2023 Ride Prelude: (Monday, May 15)

The Times They Are A-Changin’: a ballad by Nobel laureate, Bob Dylan, who has chronicled changes thru evolutions of recent generations. 
Change is more abrupt than evolution, which is a process of gradual development. To speak of each; since A.D. 25, a white flag has been the accepted method of surrender. All of a sudden, Russian soldiers can call the Ukrainian hot line, “I want to live”, for instructions on how and where to surrender! Since 2005, the National Veterans Awareness Organization (NVAO) has patiently matured. Technology will never change the mission of the NVAR.  
America’s history plays out across Ukraine in living color, and the darkness of death. Like our colonial patriots, Ukrainians will accept only one outcome; independence, sovereignty, and freedom. (A busy hotline favors a will to live with a victory for freedom.) From the will of our early patriots evolved the essence of our nature—morals, virtues, and principles, with faith, family, and flag centered among them—unique attributes in the world order!
Along with a healthy appetite for freedom, Americans have an inherent sense of gratitude for all who served and sacrificed for it. We are beholden to them. Those attributes, appetites, and sense guide the NAVR on its mission to give thanks to our veterans, pay respect at memorials, and share our mission with America’s youth.
Follow this patriotic ride from the daily sit reps, or tap on the 2023 Ride button for the Ride Schedule. You’re welcome to join for a day, or go ALL THE WAY!
God Bless America
Thank you & Never Forget
Mike "Track" Rinowski

2023 Ride Day One (Tuesday, May 16)

Riders laid tracks across America for convergence in Auburn CA, ground zero for the start of the National Veterans Awareness Ride, NVAR. Tony came from FL, a few from the Ohio Valley, the Jenkins clan from OR, Buzz and his Buzzards blazed through a blizzard in the Rockies, Duane-Dan-Larry burned in from San Diego, and a bunch of others from all points in-between. Buzz, at eighty-six years old, is on his 21st ride, and Elijah, at 15 years old, on his 4th ride with Grandpa MoRON, with a bunch of others in-between. An early estimate of 30+ riders joined for a reunion and camaraderie that are nothing short of “special”. Their bikes are loaded for whatever Mother Nature throws on our path; sometimes she’s gracious, and sometimes she’s thrown the foulest of elements. Regardless, we’re riders of the NVAR, and we’re on a mission!
Each morning before kickstands up, we have a riders' meeting with lots of important stuff we need to know. Below is an introduction to some of it. Starting tomorrow, we'll get into a lot of it.
Each day, starting tomorrow, will start with a good breakfast, and we are going to feast like kings and queens: breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. In the commotion of breakfast, a few riders stroll around tables collecting $5 for the 50/50 drawing.  50% to the Ride, and 50% to a lucky rider, which absolutely cannot be returned as a donation. (Each rider joins the NVAR at their own expense, and the National Veterans Awareness Organization insists the winner keep the cash.)
Jerry Conner, aka Five Minutes, Ride Coordinator, heads the meeting with a briefing for each day’s events, and other important stuff we should know.
Patrick Martindale, aka Jackwagon, Road Guard Captain, reminds every rider about the ride formation, protocols, and other important stuff we should know.
Dan Kress, aka Sweetness, fulfills a few important positions.
Safety is the #1 Priority, and Dan is the Safety Officer. He alerts riders to safety issues, and other important stuff we should know. Regarding that, a special thank you to Greg Bingaman and Stacie Bobeck, two specialists in trauma scenarios. They recently led an Accident Scene Basic Training Class for a large group of NVAR riders that gathered in Michigan City IN. They were refreshed with first aid procedures in critical moments, with the hopes of using those procedures as often as they use the algebra equations they were taught in high school!
Dan is, also, the Tail Gunner. He rides at the rear of the formation to assist any rider who drops back.
All ride leaders are in constant radio communication.
Sweetness, (Dan) also, reads a tribute each morning to honor men and women’s, acts of courage, heroism, and stories of selflessness and sacrifice.
Dean Neeb, one of Buzz’s Buzzards, is our weather man; and from the initial forecast, he’s going to have an easy job! (If I didn’t just jinx it!)
The last words in any meeting are the most powerful and most remembered, hence, Wayne is the last to speak!
Wayne Worden, aka Wayne, the Ride Chaplin, shares words of wisdom, stories with significance, and other important spiritual stuff we should consider as the miles pass by.
Bowman Charter School, in Auburn, is our first official visit. From a one room school house in the 1800’s, it has grown and expanded to an institution. Supt. Kristen Wells leads about 30 teachers in the education of 590 bright young Americans. The NVAR as seen students rise from K through 8th grade.
In the auditorium, Jerry entertains the youngest of the students with a slide show and stories from our rides across America, why we do it, and what it means to the veterans we meet. (The auditorium isn’t big enough for 590, but the older students have sat through enough presentations, and keep to their class schedule.)
Wayne speaks for the NVAR to further explain patriotism and the difference it makes to live responsibly and express gratitude to those who protect our freedom. After which, we all harmonized thru a Pledge of Allegiance.
Our presentation moved outside, in an orderly manner, for a flag raising by member of the American Legion Post #84, followed by all singing the National Anthem.
Then we sang a Happy Birthday to second grader, ?, and presented him with a cool American bandana.
Our nature evolves from youth, and what we see will often be more impactful than what we hear; or at least compliment it. What young kid is not going to remember the sight of a big pack of motorcycle riders, and then remember what they were doing, and why. Hopefully, as they pass through their grades, they will take notice of other people living everyday lives with the attributes, appetites, and sense of gratitude; exemplifying what the American Way is all about.
At 12:15, we met for a brief meeting:
Then we rode to the Mather VAMC. Our 30+ bikes looked like 50+ bikes, (the sight is always deceiving to the actual numbers) but we looked good. Road Guards had command of the formation on the long descent of I-80 into Sacramento. California drivers are accustomed to this, and we hold a mutual respect; we all have places to be and we’ll play nice together!
Riders rolled into Mather and a welcome from the director and associates. After a brief reception, certificates of appreciation were handed out.
Mather is a 60-bed state of the art inpatient facility and research laboratory. They offer a wide range of outpatient and diagnostic services, also.
Fortunately, small groups of riders were allowed into the hospital for intimate visits with the patients and residents. It had been three years since we had this kind of contact with them, and all were happy to see us, and likewise from the NVAR.
Time always runs faster during our visits, and too soon, our time was up. We bid farewell to a wonderful reception and visit, until next hear.
Back at the Rodeway Inn, the governing body of the National Veterans Awareness Organization, NVAO, invited all riders to their annual board meeting.
It begins with typical reports that must be spoken, for the record, then turned to details of the ride; reminders to particular situations or events on any given day, possible scenarios to prepare for, and other important we should know.
Across the highway, Sweet Peas Restaurant hosts the annual Tuesday night feast. Their menu offers riders with choices, all with sizable portions. Chatter fills the room, while riders take turns for a brief introduction. After which, Jerry assumes Master of Ceremony duties. Since the board meeting, only an hour ago, there’s more important stuff to hear.
He had a full page, or two, with details pertaining to ride protocol, visitations, events, and standard procedures. It’s always good to be reminded of things to keep them in the forefront of thought, or handy for recollection!
Jackwagon reminded everyone about formation protocol, and the best way to stay on his good side is to “follow the bike in front of you!”
Wayne read captions for photos in an e-mail that made the rounds many years ago, now, but the words hold true. They were great reminders for communications with soldiers and veterans; little gestures make a big impact.
Covid 19 remains a serious threat, and veterans in homes and hospitals are among the most susceptible to become infected. Yet, they suffer immensely from the isolation. More than anything, they need face to face communication and the human touch to know they are not forgotten.
We’re optimistic about more intimate visitations this year, but decisions may change day to day. One thing that will not change from last year; only riders who have been vaccinated will be allowed into VA Homes and Hospitals. We have an inventory of Covid tests kits, and during the ride we will test ourselves. Anyone who tests positive must leave the ride.
War on Terror Medallion
Our Vietnam Veterans returned to a shameful reception, one that America came to regret. Those Vietnam Veterans vowed that would never happen again to a veteran who returned from duty.
The Vietnam Veterans of America, VVA, had a medallion made for presentations to veterans who returned from the War on Terror. The National Veterans Awareness Organization purchases hundreds of them for presentations to veterans we meet during our ride
We meet veterans in all sorts of places and times, and when a rider meets a veteran, he calls other riders over for introductions to us, and our mission; including the medallion. A presenter will read aloud from the palm-sized and weighty medallion; on one side, “Ever Vigilant – Freedom Is Not Free”, and on the other side, “Global War on Terrorism – U.S. Veteran – America Thanks You.”
The rider then hangs the red, white, and blue lanyard on the shoulders of the veterans. These unexpected events are often emotional for the veteran, and riders.
But that’s not all!
While those veterans answered a call and stood in harm’s way for freedom, a family waited for their safe return. For their significant others, we have pins of recognition as a small token of appreciation for their sacrifice, also.
The Ride Pin
Smaller than the medallion, the NVAO has a new ride pin made each year. Each rider is given a handful of pins throughout the ride, each pin is in its little sealed plastic bag, then kept in any one of a riders nine pockets! They are presented with an equal weight of thanks and appreciation to veterans we meet everywhere, to their care takers in homes and hospitals, to our police escorts, and to many others who support the NVAR and our veterans. Each year we meet many patriots with a collection of pins on their hats, caps, and uniforms.
A rally cry closes the meeting.
Unless there is a noise restriction, no visit is over until we hear the rally cry from Headdog.
He shouts, “How far are we going?”
Riders reply, “All the Way.”
“How Far?”, He shouts, again.
Riders reply, “All the WAY.”
Headdog screams, “HOW FAR?
From a deep breath, the riders reply, “ALL THE WAY.
Before I sign off; thanks to Bill and Nancy Luft and the Purple Fish in Grand Island NE. The reception they give to a dozen-plus riders each year is something to brag about: great company, lots of good food, and a place for everyone to sleep, and breakfast!
And a Thank You to frequent NVAR riders Rich and Donna Behounek in Cheyenne. They understand our schedule and have a mid-day lunch ready for us to eat and run.
And finally, a shout out to Don & JoEll Jenkins, aka Quacker and Queen Bee; two of Oregon’s proudest residents. (A rumor says their ancestors were the first ones to welcome Lewis and Clark to Oregon, and taught’em crabbing Coos Bay!)
It would take about three months to see and enjoy all that Oregon has to offer, and for months, Don and JoEll worked diligently to host a three-day NVAR Reunion, last September. About a dozen riders live around Roseburg, and with families, the headcount reached around 40. There were extra motorcycles for some who didn’t bring one, and Don’s cousins caught, cooked, and boiled fresh fish and crab for an endless feast; so much that some took feasts home.
The reunion was memorable in all regards, and the hospitality was outstandingly excellent.
Well done, Quacker and Queen Bee.
Thank you & Never Forget - Mike (Track) Rinowski

