return to their busy life in Omaha.
Bayless Park in Council Bluffs blossomed with fresh, lush growth of turf and leaf; which only means we’re closer to short sleeves and sun tan lotion. All gathered on the street before the memorial for words by a guest speaker. Unfortunately, my position for placing a wreath was beyond the range for my ears to hear Mitch Gutsy’s emotional story, which captivated all before him. He was with the Air Cav in Vietnam and spoke of triggers that brought back memories; some with a smile, and others man should not have. A moral to his story was to live life with a positive outlook; because so many didn’t live to see twenty years old. Mitch will send us a copy of his story for a post on this web site. I’m anxious to read it, and please check back.
After the story, the wreath laying, flag raising, and taps, lunch was served at the Masonic Lodge. Amy and Tom were impressed with the presentation, and with the NVAR. I hope to persuade them to ride farther next year. The NVAR set off across Iowa in an unusually light breeze. (as it usually blows with a gale force this time of year.)
A mile south of I-80 at exit 86, we were fortunate to meet Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II at Freedom Rock. When he’s not legislating for the state of Iowa, he’s painting patriotic scenes on rocks the size of a Mack tractor. Ninety nine counties in Iowa have these rocks, along with a more than a dozen in other states. We held a solemn ceremony with a bit of ashes of our beloved Brother, Trick, mixed with paint and brushed onto a scene on the rock. The ashes of many veterans are layered in scenes that Bubba has painted over the years. They are not forgotten.
Please visit freedomrock.com for information about a rock in your county.
Covid 19 has become the Damn Covid, and it shut down our visit to the Des Moines VAMC. We were not even allowed to make a drive-by through the parking lot! The D-Covid might have had something to do with the change in our dinner venue/sponsor/menu, also. However, it turned out to be a matter of serendipity; Patrick, aka Jackwagon, Iowa State Coordinator, and his wife, posted our need for food on Facebook, and the Puppy Jake Foundation was quick to respond.
For a 6 pm dinner, we rolled into a small industrial warehouse area in west Des Moines. (By now the temperature had risen to north of 50-some degrees, maybe 60, and some were in short sleeves!!!) The Puppy Jake Foundation (PJF) sign above a door had a couple cute puppies painted on it, which made on wonder at first glance. But, small letters below it noted “Training Academy.”
We met April Conway, Volunteer & Event Coordinator, and her staff, who gave a brief explanation to the academy, and things suddenly became very interesting.
PJF is a non-profit organization that works with dog breeders to obtain and train support dogs for veterans. It takes two years and twenty thousand dollars to complete training for a single dog. They keep no dogs at the academy, because foster families bring them into the academy for scheduled training, then return home to continue with training exercises. After a year and a half, dogs and veterans are profiled to determine special training for the dog; like one dog whose veteran liked to ride motorcycles, so the dog needed time in the wind, or a host of hearing, sight, and balance issues with its veteran. master. The sensitivity of a dog’s sensing its owners needs is a necessity it must fulfill them fluidly.
Once a dog is trained, they monitor and adjust training specialties as necessary throughout its life. The PJF has been in operation for ten years thanks to the generosity of donors from corporations to elementary school children, and one this evening from the National Veterans Awareness Organization. The PJF is recognized by Assisted Dog International, a top rated accreditation institute.
April, with her staff and trainers, do a fantastic service to assist our veterans. They also set out delicious dishes of the meatiest lasagna I’ve ever had, the cheesiest Mac and cheese I’ve ever seen, and piles of pulled pork. A big thank you to April and all at the PJF for their commitment to our veterans.
For more information on the PJF, visit puppyjakefoundation.org

Thank You & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Seven (Monday, May 23)

