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