2023 Ride Day Two (Wednesday, May 17)

Anxiety vibrates through the morning air: today we ride. Riders pack up and dress up for the first of many miles on our mission; but first—breakfast!
The guys from the Auburn Jeep Club fired up the grills as we rolled into the parking lot of the Auburn Veterans Hall.
While the grills got hot, we held a brief riders meeting.
Jerry, our Master Ride Coordinator, spent one minute on our departure; tour through Old Town Auburn with and escort, and pass through the drive of Bowman Charter School. Then a briefing on meeting our Reno Police escort at the first gas stop.
Patrick, our fearless Road Guard Captain, threw out the number one rule; follow the bike in front of you!
Dan, Sweetness, gave the first tribute:
Henry “Mitch” Mayfield, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army at 23 years old. He was assigned to a unit at the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya—a long way from his home in Chicago. During the past Christmas season, he told his mother that he was 150 miles from the border with Somalia, and that he would be OK. Those were the last words he spoke to her.
On January 5, 2020 the terrorist group, al-Shabab, attacked his base with mortars and small arms. Mitch died in its defense. Along with his parents, he is survived by eight siblings.
To Spec. Henry “Mitch” Mayfield, Jr., and his family, we hold a debt of responsibility and gratitude.
Dean, our weather man, brought the best news we’ve heard in Auburn in many years; there would be no rain, no snow, no high winds, no clouds, and for a few miles, the temperature would be in the 50’s.
Wayne, the Chaplain, shared a poem, “It Is The Soldier”, not the minister, nor the reporter, or the poet, not the campus agitator or lawyer, or even the politician who gives us our freedom and rights. It is the Soldier who serves beneath the flag, and who’s coffin is draped with the flag.
The guys from the jeep club were cracking eggs, flipping flapjacks, and sizzling sausage, and the line formed. The 50/50 drawing was held during breakfast, and one of Buzz’s Buzzards walked from breakfast with over $100. Consolation prizes were less grand, but winners none the less: the rest of us walked away not hungry!
There are a lot of people who commute to work through Old Town, and they “patiently” waited behind blocked intersections while we passed through. There were fans gathered with cheers of support.
A mile up the highway we passed through Bowman, beside all 590 kids with flags and screaming cheers, and without stopping, we rolled onto I-80 East.
Not everyone can make our kind of ride, consequently, the NVAR represents thousands of people across America who support us in a multiple of ways. Recognition holds meaning, and from the first few overpasses, fans of the NVAR cheer us on with flags and banners.
And then, we depart one world, and roll into another. This is different than the ride to the Sacramento VAMC. Now, we’re headed east, loaded for the journey. We’re riders of the NVAR!
The formation twists through forest as it ascends the Donner Pass. At the head of the formation is Headdog, aka Steve Moore. He’s in a group of five known as the Missing Man Formation, originated in WWI. This group rides side by side, tighter than the staggered formation behind them, and it moves in unison. Riders are invited to rotate through an honored position behind Headdog. It’s known as riding the Missing Man, with an empty slot beside it that represents the veteran no longer with us. Tight behind that slot are Quacker, the Missing Man Coordinator, and Jerry.
Jackwagon and the Road Guards ride behind the lead group, convenient to break out and throttle ahead for traffic control and a safe entrance at our next stop. While in route, some Road Guards hang back with Tail Gunner. Across long stretches of highway, that Road Guard creeps up the formation, and expects an alert response from every rider.
Slightly behind the Road Guards the Pacer leads the riders. He sets the pace for the pack, hence the name - Pacer! Riders maintain a staggered formation behind him, of course! Motorcycles first in the formation, followed by trikes, then other configurations and contraptions, and finally, the Chase Vehicle with a trailer at the rear, ahead of the Tail Gunner. The Chase Vehicle, driven this year by Mike and Kat (Thank You), pulls the merchandise trailer with NVAR tee shirts, patches, hats, and other stuff for sale, and doubles as a rescue trailer for any rider and their broken bike. No one is left stranded. They will haul rider and bike to a shop, and return to the ride.
Notably missing at the back of the pack this year, in the trike section, is Uncle Sy, and Lugnut, with one of his Kawasaki Cavalcades. We’ll miss Uncle Sy’s endless humor and one Cavalcade or the other roaming through the pack. We look forward to their return.
(A side note on formation riding; riders who go ALL THER WAY, from Sacramento to D.C., put a sticker on the rear of their bike. This gives them the privilege of riding in the front of the formation. Anyone who joins after California must respectfully ride behind those with a sticker.)
It’s the first big ride of the year for many, yet, as seasoned NVAR riders, we looked good. Traffic was light, and fortunately, the one lane for construction was going down the Donner! And all roll with a steady throttle. It was strange to be dressed light. We passed elevations signs; 2,000 ft, 3,000, 4 K, and we rolled into a fresh air, slightly crisp in brilliant sunshine, but I never considered turning on my heated liners.
The scenery was awesome; scattered mountain horizons deep green pine, rugged gray rock, and a raging stream pulled and pushed to sea by—gravity! Brilliant white snow covered the highest peaks, and not so brilliant snow lay in a melt across the forest floor. And the NVAR roared on.
At the gas stop, we made two presentations to veterans who served in the War on Terror. The first was to a sturdy young man who would have had to kill us if he told us where he was and what he did. We respected his position and made the presentation. The other was to one of the Reno Police Officers, who survived being shot, twice!
After a brief from the lead officer, we rolled safely across and empty I-80 into Reno, where squad cars and officers blocked traffic for prompt passage to the Reno VAMC. These guys have done a fantastic job of getting us in, and then out, promptly and without incident, and the residents of Reno can be thankful for that, as we are.
The Reno Patriot Guard stood tall with a flag line at the entrance to the VAMC. That recognition and support really means a lot to us: we’re all for our veterans. Thank you.
The Ioannis A. Lougaris VAMC, sits on a 13-acre campus in the heart of Reno. It’s had multiple upgrades since 1939, with the recent addition of a sort of Ronald McDonald house across the street for patients’ families’ accommodations. Last year they served roughly 40,000 veterans.
Joann, Director of the VAMC, gave us a welcome as warm as the sunshine. (We had arrived in near freezing rain so many years, this was like, awesome!) We couldn’t go into the hospital, but they brought many veterans outside, where canopies had been set up for shady visits!!
Some of the riders grabbed the controls of some in wheel chairs, and set out on a tour/race. The patients were all happy to have been getting outside often. One of them, Randy, looked forward to going home in three weeks, and planned to modify a trike to accommodate his handicap, and his wife was all in for that.
Wayne had a hundred hand written cards from elementary school children to pass on to our veterans. We’ve had these cards in the past from other school kids, and the veterans really like them. One patient, Mary Cynthia, was overjoyed when she was given a card, at random, to find it signed by one, Mary C.
Yokiko is one adventurous, energetic, and intelligent woman, from a lineage that reaches back to 1344 England; and not just simple peasants, but rather freedom fighters in their own right. After Columbus and the Mayflower made their sails, her ancestors were involved in organization of the 13 colonies. Through successive generations were fighters, and eventually, veterans.  In her long illustrious Air Force career, she trained as a combat parachuting medic, who was not allowed to serve in combat because she was a woman. Then changed direction and studied military veterinary services (she loves animals, and they love her). Yokiko loves motorcycles too, and tucked her infant daughter into her leather jacket for rides; and now her daughter is a Lt. Col, and mother herself! Yokiko is also a liaison with the VA centers and veterans.
We could have listened to her stories all afternoon, but the guys came back from their wheelchair tour/race, and our time in Reno had come to an end. Here, we bid farewell to a half-dozen riders who had another life to return to in Auburn and Oregon
Oh! In the mix of visits and races, we feasted on delicious elk burgers with all the trimmings. Thank you, Ms. Sy.
A stretch of Reno traffic came to a halt for our guided departure, and we were back on I-80. Thank you, Reno PD.
As we cross northcentral Nevada, we cross a planetary landscape. Unlike the central and eastern U.S., the west reveals the nature of planet earth with bare rugged mountain, monumental hills, spacious and sprawling basins and valleys, sheets and layers of earth crust busting through. Out there, I saw a road that headed to the middle of nowhere, I knew that because it was unmarked and disappeared into a kind of nothingness, and I was curious. Another time, perhaps!
I wonder what the other riders think about?
After a couple of gas stops, the Elko Police Department and riders from VFW Post 2350 led us on a grand entrance to the Post for dinner and social time. I imagine such spectacles are few and far between on this part of the planet. The VFW has been a long-standing support for the NVAR and we do appreciate it. Thank you.
It’s been a fantastic day of riding with a great overdue visit with the veterans in Reno. We always look forward to our visit tomorrow at the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home.
Thank you & Never Forget - Mike (Track) Rinowski