I think we’re in Davenport tonight, which means we started our day in Des Moines Iowa. Gary Croft, aka Mr. Wizard, and his wife, Nancy, aka Emerson, joined the ride. Mr. Wizard is the Illinois State Coordinator, and we always look forward to his ceremonies at the Mid-East Conflict Wall in Marseilles.
The Am Vets Post 2 has been in existence and helping veterans for 75 years. Many veterans were in the shade or fell through the cracks and didn’t fit into a proper category for assistance, but Am Vets 2 was there for them. The national Am Vets are the ones who have taken over Rolling Thunder on Memorial Day weekend in Washington D.C., which is now Rolling to Remember.
The Am Vets 2 has been up before dawn on each of our visits; cooking delicious breakfasts for as long as I can remember!
Patrick, aka Jackwagon, IA State Coordinator, presented a donation to Mary Van Horn, of Am Vets 2, but she returned it with the news; Am Vets 2 almost closed a couple years ago for financial reasons, but the good people of Des Moines would not let that happen. Their support grew like corn in an Iowa field, and quickly put them back in the black. Way to go Iowans!
Today’s tribute went to:
Sgt. James G. Johnston, 24, of Trumansburg NY, who died form small arms fire in Afthanistan. He is survived by his parents, and his wife Krista, who learned she was pregnant the day before James deployed.
Master Sgt. Michael B. Riley, 32, of Heilboronn Germany Special Forces, died from small arms fire in Afghanistan on his sixth deployment.
Green Beret Sgt. Maj. James R. Sartor, 40, from Teague TX, died from small arms fire in Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and three children.
They are not forgotten.
Wayne’s story this morning started our with a statement about Lawrence of Arabia, and how he felt so small. I lost a bit of the story after that. Like many on the ride, my hearing ain’t the sharpest. But I picked up on the point that in the vastness of the universe, we are not insignificant in the eyes of our creator.
The NVAR bid farewell to our Am Vets 2 family and quartered into subdued sunshine toward Marshalltown. I followed minutes behind, after a short phone in radio interview on behalf of Steve Moore, aka Headdog, President of The Wall Gang in Michigan City IN.
The courtyard of the Iowa Veterans Home, in Marshalltown, had been renovated since our last visit. This allowed us to park all bikes on the concrete walk ways for residents to admire and inspect up close. We were not allowed inside the home, but many veterans came outside, which they have been at liberty to enjoy in recent times. None had any complaints about being locked in.
It had been many miles since we enjoyed face to face conversations with the veterans, and they loved it. Naturally, most residents are from the local rural area; farm, fishing, and hunting country. So, naturally, a few boasted with stories of farming 341 acres, milking forty-four cows, and slopping a lot of hogs. They were proud and enjoyed the rewards of their labors. Northeast of Cedar Rapids was a good area for hunting, and fishing in the Mississippi was always a good day.
Among the guys were a few old Harley riders, of course. Andy, a Korean War Veteran, rode a 1950 Panhead, which he thought big and heavy at the time, and another missed his 1997 Fat Boy. He was in awe with my Fat Boy when I told him a bit of my story about riding it around Vietnam.
The renovations to the courtyard included and expansion of elevated gardens for the residents. Those who wish get an allotted bit of soil to plant whatever they want. There were hundreds of flowers, and a few tomato plants that will no doubt produce hundreds of tomatoes, and one resident used his allotment of space to build a miniature trailer camp site!
While we ate lunch, the director of the home made time to speak to us before his meeting with the governor. As a retired marine, three things in particular remind him of freedom; the sound of a bullet hitting its target, a jet engine, and a pack of motorcycles. He heard us before he saw us ride in, and he was thrilled for the residents to have our visit. He told us that during the pandemic lockdowns that loneliness, boredom, and depression were the biggest killers. He could not have been more sincere and grateful for our visit, and we shared his sentiments, completely.
We bid farewell to the residents, and motored almost quietly through the quaint village of Marshalltown. A town built by craftsman with an eye for detail. A town built to stand for all time!
Judith Johnson-Mekota, Director of the Iowa City VA Health Care System, welcomed our presence with a bit of sorrow; because as much as the patients and residents would love to have company, we were not allowed inside.
However, we had an hour and a half scheduled, and our mission continued all the same. As we visited with staff, we met at least eight who had serve overseas in the War on Terror. We presented Medals of Freedom to all, with a special pin for their wife, husband, or significant other who sacrificed, also, at home.
From Iowa City, we rode into Davenport without a police escort, but that was no burden to the NVAR. Our road guards wheeled into intersections to hold all traffic, to whatever color the light, to ease our passage to the Davenport Memorial Park. In the heart of the Quad-Cities lies this blessed and beautiful piece of Iowa for the final resting place for many veterans.
Tucked into a distant corner of the park, an honor guard lined both sides of the walk for the wreath laying ceremony, and an armed squad fired a 21 gun salute. Residents and legionaires were there to attend our ceremony. Among them was Mike Kline, aka Dirty Mike, and his wife, Gloria. Mike was a long time rider and state coordinator for the NVAR. Great to see him on a new knee and wish him a speedy recovery.
And from there, we rode to the American Legion Post 26 for an old fashioned farm house meal of meat loaf, packed with quality ground beef, blended mashed potatoes and gravy, salad, and tables of deserts of choice. Riders will sleep well on that!

