Martinsburg VAMC – Martinsburg, West Virginia
This mornining, crunched among my stuff, I found yesterday’s program schedule from Northeastern School. I’d like to give formal recognition to Master Sergeant John Wilson for the McClain Cadet Corps, who presented colors. Alli Robert, Student Council Vice President narrated the History of Memorial Day, with the bands performance of the “Spirit of America” to follow. Avery Barker, Student Council Secretary, narrated the History of the NVAR and Introduction of Ride Coordinators. Jordan Smith, Student Council President, gave benediction.
Also, among the photos, we were greeted with Dave and Brenda Clemmons 20th grandchild. Congratulations!
The other day, I noted Wayne’s story about God, the motorcycle, and the road; today is Part II.
It’s one thing to ride into the rain, and quite another to dress into rain gear, first thing in the morning, while sheets of water slide off the asphalt parking lot. A steady stream of droplets lit by streetlights shoot down from the darkness, with a constant splash of white noise all around. It’s all part of the adventure, and the mission rolls on.
The first stop is Denny’s Restaurant, with an owner thrilled to welcome the NVAR; so thrilled, he had to have a group photo. On this rare occasion, a menu is offered, rather than a free-for-all we’ve grown accustomed to.
Dan “Sweetness” Kress, read today’s tribute:
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremy W. Griffin, 40, of Greenbrier TN, was killed Sept. 16, 2019 by small arms fire in Afghanistan. He was on his fourth deployment. He is survived by his parents, his wife, a son and daughter, and a sister.
Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Goble, 33, of Westwood NJ, died Dec. 23, 2019 from injuries sustained from a roadside bomb on his third deployment to Afghanistan. He leaves behind his partner, Jen, and a six year old daughter.
By the numbers, these daily tributes amounted to: 21 killed in action. 35 children left behind. 4 unborn children. 14 non-combat deaths. 2 women: one killed in action and one non-combat death.
Let them not be forgotten.
Today, Wayne read a poem, written by John Mitchum, and recorded by John Wayne. In so few words and verses “Why Are You Marching Son” makes powerful statements about battles from Valley Forge to the Alamo, Appomattox to Bull Run, on Flanders’s field, and from Pyongyang to South Vietnam.
Very carefully, riders rolled into formation and splashed over the hills beside foliage saturated form the tips of leaf to its deepest root. And when you ride in rain long enough, now matter how bundled and zipped you are, a drop of water is going roll down your back, or front, with more to follow. It’s just the way God planned it!
Members of the VFW, dressed in rain gear, lined the entry to the Rocky Gap Cemetery for a welcome. This is a beautiful location for the final resting place for our veterans; in a clearing of the lush grown between Appalachian mountains. The rain fell silent here.
The Civil Air Patrol Cadets had placed flags at every grave marker. The flags hung still in the rain. The ceremony was held inside the chapel with a flag line by the VFW. Outside, a rifle squad fired off a salute. After the ceremony, certificates of appreciation were handed out.
Back into the rain the riders rode! Cautiously through the hills and curves, and gently on the brakes for stop lights to the Martinsburg WV, VAMC. Unfortunately we would not meet with any veterans, but the NVAR made a grand entrance, anyway, with a tour around the building with horns blaring and engines revving. At the request of hospital staff, a second round of blaring was made to ensure we were heard by all gazing and waving from behind the windows. So close, yet, so far away.
Established in 1947, the Martinsburg VAMC celebrates their 75th Anniversary this year. The facility was built for 230+ patients, yet, after WWII they cared for 3,000 wounded Americans and German POW’s, with overflow housed in concrete block out buildings.
A large tent with tables and chairs was set up in the parking lot for our reception. Sarah Tolstyka, Director of Public Affairs, gave a welcome speech with pride for our mission, and pride for their anniversary and success with helping serve veterans. This facility is the only one in the country with mobile clinics, four of them. These beasts are like giant RV’s on steroids. They contain the most comprehensive collection of a populations needs in time of disaster. The vehicles will drive to local areas, or flown to others via planes, such as the Air Force C5.
We all recall the rudimentary M.A.S.H. tents Hawkeye and Pierce worked in on the famous tv show of the same name. The new M.A.S.H. tents are near the size of a football field, with hallways, the ever entertaining “waiting rooms”, offices, patient rooms, x-ray rooms, and operating rooms. They’ve come a long way with services and patient care.
After lunch, provided by the the auxiliary, it was back into rain gear for the ride to Washington D.C. to great relief, the rain slacked off, and soon stopped. More traffic flowed from the city; likely commuters, and those leaving the city to the hundreds of thousands of tourists and patriots entering. After days of waiting in traffic on 495, (it was really more like an hour, but stop and go, dressed in full rain gear makes it feel longer) the trail led to our final hotel in Alexandria.
It’s a great relief to arrive in D.C. after 10 days on the road. Riders were quick to check-in, and later step out to eat, then clean bikes and enjoy the social time.
Thank You & Never Forget – Mike (Track) Rinowski
(Sorry… no images for this report.)