2023 Ride Day Three (Thursday, May 18)

The business day for local shop owners and ranchers in Elko NV, starts at the Coffee Mug Restaurant, a block off the main drag; and so, it starts for the NVAR, too. We filled both sides of two long tables and consumed gallons of coffee, dozens of eggs, a ton of hashbrowns, ten loaves of bread, and they had peanut butter for the toast! (Well, the coffee and peanut butter are pretty accurate!)
On such a beautiful morning we had our riders meeting outside in warm sunshine.
Jerry and Patrick had little to say. Our routine is routine to most riders, and some quick reminders quickly ended their output of important stuff.
Dan read the tribute;
Ian P. McLaughlin, of Newport News VA, joined the Army at 29 years old. In 2019, he bid his family a farewell for duty in Afghanistan. No doubt, he would miss them every day.
Miguel A. Villalon, at 21 years old, was in the prime of his life. He left his parents and two brothers in Joliet IL to join the Army in 2018.
A sense of duty to country, and a shuffle of paperwork, brought these two men together for their first tour of duty at the Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan. Tragically, it was their final deployment; their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device.
To Staff Sgt. Ian P. McLaughlin, his wife and four children, and to Pfc. Miguel A. Villalon, his parents and two brothers, we hold an eternal debt of responsibility and gratitude.
Dean, our fantastic weather guy, kept up with the good news: sunshine and warm temperatures.
Wayne read The Farmers Prayer: The farmer said grace – Lord, I hate buttermilk, I hate lard, and I don’t care much for white flower. But mix them up together, and he loved the biscuits. Whatever you’re experiencing in life may just be an ingredient for something wonderful. Stick with it and keep the faith.
From out of nowhere, or the middle of nowhere, Trevor showed up in Elko NV, from IN. Great to see him again, and welcome him to Road Guard duty.
And riders of the NVAR rolled. Snow capped the mountains, and clouds were brilliant in a deep blue sky, with desert air that was barely crisp. Sage and prairie grasses were about as green as they will be for the year. The highway lanes stretched before us like rails, and somewhere out there was the middle of nowhere!
110 miles down the road, the Great Salt Lake Desert laid out like the barren expanse it is. The gambling mecca of Wendover sits on the Nevada side, where we met up with Jason, “Fat Guy” and about 40 Utah Riders. His social club has been an advocate for veterans and supporters of the NVAR for many years, and it’s always a grand reunion in the mecca parking lot. After a brief meeting of reminders we hear every year, we rolled onto the expanse.
It was a pleasant day on the desert; unlike many rides with gale force winds that knocked us around like pinballs. Might have been about 70 bikes, but to passing drivers it was like miles of bikes.
On the Utah side of the expanse, we gassed up and met our escort; at least 30 of Utah’s finest motor cops; Harleys and other nice-looking bikes. Jason made a final briefing, and we were off. We hit the highway with the motor cops in command. It’s amazing to watch those guys work: the commander at the front of their formation calls over the radio for the number of cops he needs to block on-ramps, the cops peel from their formation to do so, and when we’ve cleared that ramp, they blast past us at a hundred miles per hour to retake their place in their formation to do so again, on command. Not a car or truck got close to our formation as we rolled steady through interchanges and the main drag through east Salt Lake City, to the Utah State Veterans Nursing Home.
Residents of the William E. Christoffersen Salt Lake Veterans Home stared in wonder and anticipation as we packed the parking lot with motorcycles. This facility opened in 1998 as a skilled nursing facility that focused on residents’ quality of life. It has 81 beds, 39 double occupancy rooms, 3 private rooms, two wings upstairs, and a memory care downstairs, and often strange critters hopping or crawling around; like the kangaroo and Galapagos sized turtle in years past.
As we circled the lot to park, I spotted a friend from years past, and was quick to drop my leathers and meet her. Noma was thrilled to be remembered, and quick to tell me she was 102 years old now; and still witty. She was a recruiter in WWII and a liaison for placement of other women in the Army. Noma’s friend, Marlyn was the wife of an army veterans, now passed, but had twin sons, both Lt. Cols. As twins, they messed with a lot of people in their younger days, including their mother.
We weren’t allowed inside, but the staff brought many residents outside. The entry and tents provided a comfort of shade. Motoring around was the biggest trouble maker in the home, so Robert claimed for himself. He was a Navy photographer who loved his job. He loved riding motorcycles, too! Somebody warned him about the maintenance. He dated his ancestors to around 1200 in of old Harleys, so he stuck with the Honda 750’s, and he had a few in his younger days.
Due to Covid, lunch on the patio was out, and a very long line moved slowly to a barbeque vendor brought in for the visit. Riders said it was excellent, and ice cream the staff passed out was a cool treat for residents and riders, too.
This is always a great visit, and I hope to meet Noma at 103.
The heat of the parking lot was deceiving, and clouds over the mountains ahead of us looked a bit threatening. Unlike many with tee shirts on, I put on my leathers, and was still chilled at elevation with a bit of rain. Our escort broke off at the top of the pass and returned to whatever city they served. A great bunch of cops we’re grateful to.
Another escort led us into Evanston WY. First on the agenda was a Wreath Laying Ceremony, Led by Commander, and four riders. A high school choir then sang the National Anthem. Great to have their involvement.
Around the corner from the memorial, VFW Post 4280 hosted social hour and yet, another feast of roast beef and potatoes, with greens and a salad.
It was another fulfilling day with joy shared at the Utah Nursing Home, and the reunions with the Utah Riders, and the fine folks at the VFW. We look forward to doing it all again, but first, and next, is a visit to the Cheyenne WY VAMC, tomorrow.
Thank you & Never Forget - Mike (Track) Rinowski

2023 Ride Day Four (Friday, May 19)

We had two riders’ meetings this morning, and neither was very long. The first one was at the hotel with important information about our arrival in Rock Springs; we gas up and pick up our escort to breakfast.
We rolled straight into blinding sunshine, with just a tinge of a chill in the air. An electronic info sign warned us of fog for 20 miles. It laid mostly in the lows of the earthly landscape; like the great valley at mile marker 25. Just past that, at mile marker 40, a gigantic drag line piles mountains of excavations for mining; its bucket is so large that it actually moves a part of Wyoming with each drag!
The fog began looking dirty? At the next stop, we got news that the dirty fog was actually smoke from fires in Canada! (At this time of the year???? Are they trying to melt the snow??)
The second meeting was after breakfast.
Kat gave us the procedure on arrival in Cheyenne; no escort to the VAMC.
Patrick repeated all the formation protocol!
Dan gave us the day’s tribute:
Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez and Sgt. 1st. Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, both 28 years old, and both enlisted in 2009. Javier grew up in a sea breeze over Jacksonville NC, and Antonio looked over a sea of sagebrush around Las Cruces NM. Both men were assigned to a Special Forces Group in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.
On February 8, 2020, an individual in an Afghan uniform, armed with a machine gun, opened fire into a crowd of U.S. and Afghan forces, killing Sgt. Guiterrez and Sgt. Rodriguez.
To Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez, and his wife and four children, and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez, and his wife and parents, we hold an eternal debt of responsibility and gratitude.
We were thrilled to hear Dean’s weather report!
From the Book of Wayne, we had a reading “A Veteran’s Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Between the first “a time to be born and a time to die” – God brought us into this world; He will take us out. (Then through times to plant, kill, tear down, weep, mourn, gather, refrain, give up, throw away, to mend, be silent, to love) to “a time for war and a time for peace”. We must always fight repression; then we can enjoy the peace of freedom.
Me thinks they forgot about the 50/50!
Oh! To back up a little; the members at the Archie Hay American Legion Post #24 watered our horses, ie; filled all our bikes with gas at their expense. Then the fire department, police, and American Legion Riders escorted us to breakfast at the Post, there, they filled all the riders with, yet, another fantastic feast.
After breakfast Kat awarded NVAR Certificates of Appreciation to those present, ie; Doug Uhrig, National Vice Commander of the American Legion, Kade of the Legion Riders, and those wonderful cooks. Other certificates would be awarded when Kat and Mike return.
At the next gas stop, believe it or not, some guys had lunch!
Motorists were considerate in Cheyenne; lights wouldn’t stay green long enough for everyone to get through on a green, but we were encouraged to pass safely.
Completed in 1932, the Cheyenne VAMC provides primary and secondary inpatient and outpatient services, and hospice care; 90+ bed total. It’s also a teaching hospital with residence training in all major medical and surgical specialties. Sort of a one stop shop!
Last year, all we could do was pass around the parking circle and blast our horns, while residents and patients looked from windows. So, we were excited to see staff had brought a bunch of residents outside for visits, and five riders were escorted into a ward for visits. We could accept that.
We met an old Harley rider who rode an old Harley Heritage, back in the days between Vietnam and the VAMC. Jerry’s daughter and grand-daughters met us, and the girls painted cards to give out, and the veterans love these.
Another Vietnam Vet, Mike Wilkinson, is about to publish his first book, A Journey Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death. Its release date is “soon.” As with many of his Brothers, there were therapeutic reasons to write his story, but also to share with the public the terror, horrors, tragedies, and toll in war.
It was great to visit with the few veterans allowed out, and I’m sure they’ll have stories to brag about to their friends inside, and five did get inside. Hopefully, we’ll get closer to normal, next year.
Medallions for veterans who served in the War on Terror: Four were presented today, one to and American Legion Rider from Rock Springs, along with a spousal pin for his wife, in attendance; that was an emotional event for her. Another was at our gas stop. Then, at the Cheyenne VAMC three more were presented to staff. It’s great that veterans with their service take up a career and service to other veterans. Veterans helping veterans!
It was time to eat again! The VFW Post 1881 welcomes the NVAR every year with a feast we carry for days! This year was spaghetti with delicious sauces, salad, and some really great bread/buns to sop it up with.
Two regulars on the NVAR showed up at the VFW. Janet Widerski, and Steve “Babyface” Wiseman rode up from Colorado. Not sure how miles or days they’re going, but we’re happy to have them for everyone.
Tomorrow, we leave the planetary landscape of the west, and lay tracks into the Arbor State, Nebraska, with its cattle and farm country. I-80 lays out pretty darn straight across the state, all 450 miles of it, and that doesn’t change much till we get off of it in Chicago!
Thank you & Never Forget - Mike (Track) Rinowski