Thank you & Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Eight (Tuesday, May 24)

A little more than a continental breakfast was available at the hotel; light but sufficient. The riders meeting was short with the tribute to follow: Specialist Michael Isaiah Nance, 24, of Chicago IL died from wounds sustained by an insider attack in Afghanistan. He is survived by his parents.
Pfc. Brandon Jay Kreischer, 20, of Stryker OH died from wounds sustained by an insider attack in Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and son he never met.
Gunnery Sgt. Scott A. Koppenhafer, 35, of Mancos CO, died Aug 11, 2019, after being engaged in small arms fire In Iraq. Scott is survived by his wife and two children.
They are not forgotten.
Wayne’s prelude to prayer analogy was about why a windshield is so large, and the mirror so small; we should have more attention to what is ahead in our lives than the past. He then informed us of a man he met that day who withdrew $200 dollars for his savings account to donate to the riders for gas. We met many such gracious and generous people. There’s an inherent need in us all to contribute.
I watched as the Illinois State Patrol escorted the NVAR from the hotel parking lot. It was 112 miles to their gas stop. Forty-five minutes later, after the radio interview, I shot off; fortunate all but one of the state patrol were on escort duty. Luckily, the odd one had his radar on the westbound lane! I made the gas stop in time to empty my bladder, fill my tank, and jump in at the back of the pack as they rode off to Marseilles.
The Canaryville Veterans Riders Assn. were there to assist with road guard duty for the two mile ride through town to the memorial. We appreciate all the help we can get. The weather was overcast with a breeze, but comfortable in the Mid-East Conflict Wall and Museum area. The rugged flow of the Illinois River provided a tranquil atmosphere.
As always, Gary Croft, aka Mr. Wizard, the State Coordinator, had the appropriate program for our ceremony; with thanks to his wife, Nancy, aka Emerson, for her advice to keep it simple. The ceremony began with the Pledge of Allegiance, led by Emily and Jaxon, aka X-man, Buster.
After recognition to the 13 slain Americans in Afghanistan last August, Mr. Wizard introduced his simple ceremony. Honored guests took turns reading names of service men and women, whose names cut into the wall behind them. Along with their names they spoke a little about their background, hobbies, plans, and not surprising, their desire to help the people in other lands to live free lives. They all had an inherent sense of compassion. A rose was placed at the base of each wall with the names of those recognized, with additional roses for others to place as they wished.
Mr. Wizard recognized the mayor, first, who spoke of his pride for the memorial, and then the caretaker of the museum, which is exceptional with personal memorabilia. The Canaryville Riders received a certificate of appreciation, also. The ceremony ended as always, with all in a hand-held circle, and joining in singing along with Lee Greenwood, “I’m Proud to be an American.”
The American Legion Post 235 prepared a lunch and a half, with a selection of deserts. As lunch wound down, Jerry recognized two special guests; Jenni Ori, for her long standing commitment and support to helping veterans and veterans organizations. Jenni was a charter rider on the NVAR. Virginia Proffitt, was next. She and her husband, now deceased, served hundreds of meals to the homeless and veterans in Chicago each week for 27 years. You read that right; each week for 27 years. That is a lot of compassion.
In appreciation for the years of support, and meals, from the Post 235, the NVAR presented a donation to the American Legion.
The Illinois State Troopers gave us a wild ride through South Chicago, clearing lanes like Moses parts water. They left us at the Indiana state line, where we met up with the Portage Police and fire department for an escort to the high school for a JROTC program. The school maintains strong support and interest in this program. Those young men and women put on an amazing show. What you’ve seen baton twirlers do with batons, the JROTC does the same with nine pound military rifles. Their timing and cadence skills are exceptional.
Our escorts led us through the neighborhoods to an easy stretch for the remainder of a short ride to the Michigan City Harley Davidson store. Michigan City is an unofficial ground zero for the NVAR, and the official home of The Wall Gang; two very committed veteran support organizations. The local police led the NVAR and additional riders to the Danny Bruce Memorial for a wreath laying ceremony. Danny was a local boy who sacrifice his life, so that three of his brothers in combat could live. The mayor spoke of knowing Danny in high school years, and on another ride, I met another of Danny’s friends. I was honored as a wreath bearer at his memorial on my very first ride. When I found out the province of his duty in Vietnam, that I knew rather well, I wondered if he had time to walk on the beaches near Da Nang, as he no doubt did many times on the shore of Lake Michigan.
After the ceremony, the reunion of riders, families, and friends continued until Jerry called for our departure. Due to construction, our escorts took us on a scenic roundabout tour to the St. Joseph Club for dinner; another feast of home cooking.

Thank you & Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Nine (Wednesday, May 25)

Michigan City is a family affair on arrival, with a family affair on departure; there are hugs and smiles at both ends, and we are well fed. A big cheer of appreciation to the St. Joseph Club for hosting dinner, and the DAV for breakfast.
As I mentioned previously, this year’s NVAR is dedicated to Patrick “Trick” Gordon, our deceased Brother. It’s been two years, and will always be deeply missed. Trick’s wife, Angie, has joined the ride to Washington D.C. From Michigan City, The Wall Gang dedicates the ride to a fallen veteran, and this year that veterans is Spec. 4 Allan Moore, who was killed in action in Vietnam on Aug. 8, 1970. His mother and sister were present to accept posters for the dedication. His mother’s sorrow is no less today. Allan is not forgotten.
Certificates of appreciation were handed out to leaders of our great support that we couldn’t do without; the police department, Karla “Clutch” Lloyd, the DAV, the cooks and helpers, and our leader Steve “Headdog” Moore.
Dan “Lugnut” Kuepker, the Indiana State Coordinator, gave us a rundown on his realm of arrangements. Then Tony “Squirt” Cunningham and Dave “Double-D” Clemmons, Ohio State Coordinators, gave us a brief on tomorrows itinerary.
Today’s tribute went to two soldiers sho lost their lives on August 21, 2019, while on a raid alongside Afghan special forces. This was the deadliest year for U.S. forces. Those heroes were;
Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35 of La Puente CA. He spent 17 years in the military. He is survived by is wife and two children.
Master Sgt. Luis F DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, of Chicopee Massachusetts, served more than 13 years in the Army, and deployed six times. He left behind his fiancee and three daughters.
They are not forgotten.
Wayne shared a story about God, the motorcycle, the road, and a point known to anyone who has rode a motorcycle. You haven’t really rode a motorcycle until you’ve rode in the cold, rode in the rain, rode in the cold and the rain, rode in the snow, sleet, and gale force winds, and rode with the sun on your horizon, into a magnificent sunset, beside some of the most beautiful scenery God’s creation has to offer, and rode with the best of friends. To appreciate the good you have to know and experience the not so good, the difficult and challenging times and conditions. It’s all part of the adventure.
Riders suited up for the forecast of rain. Final farewells were shared and our police escort led about 35 riders south on highway 421. (Tony “Token Squid”, Executive Director of the Gold Star Ride Foundation in from Mpls MN, has become a regular on the ride.) The rain was more of a nuisance than a real rain, although, cells of heavy stuff did swirl around, and there were a few hard core patriots along our route to cheer us on.
We arrived at West Central School the day after their last day! A few teachers and parents were around to visit and attend our flag raising with a new POW/MIA flag. After it was raised to full height with the recognition of a salute, it was lowered to half mast, with another salute in memoriam of the 19 children and two adults killed in a shooting in Texas school shooting. This is beyond tragic; and I leave this to you, with your own thoughts and prayers.