2023 Ride Day Five (Saturday, May 20)

The master chef and his helpers were up early, at the Fraternal Order of Eagles Aerie 128, making breakfast that would satisfy a bunkhouse of ranch hands. Riders of the NVAR conceded to the feast with their last bite.
Riders Meeting:
Jerry introduced Tinman as a local rider, and old friend of his and of the NVAR. He continues to advocate for veterans causes. The $100,000 chopper he once rode on the Ride, now sits in a museum.
Also, it was today Jerry needed a head count for those who wanted to visit an attraction in D.C., the new Army Museum, me thinks! Free admission, but $12.50 for a scrumscious box lunch.
Patrick didn’t have much to add, so, we’re all doing well, and everyone is still in his good graces.
Dan's tributes continue;
Gunnery Sgt. Diego D. Pongo, of Simi Valley CA, loved life and his family. At the Marine Corps Birthday Ball, he and his mother out danced everyone on the floor. His daughter kept him fit with hiking, camping, and woodworking. Among his loves was being a Marine.
Capt. Moises A. Navas, also 34 years old, exemplified Marines in his commission through an enlisted-to-officer program and service in the infantry. At the top of his list of honorable credentials is his family, followed by: scout sniper, martial arts instructor, combat diver, and a promotion to major on the horizon.
Sgt. Pongo, and Capt. Navas served in the most elite of Marines as Rangers.
On March 8, 2020, these two warriors were killed battling Islamic State fighters in a tunnel complex. Because the fighting was so intense, coalition forces battled for six hours to recover their bodies. “Leave no man behind!
To Gunnery Sgt. Pongo, his mother and daughter, and Capt. (Major) Navas, his wife, daughter, and three sons, we hold an eternal debt of responsibility and gratitude.
Dean has been consistent with the weather forecasts, earning every cent of salary! I don’t care if I jinx it now, but we’re having the best weather since at least 2013. It would take a force 5 hurricane to rain on our parade from her to D.C. And the odds of that are 50/50
Wayne challenges me with the task to condense his sermon! God Cares, Ref: Psalm 8:3-6, 33:13-14, and verses 18 & 19. There!
As fog laid over Cheyenne like a cheap white blanket (the sun peaked through), we were riders of The NVAR—with a Keystone Cops moment. After a short warm-up down I-25 South, we made U-turn for I-80 East.
A weak chill tried to cut in at 68 mph, but failed to hit a need for heat from liners. Thank you, Dean. We left the planetary landscape of the west behind and rolled onto softer hills, then onto the plains of west Nebraska, where buttes rose out of the lush grass prairies. As we rolled east, the scenery turned to farmland, with a strong scent of cattle. Trees started popping up and towns grew closer together, too.
From our first gas stop in Sydney, a wreath detail promptly headed out for a “flyby ceremony” at the interchange of I-76 & I-80. The worst of all tragedies struck the first NVAR in 2005 with an accident that took the life of Kathleen Kintzele, aka Lovie. She was the heartbeat of The Wall Gang, and would have been so to the NVAR. Lovie was deeply loved and is deeply missed.
The memorial to Lovie was removed during the construction of a new interchange. However, with reference from a photo, we marked the exact location last year with a patriotic bandana tied to the fence behind it, and another bandana added this year.
As the NVAR passed, the wreath detail stood at attention with a salute to the passing riders. Lovie will not be forgotten.
Brilliant sunshine in a brilliant blue sky burned off the fog. Contamination from Canada’s fires was slight.
We met Bill Luft, Purple Fish MC Riders, and the North Platte Rescue Squad at the 20th Century Veterans Memorial in North Platte. This wonderful memorial has grown from a simple plaque, to a grand monument in recognition to all who fought and sacrificed for the American Way. (Note: In addition to NVAR State Coordinator, Bill is the International President of the Purple Fish Motorcycle Club, with a motto cut in stone, and their hearts, “God, Family, Community. He’s, also, a retired Command Sargent Major, U.S. Army, and a retired Police Officer. To list his recognition and good deeds, would greatly exceed Wayne’s longest sermon.)
Back to the memorial: Coincidently, this location is at the crossroads of the Eisenhower Memorial Interstate System and the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial Highway. It recently became the location of the Lincoln County Law Enforcement Memorial, too. Both are of a scale that invite your presence into their realms. The men and women are memorialized by bronze statues and murals, with thousands of commemorative bricks in its Walk of Honor.
Bill gathers his squad for humble wreath laying ceremony.
Beside a pond, a picnic area fits between the memorials for riders to feast on Subway box lunches, provided by North Platte Fire & Rescue.
Prior to 2019, the Central Nebraska Veterans Home was located in a mature stand of trees within walking distance to downtown Grand Island. A beautiful, grand old facility. When the governor started building a new facility on the plains of Nebraska, a few miles out of Kearney, the NVAR was concerned. However, until you’ve lived in someone’s house, you don’t know life in that house.
The new 225 bed nursing facility is ultra-modern and ultra-comfortable. The layout is spacious with six “neighborhoods” that branch out from a central communal area. Homes within each neighborhood accommodate residents with comfort and privacy. Residents are thrilled to be out of the old and into the new.
And this year, we were thrilled to visit face to face with the residents inside and outside, without masks! We parked our bikes in single file on the walkway around the pond in front of the common area. From the widow of a WWII Naval Officer, to the Korean War, to the Vietnam War, to the War on Terror; Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force veterans wheeled out from all directions to check out the motorcycles. They came out like they’d been locked up for two years!!
Dan Petersen, not ‘son, had been half way around the world, twice, while in the Navy. In an ever so soft voice, with glasses so dark I couldn’t see his tears, but I could hear them, he expressed with emotion how good he felt that we came to visit each year. I assured him that we were just the honored forefront for tens of thousands of people who support our mission, and we would return.
Jim, a Korean War era vet, lucked out being shipped around, but not to the War. He returned to Nebraska, managed a fertilizer company, then bought that company, then another, and now his sons have taken over headed for a century of business.
Many returned to the family farms after their service, which most have now gone on to large landowners, they said with sadness.
The American Legion Post 300, in Doniphan, welcomes the NVAR each year with a buffet to write home about. But first, Mongo had certificates of appreciation to award; first to his wife, Nancy, who keeps him in line, and then to a host of supporters, and the wonderful people who prepare our meal. After the blessing from Wayne, an orderly line of riders feasted on a wide selection of dishes.
We had another great day visiting with veterans and a fantastic ride. The next two days will be busy from border to border in Iowa.

Thank you & Never Forget

2023 Ride Day Six (Sunday, May 21)

Bosselman’s Truck Stop restaurant gave us a discount breakfast, account some tie-in with the motel! Five bucks is five bucks, and that’s just what I donated to the 50/50!
After breakfast, Jerry rolled out with good deed after good deed that Bill “Mongo” Luft does in his duties. As a retired cop, he stays in good grace with authorities across the state: good for the NVAR. Way to go Mongo! Keep up the good work.
Dan read the tribute:
On March 11, 2020, a volley of rockets rained down on camp Taji, in Iraq. Two Americans and a Brit were killed, with a dozen others injured. An Iranian proxy group was believed responsible.
Air Force Staff Sgt. Marshal D. Roberts, 28, of the Oklahoma Air National Guard, loved restoring Ford Mustangs with his father. He left behind a wife, an eight-year-old daughter, and a collection of Ford Mustangs he and his father had spent years in restorations.
Army Spec. Juan Miguel Mendez Covarrubias, 27, from California, deployed in Oct. 2019 in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. He looked forward to starting a family.
Lance Corporal Brodie Gillon, 26, served as part of Operation SHADER. She was assigned to the British Military’s contribution to multi-coalition of training and mentoring of Iraq Security Forces.
To Sgt. Roberts, and his wife and daughter, to Spec. Covarrubias, his mother, and his wife, and to a beloved and commended Cpl. Gillion, and her family, we hold an eternal debt of gratitude.
Our favorite weatherman remains in high standing with all riders! Keep up the good work Derek.
And Wayne shared “A Tale Of Two Babies”. Two in the womb; one an optimist, the other not so! “The eye has not seen, and the ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who live him.”
1 Corinthians 2:29
Sometime after 1853, a block of land was set aside as a park; the trees matured, fixtures were added and installed, and on July 4, 2003, a Veterans Plaza was dedicated to honor the county’s residents who died or are missing in action from the Civil War through Desert Freedom. Every memorial holds a unique presence and provokes thought and consideration. So, it is at the Veterans Plaza in Bayliss Park. The names of each resident cut into the wall with life size statues before and beside it.
The flag was raised, a wreath was placed, and a speech was given. That, is the American Way!
Then it was time for lunch, and the presentation of two medallions, and Jackwagon’s handfuls of certificates of appreciation. Mark Bellows was Patrick’s main contact for the Masonic Lodge (for lunch). The Bluffs City VVA Chapter 798 was instrumental in the organization of our ceremony and lunch, along with Timmothy Hippen and Denis Behrends.
Escorts returned us to I-80, and in an unusual calm, we rode to Freedom Rock. Ray “Bubba” Sorensen II was there to greet us and give a bit of interesting info. He now has one county with two rocks, and one rock in each of the other 98 counties = 100 rocks. In one year, he painted 16 rocks; a demanding task. His inspiration for this unique expression of gratitude came when he saw the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”Way to go Bubba.
This is the 25th anniversary of this Freedom Rock, with the ashes of 130 veterans mixed into his paint each year that he repaints scenes on the rock, and he repaints this particular rock each year; except for one scene dedicated to the Vietnam Veterans.
The corn is on its way to knee high by the fourth of July!
We rolled into the heart of Des Moines, Iowa, to the VAMC for a long overdue visit, and it was like old times. We split into two groups and taken to specific floors and turned loose to visit as we pleased, so long as we didn’t wake up anyone that was asleep!
I was in a group that didn’t require masks! Babyface and I spent time with Phillip, from Hawaii, who likes hockey. Between there, and here, he retired as a long shoreman in Washington. Hopefully, he’ll be in Boston by Thursday to visit his son. We wished him the best and moved on.
I wandered into a room and met Fred; a friendly talkative 82 year old sailor, although we spoke nor more about the service. His two sons live in Arizona, his daughter in Arkansas, and a nephew local. Fishing, travel, and a bit about rivers occupied our time. And as I was leaving, Kevin, his nephew came in to visit. That was nice to see. He rides motorcycle, too, and Fred tried to share all we’d talked about. I had to bid a farewell, or be left behind.
In the other group, Jerry met a veteran in a wheel chair that wanted to tie up to a bike and join the ride. Another was a barber for 52 years; man, 52 years ago was the hippie generation!
Tony, from CA, made a medallion presentation to a woman veteran, to became overwhelmed with the recognition. That happens often.
Later, out in the parking lot, Jerry witness a veteran in a wheel chair studying the painting on the front fender of my bike. It’s the same bike that I rode 41,000 miles alone around Vietnam on; vicariously in the spirit of freedom for our fallen. It’s a nice painting of Vietnam with highways and towns noted on it. Whatever memories that painting brought back to the veteran, they were emotionally strong.
If you want to witness time fly, just go to a VAMC and visit the veterans. Our hour with them disappeared in a New York minute.
Tonight’s dinner was hosted by the Beaverdale VFW Post 9127. This was our first time there, and if all riders were on their best behavior, we’ll be invited back!
I don’t always get all the news I should, promptly, for these reports. So, I’d like to recognize some generous people and entities regarding their donations to the NVAR.
The American Legion Riders Post #84 in Auburn CA. Thank you.
VVA 798, Larry Poffenberger, McMullen Ford, Legion of Honor Shriners, John Dalton, and Frank Barrett, all of Council Bluffs IA. Thank you.
All riders make the ride at their own expense, hotels, fuel, and meals. All donations go to helping veterans and the mission of the NVAR. The money is used to buy pins we give to veterans and all who help them, to escorts, fuel for the chase vehicle (which is donated by the driver, by the way). Throughout the year, the board decides what other charities and veterans causes they can support with donations. It’s all about the veterans. The NVAO is a 501c3 it appreciates donations with much gratitude
Now that we’re in Iowa, the ride is going to get busy. Marshalltown and Iowa City veterans wait for us. And the day after is our ceremony at the Mid-East Conflict Wall in Marseilles Il.
Thank You & Never Forget