The rain cells passed and we rolled between rows of flags into the Indiana Veterans Home in West Lafayette. We circled through the main entry with revved engines and horns blaring, then received good news: we would share lunch with the residents—face to face, with facemarks, of course, and could shake their hands. Finally a bit of normalcy! Riders bumped into each other to claim dibs on residents to give them a ride pin, a card from a kid, and a star; but we did so, politely!
At the round table, a group broke into song, “How much is that doggie in the window,,,,,,,ARF, ARF,,,,,,WOOF,,,WOOF,,,,” That got a lot of laughs. Douglas, a WWII veteran, revealed the lines on his hand that showed he would have a long life. He will turn 99 years old in October. He is the last of his siblings, but holds the pride and honor of being a great grandpa.
Francis, a Korean War Veteran, from Puerto Rico, showed us wounds in both knees, but would have had to drop his trousers to show us another would, which we took his word for. Next time, I want to remember to ask him how a dude from Puerto Rico ended up in Indiana.
Wayne told us he was building a steam locomotive in the basement! That was something to wonder about. He led Headdog, Val, and me to the arts and crafts room where we gazed in surprise at the marvel he was assembling. As you see in the photo, his skeletal three driver locomotive was a work of art, and patience. Toothpicks hold the pieces together. It’s a work in progress, but a twisted rubber band will turn the drivers. Wayne is a crafty guy, and we’ll look forward to seeing it run next year.
We bid them farewell and after our gas stop, we laid tracks through Indianapolis without an escort. We didn’t get hurt, and didn’t hurt anybody, but we do miss those motor cops clearing all traffic from the freeways. Once through the city, we stopped for more gas, and ice cream. It was hot, and our destination, Brookville OH was only 85 miles away; a deceiving distance with a false sense of security!
Two miles down the highway, and to the south, a big black storm crept to the north to rain on our parade. The frontal blast was torrential. (I had to wonder, “This is a strange coincidence with Wayne’s story: God, the motorcycle, and the road!) Of course, we left in the sunshine and heat, so most of us were instantly soaked on the right side, but as soon as it came on, we rode out if it, into rays of hot sunshine, then back into a bigger cell. Oh what fun we were having. The good part about it, besides appreciating a hot, sunny, dry day when we get one, was that at least it didn’t rain while we sat at a standstill in traffic!
It was important to ride when at all possible, as motor cops waited for us at the Ohio border, and perhaps the rest of the police force waited in Brookville. They have allotted times to assist and support us and it was necessary to be on schedule.
The residents of Brookville line streets and wave flags. As our escort leads us on the scenic route through town, residents wait in their yards and driveways to wave and cheer us on. At the Am Vets Post, the fire department showed up with their tankers and a gigantic flag waved from an extended ladder.
Like in Michigan City, it’s another family welcome with many, many supporters in the area. We no sooner got off the bikes, and all had to dash into the club while another storm cell passed, but we were soon back outside for certificates of appreciation to “the usual suspects”. The VFW was present with a squad for a 21 gun salute. Then came dinner and social time.

Thank you, Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Ten (Thursday, May 26)

Rise and shine, cupcake! The schedule called for breakfast at 05:15. Cooks at VFW Post 3288 were in the kitchen at 03:00, and their time was well spent for a full house of hungry riders, to include the motor police escorts.
Brookville OH has a large and generous population with regards to veterans support, and Tony “Squirt” Cunningham, the state coordinator, had plenty of certificates of appreciation to hand out; the post commander, the cooks, the mayor, half a dozen police and sheriff departments, and a few absentees to pass out later.
Due to a reduced number of five motorcycle escorts, an officer briefed us on our routes and their methods of management; and to stay out of the left lane, as they will be full throttle back to the front of the pack.
The VFW made a generous donation to which Jerry replied graciously and explained the use of donations; new ride pins each year to hand out to veterans, the staff in veterans homes and hospitals, and many others who support veterans and the NVAR, like the police officers. It’s also used to supply fuel for our chase truck, which is donated and maintained by its owner, Ed Kintzele. The NVAO is a non-profit organization and donates to veterans and veterans causes.
Today’s tribute went out to:
Sgt 1st Class Dustin Ard, a Green Beret, 31, who died from wounds sustained in combat operations in Afghanistan, Aug. 29, 2019. He is survived by his wife and daughter, with a son born, never to meet his father.
Sgt. 1st Class Elis A. Barreto Ortiz, 34, born in Puerto Rico, was killed by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan on Sept. 5, 2019. He was on his third deployment. He is survived by his wife and children.
As we ride today, we will remember these men and their families. Let them not be forgotten.
In Wayne’s story before morning prayer, he presented an analogy of a parents promise, to their children at bedtime, to defeat any monsters in the night, as God’s intention is to be present to those he loves and protect them.
After all words were said, we dressed for a forecast of rain on our ride to Chillicothe. Once again, I dropped off for that phone interview, not once, but again an hour later, because I forgot we crossed into the eastern time zone! If anyone thought the rain would miss us, they were wrong, but at least it came down at a reasonable rate; not a monsoonal blast like yesterday.
The Chillicothe VA Medical Center was on a lockdown, and the best the NVAR could do was pass before the buildings with horns blaring and engines revving. Residents and patients looked out from windows with bittersweet expressions; thrilled to see us, and sorry we could not visit. But, we still let them know they are not forgotten, and we will return, again, and again.
The Southeastern School was next on our schedule; always an entertaining and hearty visit. Beside the entrance are memorials to five veterans who attended Southeastern, and made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. One of them is Brad Clemmons, son of Dave Clemmons, NVAR Pacer, and a graduate of Southeastern himself.
It was unusual that no students were outside to greet us; and a surprise was to be had. As we entered the school, hundreds of students, from elementary to high, lined the exceptionally long and high hallway, clapping and waving flags as we walked to the gym for a program. An echo increased the intensity and had everyone laughing. In the center of the long hall, adjoining tables reached about a hundred feet in length. We knew that after the program, the table cloths would not be visible.
Mr. Andy Graffis, the school principal, began the program with appreciation to the NVAR’s return. The band played the Star Spangled Banner, and an ROTC team presented colors. Student leaders took turns at the podium to share their recognition to our mission and its success. Dave, “Double-D” Clemmons, as Asst. State Coordinator, passed out certificates of appreciation, and then introduced Jerry Conner, Ride Coordinator, to say a few words. What followed was the band playing a Fleetwood Mac (I think) rock tune from about 1972, and that drew some cheers.
At this point in our day, on our journey across America, we received bad news. One of the riders who dropped out yesterday with a sense of unease tested positive for Covid. With that news, we went into an offensive mode. Eddie Shinn, the WV State Coordinator, contacted the Louis Johnson VAMC in Clarksburg, which was next on our schedule. In reply to our concerns, they requested us to come in for each rider to get tested. Four riders without symptoms tested positive.
We were stunned; how could this happen to us? But in the clearness of hindsight, we shouldn’t have been surprised given the nature of the new Covid variant, the size of our group, and the logistics of our journey; riders from across the country, traveling across the country. We tested at the first instance, and calls were made to facilities we had recently visited to inform them of the situation. We’re thankful the number of positives were few, none were ill, and we reached this late point on our mission. Riders who tested positive left the ride for quarantine and to return home.
The VFW Post 573, another with a longstanding association with the NVAR, was informed of the situation, and adjusted our dinner arrangements for social distancing.

Thank you, Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2022 Ride Day Eleven (Friday, May 27)