2023 Ride Day Seven (Monday, May 22)

Breakfast at Amvets Post #2. They had one of those machines, like in truck stops, that roll and heat hot dogs, tamales, and other such breakfast meals. They had plenty of good old fashioned country breakfast dishes, too. Thank you.
After breakfast, Mary played a video, “If the Statue of Liberty could Talk.” A wonderful patriotic song; one that kinda gets you in the mood to twist a throttle on an open highway.
Mary leads the AmVets Auxillary, and worked with Patrick in organization of our visit and breakfast. She does a darn good job. The AmVets Aux., also, does a darn good job supporting our veterans.
Last year, Janet, one of Mary’s associates, lost her husband of 54 years. At that time, she found out that he was a bronze star recipient in WWII, and never told anyone. What a humble man, just doing his job.
To him and to Janet, we hold a debt of gratitude
Riders Meeting:
Dan read a tribute to Spec. Bishop Evans, 22 years old.
In his youth, Bishop earned badges in the Boy Scouts, and joined the JROTC Drill Team in high school. From there, it was into the Texas Army National Guard with deployments to Kuwait and Iraq. Back in Texas, he was assigned to Operation Lone Star; the Texas initiative to secure our southern border. On Friday, April 22, 2022, Bishop saw two migrants struggle in their crossing of the Rio Grande River, he didn’t hesitate to jump in to help them. The current overwhelmed him, and he drowned. His body was found days later. (The two migrants survived and were found to be known smugglers.)
Spec. Bishop Evans was posthumously promoted to Sergeant and presented with the Lone Star Medal of Valor for his sacrifice and bravery.
To Sgt. Bishop Evans, and his family, we hold an eternal debt of gratitude.
Wayne told a long story about the fights Bruce Springsteen had with his dad, over almost everything, especially his long hair. His dad thought the army would cut it all off and make a man out of him. When he reported for service, he failed their entry exams. His dad said, “That’s good.” That’s the short version!
Everyone, except one person, donated to the 50/50 lucky draw this morning!
It gets lumpy rolling out of old Des Moines on those old streets. But when we hit the highway, we let’er rip!
We arrived in Marshalltown about an hour later. It was a very nice ride, thanks to our wonderful weatherman.
In 1887, the Iowa Soldiers Home opened to house displaced Civil War veterans. Today, the 150-acre campus is known as the Iowa Veterans Home that has about 400 residents, with 60 spouses. We were glad that we could go inside and wander freely; the one stipulation was to sterilize hands going in and coming out. Not a problem!
In the hallway, we met Mr. Gee, a strong Baptist. In his youth, about 20 years old, wanted to see America and meet the people. The only way he could afford to do it was on his Hiawatha bicycle, and find work along the way, things like yard work. He spent six months riding from California to New York City, and then to Florida.
In a room with lots of grandchildren framed and hung, Margaret sat watching tv. She had been there since 2008. Among the family photos, were two folded flags in shadow boxes; one for her husband, and the other for her son. Her eyes teared with mention of them. Her husband taught little league baseball in a small Iowa town for 25 years. He, no doubt, instilled a lot of character in young men.
To Margaret, her husband, and son, we hold a debt of gratitude.
Five years ago, Darrell Lawson never played an instrument. In five years’ time, he learned how to read music and play the guitar. Well, actually, he plays four different guitars for classical, latin, blues, and he has a stack of books for other music. He’s also learning to play the violin. We’ll look forward to a recital next year.
During WWII, Charlie Kellogg flew into battle with a glider British unit. It was an operation for the Battle of the Bulge; 504th Airborne Unit. However, they were spotted and heavily fired upon. After crash landing, Corporal Kellogg was the highest-ranking soldier on the field of battle. He didn’t like that, but he did his job until ground units arrived.
Just before lunch, we met Sam, a Silver Star recipient from the Korean War. His artillery unit came under an overwhelming attack. Same gave orders to his men to dig in and cover with what ever you have, then called in for heavy support bombing directly on his coordinates, which overcame the enemy. He gave me a cd with his story, called, “Hold at all Costs.” I look forward to watching it!
Todd, the Director of the Marshalltown Veterans Home, served in the Iowa National Guard. For his service in Iraq, an NVAR rider presented him with a War on Terror medallion. He then shared a story:
His National Guard unit shipped out of Iowa for Iraq. On Dec. 31, 2005, they landed in Delaware before a long flight. They were met by more than two dozen Vietnam Veterans and their wives. As the Vietnam Veterans vowed, others would never be treated as they were. Those vets and their families brought them fresh baked goods, sandwiches, and telephones to make one last call before departure. With a commitment and respect, those Vietnam Veterans met veterans coming and going.
Marshalltown Veterans Home is always a great visit, and leaving town always a scenic ride. It’s in rural America, but in pure Americana style. The old town structures are grand is size and style, built for families of six to ten!
Farther on down the road, we rolled into Iowa City to visit the VA Health Care System, one of 16 in the region with over 80 inpatient beds. It has an accredited research program with 50 investigators and over 50 projects. Its a busy place!
As we parked and disembarked from our bikes, a colorful colonial sort of fellow strolled in. His name is Randy Lyon, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, SAR. He researched people’s genes, as in genealogy and ancestry back to the revolution. There are over 3,000 SAR’s in Iowa, and naturally, the east coast has an extremely high population of SAR’s.
Hospital staff took two groups inside to wander and visit, while I stood out in the shade and talked with Randy. After a long teaching career, he loves playing the colonial part of his roots.
From Iowa City, we made a short ride to Davenport for a wreath ceremony at the All Veterans Memorial in Davenport Memorial Park. It sits in the far end of the park, so, we see a lot of it. It’s a beautiful time of year in Iowa. The trees have sprung fresh green leaves, and the bluegrass is lush, which contrasts the hundreds of flowers and flags set at each grave site.
The American Legion Post 26 performed admirably in preparation of another feast, quickly consumed by not so ravaged riders, who hadn’t eaten a thing in the past four or five hours!
Tomorrow, we look forward to a ceremony at the Mid-East Conflict Wall in Marseilles IL, a visit to the Portage High School, and finish with a ceremony in Michigan City IN.
Thank you & Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2023 Ride Day Eight (Tuesday, May 23)

Patrick had the most important stuff for the meeting this morning. He reminded everyone about formation riding in preparation for our pass through Chicago in the afternoon. Although, we’d have a police escort all day, we still needed to be aware of our position, and that of traffic around us.
There was a big winner in the 50/50; one of our motorcycle police escorts, he also won a consolation prize, and another escort won another consolation prize!!! Does that seem odd? They deserve it.
Dan gave a tribute to a man of courage;
On the night of June 18, 1968, in a rice paddy northeast of Saigon, Dave Hill and three others were surrounded by an NVA force about 80 strong; some within 50 meters.
Swooping above them in a Cobra helicopter was Signal Mountain’s Larry Taylor. Larry rained hell on the NVA with 152 air-to-ground rockets. When he spent his 12,000 rounds of machine gun fire, yes—twelve-thousand bullets, he flicked on his landing lights and faked gun runs on the enemy. Time and fuel were now critical. Larry dropped low enough for Hill and his team to jump on. But in the split seconds, a dilemma grew: five combat soldiers don’t fit inside a Cobra helicopter. Quickly, they latched onto skids and rocket pads. Larry climbed to 1,500 feet as fast as the Cobra would climb, safely out of small arms range, and on to safety.
With a weight of humility, Larry Taylor accepted the Silver Star for his bravery, which Dave Hill is trying to upgrade to a Congressional Medal of Honor.
To Larry Taylor, we commend your bravery, and wish you the highest recognition from our country. We are eternally grateful for your service.
Weather Report: I don’t care if our weather man gets lazy with redundant forecasts!
Wayne’s story this morning was titled “Motorcycles for Vietnam”, about the Christian Motorcyclists Association, CMA, getting motorcycles to Vietnamese pastors and others. There were problems with the communist government taking them and putting people in jail for associating with westerners. They figured out a way to disguise their mission, but the kicker in the story was at the end, a man stepped out of the crowd in Saigon and told one of the CMA “When you go back home, tell those other men, thanks for trying.”
We have all heard of The Wall, Washington D. C., to honor those lost in the Vietnam War, of course, but few people have heard of Marseilles IL and the Mid-East Conflict Wall, of equal reverence to honor those lost in the War on Terror. It’s in small community beside the Illinois River, about an hour southwest of Chicago; just off I-80.
We had about 40+ bikes & trikes, and a few cars, and the chase vehicle to parade through town and loop into the memorial; past the museum and into a large parking lot.
Ken Richardson began the ceremony with the history of the Mid-East Conflicts Wall, the idea came in March 2003, and in 2004 the location was found. Tony Cutrano and Jerry Kuchera and the Illinois Motorcycle Freedom Run were the primary drivers in accomplishing this huge task, along with local donations. In June of every year they hold the annual Freedom Run to The Mid-East Conflicts Wall.
The Wall complex is 14 walls, approximately 8’ x 6’, with over 8,000 names inscribed into them. It had to have been a difficult decision to decide how many walls they should set. Currently, a couple walls are blank!
This ceremony is special among riders of the NVAR with a riders son’s name cut into a Wall, and another rider with the names of eight of his men cut into it. We all share in their sorrow. Our ceremony often has families of others on the wall, too. Their grief is lifelong, but being remembered by others, and with others, means something.
Jim Hollenbach, the mayor, reminded us where and how Memorial Day began. It was after the Civil War in 1886, called Declaration Day. People from the North and South, honored each others’ fallen wherever they lay at rest with equal reverence. Over 600,000 men died in that war. On June 24, 1968, the day was renamed Memorial Day; a day of traditions with parades and ceremonies.
The American Legion 235 were wonderful hosts for lunch, yet again this year. The desert tables out sized the main course tables! Thank you!
During lunch, Jerry introduced Virginia Proffitt, who for twenty-some years, along with her late husband, Jimmy, produced and served hundreds of thousands of sandwiches and snacks to homeless in Chicago. The love and compassion in the heart of Virginia has on limits. Thank you, Virginia; you are an angel.
There was at least one very lucky person in Illinois today, if not a few lucky people who didn’t get ticketed for something, because we had at least a half dozen motor police busy escorting us across the state. Under their control, we blew through Chicago like wind over Wyoming! Thank you.
We picked up another escort in Portage IN; fire trucks and police leading and blocking. I spotted Tammy at her usual spot along the street, standing alone with a big flag cheering us on! Stand tall Tammy!
Master Sargent Ed Bower has been instructing the JROTC program at the Portage IN High School since, a long time ago! Each year they dazzle us with their drill expertise. Their precision in steps, and twirls with a weapon are nothing sort of spectacular. Under M. Sgt. Bower’s guidance, they grow with discipline, confidence, and patriotism.
Well done Master Sargent Bower & Well done JROTC.
And our escorts were ready for a second parade through Portage. Thank you all.
It was a short stretch to the Michigan City Harley Davidson store for any who needed repairs, or buy tee shirts and other souvenirs. No one has too many Harley tee shirts!
Behind our escort, a herd of local bikers led us to the Danny Bruce Memorial on the shore of Lake Michigan, near the Coast Guard Station. Danny went from Michigan City High School into the Marines, and then to Vietnam. He served as a mortarman in the Quang Nam Province; that’s where Da Nang and China Beach are located. On his thirty-seventh day in country, Danny threw himself on a grenade to save three fellow Marines. Such a selfless act comes as a reaction to what is right, without thought.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (Kings James Version)
No doubt Danny left footprints in sand on the shore of Lake Michigan. I know well the province that Danny saw last, one of the most beautiful in Vietnam, and I’m sure that if he had been to China Beach, he would have thought it just like home.
Private First-Class Daniel D. Bruce was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
A wreath was placed at his memorial.
With that deed done, it was time for dinner, and the hall at the St. Joseph Club is well known to the NVAR, as well as its the hospitality. As the home of many, it’s a reunion in the middle of our mission.
Tomorrow, we break way from I-80, where we called home for the last week, and head south through rural Indiana on a two-lane highway for a ways. We have three days left, and many more veterans to visit.
Thank you & Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2023 Ride Day Nine (Wednesday, May 24)

To back-up a couple days: Since 2001, Schneider has received 13 Ride of Pride trucks from Freightliner. Each one unique with graphics that picture a variety of military scenes. The NVAR has had the honor of having a Ride of Pride join our ride from the central U.S. to D.C. This year we met the Ride of Pride in Marseilles IL, at the Mid-East Conflict Wall.
Patrice Cook, aka Cookie, is the proud driver, and a proud veteran. Before driving, Cookie spent 24 years in the Army, with a tour in Iraq, and two tours in Bosnia. For that, Squirt presented her with a War on Terror medallion. Thank you for your service, Patrice Cook, and Welcome Home.
To back-up to yesterday: Tony Price, aka token Squid, Exc. Dir. of the Gold Star Ride Foundation, along with two associates, rode in from Minneapolis. Tony has crisscrossed America multiple times on his Harley Davidson, often alone, to meet with Gold Star Families. If its January, he trailers the bike to a warmer temperature for a kickstand up. He meets with families of loved ones who answered a call and gave all. He does not solicit families, they contact him.
Tony’s support and recognition has grown in the past fiveyears of his mission. He represents thousands of people as he thanks families for their sacrifice, shares in their grief, and presents a small token of appreciation and recognition. Donations to the Gold Star Ride Foundation support those families in a variety of ways their lost loved one would have. For more on Tony’s mission, visit www.goldstarride.com.
With a later departure time, the reunion carried on during breakfast at the American Legion Post 37. The NVAR and The Wall Gang are a stable part of the community and wherever you came from, if you’re in either one, you’re one of the family. Each year the NVAR dedicates the full ride to a recipient, and from Michigan City, The Wall Gang dedicates the final length of the ride to a fallen veteran from Laporte County. This year’s ride honors PFC Gary Alan Clifford, KIA, Vietnam, 03/15/68. He was in-country less than one month. RIP Gary, you are not forgotten.
During breakfast, Wayne and Libby had a surprise visitor. Ann Sawyer was three-years old when her parents brought her to this very breakfast. Wayne met Ann and gave her one of the balloons he carried, and still carries! This morning, a 16 year-old Ann shows up for a reunion, and another balloon. Ha!
Headdog leads the ceremony, sadly in place of Lugnut, who we miss very much and wish a speedy recovery.
Karla Lloyd’s grandson, Colton, sang the National Anthem, and did so with pride in his young voice. Good job Colton.
Headdog presented Colton with a certificate of appreciation, along with certificates to a host of others; the police and fire departments, the American Legion Commander, The Wall Gang, and I know I’m missing someone, but thanks to all of Michigan City residents for coming out for a fantastic welcome. (The departure would be as respectable, too.)
Killswitch had been with the ride since California, and previously on the ride in 2015. Before he left the ride today, for a destination in Tennessee, he had something to say. It was an emotional talk about how much the ride meant to him. (I don’t know if he knew it or not, but he was speaking for everyone in his presence.) Safe travels Killswitch, and we look forward to sharing the ride again.
Jackwagon took over for a repeat of formation riding (we have more riders this morning who need to know the rules; #1. Follow the bike in front of you, was just the beginning!
And we would have a police escort to West Central Highschool.
Sweetness read the days tribute:
Dan Bullock yearned to become a pilot, a police officer, or a United States Marine. Whatever his decision process, he altered his birth certificate and marched into a Marine recruitment office and at 14 years old, he became the youngest Marine. Those were some hard charging times, and maybe the recruiter recognized his youth and would teach him a lesson before he sent him back to high school, because he sent him to the infamous Marine boot camp at Parris Island.
Dan struggled through a rigorous training but passed with the help of a fellow recruit.
On May 18, 1969, Dan became a rifleman in the 1st Marine Division near Hoi An Vietnam. Less than a month later, a sapper unit attacked their base at night. They threw a satchel charge into his bunker, killing everyone inside. Dan never saw his 16th birthday. He was the youngest American killed in Vietnam.
To Marine Private 1st Class, Dan Bullock, 15 years of age, and his family, we hold a debt of gratitude.
The weather forecast: its only getting better!
50/50: Somebody pocketed a large lucky draw!
Wayne read a story of one of the most infamous photos form the Vietnam War; The Napalm Girl.
In 1996, the officer who called in that South Vietnamese Air Strike, was watching tv, and saw a story about Kim Phuc. She’s alive! He had been haunted by that since 1972. After years of PTSD, alcohol abuse, two divorces, he found a woman with whom he found God and peace. Through a “coincidence” he met Kim Phuc at The Wall in Washington D.C. on Nov. 11, 1996. They united in peace and God’s love.
We rode from Michigan City on two lane highway into a beautiful day. The gravel detour was a bit uncomfortable and dusty, but it’s all part of the adventure, as I say! We rode past fields just sprouting new crops, and others yet to pop, and through towns of Americana. The people know our schedule and stand on sidewalks, if they have them, and beside the road waving flags and cheering us on. Traffic in the opposite directions pulls over and stops. It’s a humbling experience.
With one day left in their school year, the West Central Students were lined heavily on the route opposite the detour, and quickly made an about face to cheer in our entrance. Another line of older students waited on the sidewalk.
Our visits here are always short for quick chats and raising a new POW / MIA flag, they we’re off, again.
The Indiana Veterans Home, near West Lafayette, was just down the road. In 1896, it opened to care for veterans of the Civil War, as many hospitals did. We met quite a few veterans outside, in a shaded lunch area, and had lunch. After lunch, we were allowed into the home to visit as we wanted.
Valerie Lynn Herbert sat alone in her room watching tv. A stack of hardcover fiction lay on a table beside her, and photos of military personnel hung on the wall. Her father was Commander Herbert Harold Vanaman, once assigned to the Utah, then reassigned to another ship. He was in Pearl Harbor during the attack Dec. 7, 1941.
In 1961, Commander Herbert Harold Vanaman proudly performed the enlistment ceremony for his son, Herbert Jr., and his daughter Valerie Lynn. How about that!
In another room down the hall, one of the ladies wanted a Marine, and she had eyes for Quacker!
We bid farewell, and made tracks through Indianapolis, on our own without incident. Construction kept us from stopping at our usual gas and rest stop, so there would be no Dairy Queen treats this year.
The Brookville Police met us for a rolling escort at the Ohio State Line, and in a few miles we rolled into another gauntlet of patriotic residents of another American town. One year they even had a marching band waiting for us at the AmVets club, but this year they had a band with guitars and drums!!
We filled up the AmVets parking lot for another reunion with NVAR family. Wandering tall in the crowd was Snitch, Tugger and Jessica Carr’s daughter. She is tall, but she stood a little taller with pride to be the owner of a new Harley Davidson; a small one for beginners. Congrats to Snitch, Jessica, and Tugger; a family that rides together, rides more often!
In charge of the crowd, Jeff Bang, aka Banger, Commander of the AmVets, made a nice welcome with some introductions. (He must have been told about our dusty detour, because he told us he had a couple of water hose drawn out for riders to wash their bikes. What an accommodating club!) Then Squirt handed out certificates of appreciation to the police, fire department, and AmVets.
The National Anthem was played, followed by a 21 gun salute, along with Taps.
Two people of special interest in the crowd was Emma Forsythe and her year-old son, Waylon. Her husband, Jacob, is currently a resident of Syria, with a U.S. Army Artillery Unit. Shannon, Jacob’s father, joined the ride a day or two ago, and told us about his son’s family situation; they were struggling with it. We offered, through Shannon, that if Emma would like to share some of her story that we would be happy to give her an audience.
We were thrilled by her willingness, and before the large crowd in front of the club, Emma talked about the hardships she and Jacob endure; and she emphasized with emotion and cold honesty, it is hard. But she is proud of her husband, she is proud of America, and she was proud that all of us there were honoring our veterans.
It was humbling, heartwarming, and inspirational to listen to this young woman, mother, and wife, tell us what the family of an active-duty husband endures. We pray for a speedy family reunion. Bless you Emma and Waylon, and Jacob.
Choices, choices, and more choices on what to eat! Three main courses on tables outside, and a variety of sub-main courses on the inside. In the shade of the patio, riders socialized, ate, and the band played on.
Tomorrow we head Chilicothe where we will be allowed inside to visit veterans, and then visit the High School, and enjoy the Mother of all Lunch Buffets!
Thank you, Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2023 Ride Day Ten (Thursday, May 25)