This mornining, crunched among my stuff, I found yesterday’s program schedule from Northeastern School. I’d like to give formal recognition to Master Sergeant John Wilson for the McClain Cadet Corps, who presented colors. Alli Robert, Student Council Vice President narrated the History of Memorial Day, with the bands performance of the “Spirit of America” to follow. Avery Barker, Student Council Secretary, narrated the History of the NVAR and Introduction of Ride Coordinators. Jordan Smith, Student Council President, gave benediction.
Also, among the photos, we were greeted with Dave and Brenda Clemmons 20th grandchild. Congratulations!
The other day, I noted Wayne’s story about God, the motorcycle, and the road; today is Part II.
It’s one thing to ride into the rain, and quite another to dress into rain gear, first thing in the morning, while sheets of water slide off the asphalt parking lot. A steady stream of droplets lit by streetlights shoot down from the darkness, with a constant splash of white noise all around. It’s all part of the adventure, and the mission rolls on.
The first stop is Denny’s Restaurant, with an owner thrilled to welcome the NVAR; so thrilled, he had to have a group photo. On this rare occasion, a menu is offered, rather than a free-for-all we’ve grown accustomed to.
Dan “Sweetness” Kress, read today’s tribute:
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, of Greenbrier TN, was killed Sept. 16, 2019 by small arms fire in Afghanistan. He was on his fourth deployment. He is survived by his parents, his wife, a son and daughter, and a sister.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, of Westwood NJ, died Dec. 23, 2019 from injuries sustained from a roadside bomb on his third deployment to Afghanistan. He leaves behind his partner, Jen, and a six year old daughter.
By the numbers, these daily tributes amounted to: 21 killed in action. 35 children left behind. 4 unborn children. 14 non-combat deaths. 2 women: one killed in action and one non-combat death.
Let them not be forgotten.
Today, Wayne read a poem, written by John Mitchum, and recorded by John Wayne. In so few words and verses “Why Are You Marching Son” makes powerful statements about battles from Valley Forge to the Alamo, Appomattox to Bull Run, on Flanders’s field, and from Pyongyang to South Vietnam.
Very carefully, riders rolled into formation and splashed over the hills beside foliage saturated form the tips of leaf to its deepest root. And when you ride in rain long enough, now matter how bundled and zipped you are, a drop of water is going roll down your back, or front, with more to follow. It’s just the way God planned it!
Members of the VFW, dressed in rain gear, lined the entry to the Rocky Gap Cemetery for a welcome. This is a beautiful location for the final resting place for our veterans; in a clearing of the lush grown between Appalachian mountains. The rain fell silent here.
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets had placed flags at every grave marker. The flags hung still in the rain. The ceremony was held inside the chapel with a flag line by the VFW. Outside, a rifle squad fired off a salute. After the ceremony, certificates of appreciation were handed out.
Back into the rain the riders rode! Cautiously through the hills and curves, and gently on the brakes for stop lights to the Martinsburg WV, VAMC. Unfortunately we would not meet with any veterans, but the NVAR made a grand entrance, anyway, with a tour around the building with horns blaring and engines revving. At the request of hospital staff, a second round of blaring was made to ensure we were heard by all gazing and waving from behind the windows. So close, yet, so far away.
Established in 1947, the Martinsburg VAMC celebrates their 75th Anniversary this year. The facility was built for 230+ patients, yet, after WWII they cared for 3,000 wounded Americans and German POW’s, with overflow housed in concrete block out buildings.
A large tent with tables and chairs was set up in the parking lot for our reception. Sarah Tolstyka, Director of Public Affairs, gave a welcome speech with pride for our mission, and pride for their anniversary and success with helping serve veterans. This facility is the only one in the country with mobile clinics, four of them. These beasts are like giant RV’s on steroids. They contain the most comprehensive collection of a populations needs in time of disaster. The vehicles will drive to local areas, or flown to others via planes, such as the Air Force C5.
We all recall the rudimentary M.A.S.H. tents Hawkeye and Pierce worked in on the famous tv show of the same name. The new M.A.S.H. tents are near the size of a football field, with hallways, the ever entertaining “waiting rooms”, offices, patient rooms, x-ray rooms, and operating rooms. They’ve come a long way with services and patient care.
After lunch, provided by the the auxiliary, it was back into rain gear for the ride to Washington D.C. to great relief, the rain slacked off, and soon stopped. More traffic flowed from the city; likely commuters, and those leaving the city to the hundreds of thousands of tourists and patriots entering. After days of waiting in traffic on 495, (it was really more like an hour, but stop and go, dressed in full rain gear makes it feel longer) the trail led to our final hotel in Alexandria.
It’s a great relief to arrive in D.C. after 10 days on the road. Riders were quick to check-in, and later step out to eat, then clean bikes and enjoy the social time.