Kickstands went up at 5:30 a.m. for the most important meal of the day. VFW Post 3288 has been scrambling eggs and all the compliments that go with a big breakfast since,,, Buzz was a young-er man! Thank you.
Squirt’s contacts for escorts runs deep among the Ohio motor cops, who made our travels a breeze through Ohio. All we had to do was follow the bike in front of us and stay out of their lane! They received certificates and a big round of applause!
The post commander and those wonderful cooks received well deserved certificates also.
Wayne read about the World’s Strongest Man, American weightlifter Paul Anderson. Despite an ear infection and a 103 temperature, he called to God for strength, and pumped 413.5 lbs over his head. The moral of the story: If the strongest man in the world can’t get through one day without the power of Jesus Christ—where does that leave you?
There was a 50/50 drawing, and it wasn’t my number.
Riders leathers made for fine riding, with lots of sunshine.
Dan’s tribute this morning is to Gordon Ray Roberts, a man with an extraordinary will and love for his fellow man.
In a town called Middletown, in the middle of Ohio, Gordon graduated from high school. Three days later he enlisted in the United States Army.
Gordon’s citation begins, in part; For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.
As a rifleman with the 506th Infantry, 101st Airborne in Vietnam, Sgt Robert’s platoon became immobilized and in danger of failing in its mission due to overpowering enemy fire. Sgt. Roberts crawled toward the closest enemy bunker, then leaped to his feet and charged the bunker, firing as he ran. Despite returned fire, he silenced the enemy.
His one-man assault charged on the next bunker. Enemy fire knocked the rifle from his hands. He picked up a comrade’s rifle and continued another successful assault.
Sgt. Robert was on a rampage that carried on with rifle fire and grenades to silence two more enemy bunkers. He fought through a hail of enemy fire to join elements of another company. Continuously under fire, he assisted in moving wounded soldiers to safety before returning to his unit.
Gordon went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1974, he married and raised a family. After eighteen years as a social worker, he returned to the Army, with a direct commission as an officer in 1991.
On March 2, 1971, Sgt. Roberts received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his extraordinary heroism in action at the risk of his life. At 19 years old, he was the youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, and the only one still on active duty.
After multiple assignments, including Iraq and Kuwait, Colonel Roberts retired in May 2012.
To Colonel Roberts, words cannot express our gratitude for your exemplary: Thank You.
Flashing lights led lots bikes and trikes from the VFW into eastern Ohio. We picked up more riders near Xenia. (A later count was 58 bikes and trikes, and we had a few cars, pickups, the chase vehicle, and Schneider’s Ride of Pride. A good-looking line up. I’m sure commuters held back by escorts told their coworkers they had to wait for a couple hundred bikers to pass. The sight is always greater than the count!)
From the basin of California, we climbed the Donner Pass, then crossed a planetary landscape that softened to farmland; we passed below the Great Lakes, and now we rode into the forested foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. America the Beautiful. The only places on earth I imagine such ride could be made is America and Australia. Although, I’d love to make it in New Zealand!
The Chilicothe VAMC sits on the hallowed grounds of a WWI Training Center, Camp Sherman, named after Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman. It’s been admitting patients since 1924. Over 1,400 staff provide a comprehensive extent of services for over 20,000 patients annually. And they’ve kept up with the times, to include Pickle Ball in their cardio treatment! Although, perfection is to but One, veterans give exceptional ratings for the services and staff at the Chilicothe VAMC. Way to go!
Within the community is a notable advocate of veterans’ health. Charlie Reichelderfer, was born on Veterans Day, nine years ago! On her past birthday, she collected $2,000 in donations for the veterans, and has since enlisted the help of her third-grade classmates for her next goal of $4,000. She says, “It makes me feel happy, because I want the Veterans to have a smile on their face everyday when they think about it.” Charlie; you are an inspiration, and you make us proud.
I arrived late to the VAMC, account I make a phone call interview with a radio station for Headdog, but the riders were split into groups and the veterans had great visits with lots of stories told, and retold.
Southeastern High School, one of five in Chilicothe, has welcomed the NVAR since gas was a buck a gallon, almost! A principal, twenty-some teachers, and a host of aides and attendants lead a small population of students into life! An accumulation of courses will set them off for future Phd’s, MBA’s, MC’s, with extracurriculars for the Rock Stars and record breakers. One such rock star is their drummer who transcended to another dimension with the sticks in her hands. I’d pay to watch her play! Kudos to her, and extra dessert for Band Director, Mr. Jeff Donahue.
Our reception at Southeastern High was nothing short of dramatic! While the band played outside, and the drummer’s beat rose above the band, riders walked through a gauntlet of high school students cheering, into the long hallway with a gauntlet of lower grade students waving flags and reaching out for hand slaps and high fives as we walked to the auditorium. Wow!
Kellen Kitchen, the Student Council Representative, made a great welcome speech. It was short! Double-D’s speech was short, too. Then Jerry took to the podium, his speech had a little more content regarding what we do, why we do it, and lit a candle of ideas for them to do it, too. His content, also, included recognition and additional inspiration (as that of Charlie, above); the Southeastern schools website wish to recognize active or non-active veterans in their community with posts in their website. This would work well on conjunction with the candle of ideas, mentioned above.
As I mentioned earlier, I think; Southeastern High School has graduated many students who have gone on to serve their country, and some who paid the ultimate price; as Brad Clemmons, son of Dave Clemmons.
Through the band numbers, a beautiful song by the choir, and the speeches, riders had their eyes on a buffet table that stretched from one side of the auditorium to the other!
After lunch, it was time for a nap, but Jerry made a short speech, “Riders, helmets on.”
Back into the foothills, our escorts bid us a rolling farewell at the West Virginia border. Thank you. Eddie Shinn had escorts pick us up for safe passage to the Louis Johnson VAMC in Clarksburg WV. This facility has serviced veterans since Dec. 7, 1950, and grown to an active teaching facility since 1960, participating in residency and academic affiliations around the state.
Riders split into two groups, front and back. In the back, we met more than a dozen residents outside, waiting. Paul (#1), stood in blue jeans, a flannel shirt, with a WWII cap. He had a lot to say, and he was ready. At 96 years old, he had a life full of life, and loves to share about it.
He served on an LST, a boat that rams onto a beach for an amphibious landing. LST’s are part of a fleet, and on one occasion, he watched as a torpedo pass his boat and ram into a destroyer. So many veterans lost to the sea!
Paul spent time as a constable, with interesting stories of shoot-em up with the bad guys, and finally getting radio communication in the ‘70’s. He worked in a glass factory, and lived in a house around the corner from the VAMC here in Clarksburg, built by his wife’s uncle, all dead now. he said. He outlived everybody!
Paul #2 was sitting alone on a bench, with a very thick book on his lap; obviously a bible. He served in the Coast Guard for eleven years. He was on the CGC Pt. Hope in Florida when the CGC Blackthorn was hit by a civilian ship, killing 26 guardsmen. That’s when he retired from the Coast Guard. The consequences of a heart attack challenged his thought/memory; he was aware of this, but not too frustrated. Some years later, he regretted his retirement.
Paul became a truck driver who has been to 47 of the lower 48 states. North Dakota is absent from his travels, and I assured him that if he’d been across South Dakota, the giant statue of a Bison in Jamestown, and the giant statue of a milk cow in New Salem, were not of equal awe to Mt. Rushmore.
His two sons and one daughter visit often and take him out on the town; he enjoys that. They, also, had the cover of his bible redone, and done well. He couldn’t remember how long he has had his bible, but from the markings, notes, and stains, he probably quoted every page, before his heart attack.
Riders listened to many stories from the dozen other residents, and may have shared a few, too! I’ll probably hear about them tomorrow, when we listen and share more at the Martinsburg VAMC.
VFW Post 573 occupies prime property in the heart of historic downtown Bridgeport. This city was chartered in 1816. It took wagon trains and horses another 38 years to get settlers to California to charter Sacramento, and we did it in nine days! Post 573 has hosted dinners for the NVAR since before Elijah was a sparkle in his mother’s eye! Thank you, VFW Post 573.
Tomorrow, we cross the Appalachian Mountains, with spectacular views of what our colonists looked across, also; a land they would call America. A land they would fight and die for, and our first visit is to the Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery in Maryland.
Thank you, Thank a Vet & Never Forget

2023 Ride Day Eleven (Friday, May 26)

The Longhorn Steak House now occupies our Denney’s Restaurant, and they don’t serve breakfast. As a courtesy, the hotel whipped up something above a continental breakfast, and the filled us just fine!
The meeting followed with general info for the day; visit Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery and then on to the Martinsburg VAMC, and finish off with the ride into D.C. > follow the bike in front of you, and if there’s no bike in front of you, be a bike worth following!
Jerry gave recognition to Ed Kintzele for his service to the NVAR, as a rider, and more so, for his interior construction and organization of the chase vehicle trailer. Good job Silvertop!
We rode into the Appalachian Mountains on a beautiful clear morning, leathers on and comfy. Our formation looked good, and the sights were spectacular. An escort met us at the gas stop, and then onto 27 sacred acres in the Rocky Gap State Park. 2,800 veterans and their dependents rest for eternity in that hollowed valley, with another 13,700 sites available.
Students from Allegheny High School placed ae flag on each grave stone. In the brilliant morning sunshine with a light breeze, it was a perfect morning to pay our respects. Eighteen years ago, the NVAR made its first visit to Rocky Gap.
We rode in, made a loop, and returned to park facing the entrance/exit. The American Legion Post13 stood with a flag line, and students lined opposite for what would be our gauntlet for the wreath ceremony. Headdog led the ceremony first with the presentation of at least ten certificates of appreciation; it takes a fleet of people to care for the grounds and step up for the Memorial Day Ceremony. And the grounds looked absolutely respectful in a valley so majestic.
The Rocky Gap Veterans Cemetery, east of Cumberland MD occupies a gentle slope in the Allegany Mountains in Maryland.
The wreath was placed, followed by a twenty-one-gun salute, followed by a wonderful rendition of Taps played by Bernie Leachman.
We stick to a rigid schedule and as prompt as we rode in, we rode out.
Another escort waited for us at our exit for the Martinsburg WV VAMC, and it would have been chaotic without them! We had over 40 bikes, a bunch of cars, pickups, a chase vehicle and trailer, and the Ride of Pride. We looked good barging through!
2,000 nurses and social workers staff the VAMC, with a demand for more. Yet, they perform admirably and professionally. It’s a home to many veterans, and treated as such.
A stroke paralyzed Jim Davis, and hosted the wedding of his daughter.
They celebrated the 100th birthday for Donald “Dusty” Rhodes, a WWII Army Veteran who participated in the Battle of the Bulge.
The VA is the largest single employer of nurses, and joins the American Nurses Association in recognizing VA nurses for their dedication and commitment to our Nation’s Heroes. They recently held “VA Nurses Make A Difference.”
Speaking of outstanding nurses, Kristy Brown, RN assigned to the Intensive Care Unit received the DAISY Foundation Extraordinary Nurse Award. Well done, Kristy. Thank you. I hope she was pinned with a NVAR Ride Pin!
About a dozen veterans sat curbside for our grand entry. Riders quickly swamped them with greetings, and first dibs to pin them! A gentleman in a wheelchair with an organized collection of pins on his hat captured the attention of a few of us. We met Bill, and he was thrilled to share a unique life of service.
He was born 400 miles north of Toronto, Canada; one of 5 brothers. His mother passed when he was five, and his father, an optometrist, did a fine job teaching his boys. Bill first served as a 15-year-old cadet airman, before he served in the Canadian Air Force. After that service, he wanted to get an education in America, so, he came down and in 1954, he enlisted in the U.S. Army to begin a long commendable career.
Bill earned a degree in architecture and studied radar, and studied in the church, too; an unusual combination, for an unusual and unique individual. In the mix of service in France, Korea, Germany, and the Pentagon, he drove truck, too! He also used his degree to redesign a staircase in the West Wing of the White House after 9/11.
As we questioned the pins on his cap, he struggled with memory, as they reflected service in Canada, the U.S., and far reaches of the globe. His brothers went on to respectable careers, also. Harold was in the British Air Force, another in the Canadian Navy during WWII, one followed his father in optometry, and Gregory became a high school teacher. Bill has outlived them all. What a remarkable man, a patriot.
A group of us were taken to the Alzheimer Unit, where we found four guys facing an empty street? During introductions, guys overwhelmed them with pins, and we were told they were waiting for a parade of motorcycles to come down the street; which about a dozen soon showed up for passage.
One of the veterans struggled with speech, was difficult to understand, and drooled a lot, but, he was aware of these impediments. During a long conversation, he repeated things slowly and patiently, with consideration to my poor hearing. (I wonder if he could hear the ringing in my ears.) He used to ride a Sportster and was inquisitive about the bikes; how much they cost, their horsepower, what I rode, and about our ride across America. His family visited a few times a month, and he was happy for that, and very appreciative to our visit.
Another fella there was a Vietnam Veteran, also. Lee served in the Da Nang area, and happy to talk about it. When I told him of my life in Vietnam, 2008 – 2012, he was surprised and quite interested in seeing pictures. I gave him my web site address and his daughter would help him navigate it, for entertainment. His family visits often also, and he doesn’t know if he will ever go home. What a hard acceptance that must be.
We didn’t leave until the fed us!
Eddie Shinn arranged a WV escort to the Virginia state line, and we appreciated that. Then we were on our own into D.C. Not a problem for seasoned riders on the NVAR. It was an unusual ride; traffic jammed up a couple times, but it was one of the smoothest rides in. Being on the southbound lane, in heavy shade of hot late afternoon sunshine, was a blessing.
395 northbound wasn’t bad either, and at our exit and entrance on the street to our hotel, our brave Road Guards were quick and bold to stop evening commuters in a construction zone. They may not have been too happy about that, but it was better for all of us.
The NVAR has landed!
Tomorrow, our last official day, we ride down to memorials on the Mall, then to Arlington National Cemetery for a respectful culmination.
Thank you, Thank a Vet & Never Forget

NVAR 2023 Day Twelve: (Saturday, May 27

Pride, with a bit of anxiety, radiates from riders; for some because they’ve cleaned their bikes, and for all, because they fulfilled one obligation and roll onto another. On the final day of the NVAR, the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend, it’s appropriate we pay our respect at memorials in our nation’s capital.
The riders meeting was short: We were riding down to the memorials and then to Arlington National Cemetery, which ended the formalities of the 2023 NVAR. After that, there were options for activities.
Before Wayne’s prayer, he read note that a young woman passed to Hoops, one of our riders, now passed on. The note was given to him a few years ago while the NVAR visited veterans at the Sacramento VAMC.
To explain the note: A young woman was in a very dark place, she felt alone, distanced from people, that help was beyond hope. She decided that when she got home she would kill herself. But when she met riders of the NVAR and saw what they were doing in the VAMC, she felt that people did care. She said that saved her life.
The VAMC was contacted about this with a description of the young woman. They tracked her down and have found the counseling she needed, and she reunited with her family.
This is what the NVAR is all about.
We’re riders of the NVAR; we look good rolling north on 395, and we know it!
Other groups of riders’ head in our direction, and they look good, too! We crossed the Potomac River, looped behind the Lincoln Memorial, and turned into a grass lot for our regular parking spot along the sidewalk. There were a lot of bikes already on grass lots across the street and curbside.
Our group stretched out in the short walk to the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial, aka The Wall. It was about 8:30 and the crowd was small. A small group of us went to Gary Alan Clifford’s name on The Wall for a ceremony. Riders signed a poster with Gary’s picture and information, which Headdog placed below his name. Wayne said a prayer and we all gave a slow salute to Gary. He is not forgotten.
From there we had time to wander or visit other memorials. Volunteers, or park service employees, were handy for anyone looking for a name.
Standing in front of The Wall is like standing before a magnet; one can’t help but being drawn into the names cut into the reflective black. Veterans stare at their buddy’s names, and remember. Families reach out and touch the name of a son or daughter, and remember. Many lay papers over a name and brush a pencil over it for a memento. Photos with stories of Missing in Action are sleeved in plastic and line the base of The Wall; families who have yet found confirmation or experienced closure. Other messages and personal items are among the papers.
By 9:15 the crowd had grown considerably. It was especially crowded at the apex where many ceremonies are held. I met a Facebook friend, that I had never met; you know how fb is! I recognized the bushy white beard and smile! Gary moved from Grand Junction CO to Michigan, thirty miles west of Toledo. I invited him to come check out the NVAR. He served in Vietnam and after reading Harley Tracks, he wants to visit as a tourist..
Then I met a Navy Veteran who spent his service in Nam Can, a little village at the bottom of Vietnam, along a channel that separates the mainland from its tip, barely above sea level. He almost couldn’t believe I knew the place from my life over there in recent times. It reminded me of places on the Louisiana Bayou. He told me stories about how the VC tried bombing them by attaching bombs with timers, and floating then on the tidal current, which flowed in both directions, per rise or ebb! They were constantly on the watch for these attacks.
At 10:30, we rode into Arlington National Cemetery. It was hot, and we didn’t sit in traffic too long at the entry.
First on the agenda was a wreath ceremony at Brad Clemmons grave, the son of Dave Clemmons. In blazing sunshine, our under a steady rain, its always an emotional event.
We boarded a tram for a quick tour through tens of thousands of graves, where men and women, Lieutenants, Majors, and Generals, lie in eternal rest among Privates, Lance Corporals, and Specialists. On arrival at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Headdog quickly took our Wreath Laying Squad to meet the Honor Guard for a briefing on laying the wreath. This year’s honor went to Karla Lloyd, Fred Henige, aka Flathead Fred, Eddie Shinn, and Big Daddy.
The rest of the riders had a few minutes to wander before the Changing of the Guard, with our riders to lay the wreath after. Attendants wheeled in a large group of k Flight Veterans with caps noting their service; WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. I would describe their demeanor as one of fulfillment—appreciation. Their crowd sat in great position to witness the Changing of The Guard about as close as anyone could get.
When the time came, the viewing area was packed. The Guard in charge walked up the steps and talked to the riders. (When I had that honor in 2019, I was surprised when the guard spoke in almost a “meet on the street” greeting, “Hey, how you doing? Where are you from?” “You’re going to do fine!”) I failed to question our riders about their chat with the Guard in charge, (my apology) but he must have calmed them down, because they all marched down the steps, and none stumbled like they claimed they would do.
This is arguably the most sacred piece of ground in the free world. To stand out there, and listen to the bugler blow Taps is the most humbling experience.
It might have ended for us, but for our four, it was a sensation slow to fade. Each who lays this wreath at the Tomb receives a special Tomb Pin. We all meet on nearby steps for a pinning ceremony made by riders who laid the wreath in the past year. Then, after a group photo we presented one more medallion to a veteran who served in the War on Terror, which was a proper end to the 2023 NVAR.
God Bless the Veterans & their families, and God Bless America
Tomorrow, some riders will leave at 7 am to join the Rolling to Remember ride that departs at noon. Yeah, a long wait, but an interesting time visiting in the crowd. Some riders may sleep late, and others will make tracks for home.
Thank You & Never Forget

Mike Rinowski "Track"

2023 National Veterans Awareness Ride

My wrap-up of these true tales began with the Prelude.
The 2023 NVAR was long overdue. Our receptions by veterans across America was near overwhelming. With the relax of Covid restrictions, they expected us. We looked them in the eyes and shared the human touch. And they touched each of us, too!
From across the country, riders converged on a small California town for a mission that culminated at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C. We were blessed with the opportunity to represent thousands of people who support our mission. To each of them, we are thankful and proud. There’s a special excitement in our camaraderie, mode of transport, and expression of gratitude. The sense of purpose and appreciation it brings to our veterans are near incalculable. That’s why it’s hard not to return to the ride each year!
But Memorial Day is a specific day to honor those no longer with us; those who gave all in battle, and those who lived to tell of the battle–and since passed on. For them, another day of life would be a grand day. For their sacrifice, we must live with the attributes, appetite, senses, and I add, the excitement they cherished in life. That, is the American Way.
I close with a veteran’s reply to a card of thanks. “You thanked me for my service. Thank you for being an American worth fighting for.”
God Bless America & God Bless our Military
Thank You & Never Forget

Mike Rinowski "Track"

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