Thank you, Thank a Vet & Never Forget

NVAR 2022 Day Twelve: (Saturday, May 28

We had a short riders meeting with caution to riders new to D.C. traffic, and reminders to the return riders. Our road guards will not cover our passage, and we must be alert to traffic and lights.
Dan “Sweetness” Kress decided one more tribute was appropriate to the agreement of all:
A suicide bomb attack outside the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan killed 13 service members one Aug. 23, 2021.
Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pidchardo, 25, of Lawrence MA
Sgt. Nicole L. Gee, 23, of Sacramento CA
Staff Sgt. Darin T. Hoover, 31, of Salt Lake City UT
Cpl. Hunter Lopez, 22, of Indio CA
Cpl. Daegan W. Page,23, Omaha NE
Cpl. Humberto A Sanchez, 22 of Logansport IN
Lance Cpl. David L Espinoza, 20, of Rio Bravo TX
Lance Cpl. Jared M Schmitz, 20, of St. Charles MO
Lance Cpl. Rylee J. McCollum, 20 of Jackson WY
Lance Cpl. Dylan R Merola, 20, of Rancho Cucamonga CA
Lance Cpl. Kareem. M Nikoui, 20, of Norco CA
Navy Corpsman Maxton W. Soviet, 22, of Berlin Heights OH
Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Knauss, 23, of Corry TN
That’s too many young Americans. Remember them.
Wayne’s final story to the riders was short and simple; it pertained to the thoughts and prayers of a soldier in combat; of his recognition that God is his savior.
It took a mile to shake off the night’s chill that remained in the air as riders rolled into our nation’s capital. Both vehicle and tourist traffic was light around the memorials. Riders secured their kickstands so not to sink in the grass parking lot between the Lincoln and Vietnam memorials.
The groups stalled slowly into the realm of the VietnamVeterans Memorial, aka The Wall. The east and west wings of The Wall stretched out with the grayed cut of over 58,000 names a slight contrast in the gloss black wall. There were few visitors down there, which offered a full panorama. As I mentioned previously, the Wall Gang dedicated their ride from Michigan City to Allan Moore. A poster of Allan, signed by all riders, was placed at the base of the panel with his name. He is not forgotten.
The Wall rises from eight inches at its tips to 10.1 feet at the apex. Under the cover of cloud or in the brilliance of sunshine, you become a part of The Wall; your reflection is absorbed by the names cut into it, and reflected from the space around them. At the request of Vito RAcanelli’s wife, Paul “Buzz” Neeb, placed Vito’s vest at the apex of The Wall. Vito was committed to supporting veterans and their families.
A photo of our Brother Patrick “Trick” Gordon, who the NVAR was dedicated to, was placed at the apex along with an NVAR hat.
They are not forgotten. Nor are over 58,000 men and women who surround them; and more continue to die from the affects of Agent Orange, a chemical used during the Vietnam War. Nor are the 22 who commit suicide each day. Two hundred and twenty two veterans, active and non-active, committed suicide while we rode across the country. We must do more to be available and to help to them.
Riders returned from their respectful visits to other memorials for departure to Arlington National Cemetery. On arrival, Jerry found a line of buses in our regular privileged parking spot, which an attendant quickly resolved.
First on the schedule was a wreath laying at the grave of MSGT Brad Clemmons, the decorated son of Dave and Brenda Clemmons, who gave all for his country. Surrounding Brad, are thousands of grave markers, and before many are friends and family of the fallen, many wives lay on blankets with a child, obviously there for the day. They are not forgotten.
A visit to the Tomb of the Unknown was next. Riders packed onto trams and listened to Arlington history on the ride up the hill. Veteran riders are well versed in this history! The format, for lack of a better description, regarding the Tomb Guard, the changing of the guard, and the placement of a wreath had changed.
The Tomb Guard now paced and changed on the opposite side of the Tomb. The placement of wreaths was no longer a ceremony; instead, visitors were given a flower and then moved into a line to respectfully place a flower about ten feet in front of the Tomb. This new procedure moved along well, with many positive comments.
More history was shared on the tram ride down the hill, and then it was off for an eighty mile ride through Virginia to the D.C. Ramblers new clubhouse for lunch. The D.C. Ramblers have hosted the NVAR for years before my time of a decade, now. They recently purchased, not just a nice clubhouse, but a facility with a pole building under which lunch was served.
And that ended the NVAR 2022. It began with known uncertainties, but ended with a level of success. We spent time visiting veterans across America, shared our mission to school kids, and paid our respects at cemeteries and memorials. Staff and directors of veterans facilities we only passed through with revved engines and blaring horns, informed us of the positive impact we made on the residents and patients. They looked forward to our visit, and we look forward to the next, more intimate, visit. In the meantime; remember the fallen. Thank a vet. Be an American worth their sacrifice.
God Bless the Veterans & their families, and God Bless America
Thank You & Never Forget

Mike Rinowski "Track"

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