Central Nebraska Veterans Home – Kearney, Nebraska

Saturday May 21st, Cheyenne, WY (Day Five) Displays in Right Frame

After yesterday’s rain, and this morning’s 23 degrees, frost was not a surprise. My bike groaned as a new lithium battery persuaded the engine to start. 

There’s a guy at the Fraternal Order of Eagles that loves to cook, and breakfast seems to be his specialty. Check out the cuts of ham! It’s like this every year.

Yesterday I spoke of the commitments these riders make. Each rider pays their own way for fuel, hotel rooms, and you know how little we spend on food. The ride and the mission are bigger than any one person. It’s something each is drawn to with a sense of obligation, gratitude, and fulfillment to such an extent, for example: after breakfast, Fred Young called Willa, his wife, with his phone on speaker, when Willa answered, everyone shouted, “Happy Anniversary Willa”, in honor of her and Fred’s 56th wedding anniversary. This was not the first anniversary Fred spent on the NVAR, either. There have been other such occasions spent by many in gratitude to those who served and sacrificed.

Jerry started the regular meeting with bits of info for the days events. He received news about our ride around the Cheyenne VAMC; veterans waved at us from each window at the front of the building. They were no doubt more disappointed as we were. Damn covid! 

Patrick, aka Jackwagon, Road Guard Captain, hasn’t spoken in a couple of days, so I guess we’re all doing well. Dean’s weather report did not include rain, sleet, or snow, which is a good weather report.

Today’s tribute was for two Army soldiers killed March 22, 2019, during combat operation in Afghanistan. 

Sgt. Joseph Collette, 29, of Lancaster OH. Shortly before being deployed, through out his house, he hid 30 love letter for his new wife to find. He left her and four children behind.

Sgt. 1st class Will Lindsay, 33, of Cortez CO was deployed five times to Iraq, Tajikistan, and Afghanistan. He is survived by his wife and four daughters. They are not forgotten.

Waynes wise word came in a story of our perception of aging; we’re never just five years old, we’re five and a half; we can’t wait to be 21, and at 30, well, we’ve crossed a threshold, and at 60 we want to stop counting, and at 99 we wonder if we’ll make the big 100. The point was that the decision in life are ours to be the best we can be and leave kindness behind.

We never have too many road guards, and it was great to have Steve, aka Babyface, back in the pack. This group of guys waltz their machines around the highways like Al Pacino controlled the dance floor in the movie “The Scent of a Woman.” They’re amazing to watch. Also, a return to the NVAR is Janette Lennox, who rode in from Greeley CO. Welcome back Janette.

The sun burned brilliant in another crystal blue sky, with the same shadows swerving from each riders bike. The thought of no inclement just made the day feel better, as long as we were dressed well and turned on, with heated liners, of course.

From the first gas stop in Sydney, I led a wreath laying detail on a unique mission, to locate the memorial for Kathleen Kintzele, aka Lovie. She died on the first NVAR. I did not have the privilege to know her, but I know those who did. Her road name, Lovie,  spoke volumes of her character and personality. Major construction at the merge of interstates removed it, but from a photo and local evidence we found the exact location. On each ride, this detail parks beside the interstate to salute the NVAR as they pass by. Bill Luft, aka Mongo, the NE State Coordinator, will arrange a new memorial to replace the old one. Lovie is not forgotten.

We caught up with the NVAR in time for……you guessed it, LUNCH. Each year, the North Platte Fire Department sets out a tasty treat of Subway sandwiches; and this is a treat because how can we gorge ourselves with one subway,,,,unless we have two!

Riders of the Purple Fish Motorcycle Club, PFMC, of which Bill Luft, aka Mongo, is the International President, and other riders were there to participate in a wreath laying ceremony. The Veterans Memorial is exceptional, with an expansion to include memorials to the North Platte Canteen, and Lincoln County Law Enforcement Memorials. If you are passing through Nebraska, this is a memorial you will enjoy with heartfelt emotions of sorrow, gratitude, and pride for those who served and sacrificed. 

Wandering among us, we met a veteran of the War on Terror, and a Medal of Freedom was presented.

More PFMC and a Police escort waited for us at the Kearney gas stop. An emergency came up, and the Police had to make it a quick escort, which we appreciated! Then, with great disappointment, we were not allowed into the Central Nebraska Veterans Home, or even have contact with them outside! This is such a beautiful new home I could boast about, but trust me, its nice and the residents love it.

Back in 2014, Don Jenkins, aka Quacker, befriended a resident, Donald, who could not follow in his father’s footsteps as a carpenter, to put it politely, but instead, he became an electrician. Don, as a retired carpenter on a scale of bridge building, hit it off well with Donald and visited with him on each ride. Since we were not allowed inside, Quacker gave a ride pin to an attendant to give to Donald, along with greetings and the promise to visit next year.

To fill time not visiting with resident veterans, we found their new Central Nebraska Veterans Memorial fascinating, and quite thorough with recognition to wars back to the Civil War. It ended with the Iraq War in 2011, and had three pillars for an expansion of memorials. (Is there an end to memorials?) This memorial encompassed a large area in a layout similar to the WWII Memorial in Washington D.C., with benches set on lawn and landscape; another site to visit in Nebraska.

Bill and Jerry returned with a plan; to ride onto the patio at the center of the facility raving our engines and blowing our horns. We were glad, and sad, to see the many veterans on the inside, smiling, waving, and pointing, but no human touch! This lack of contact and communicating face to face bothers us, and we can only imagine the isolation they continue to endure. Damn Covid.

It’s an honor to ride in the Missing Man Formation; a position directly behind the Ride Leader, Headdog, with the State Coordinator beside him. Beside the rider of honor, which was me on the final leg of the ride today, is an empty spot for the missing veteran no longer with us. Behind the rider of honor and missing man ride two more; all told to protect the missing man. Its ridden in a tight formation with lane changes made in unison.

We crossed a threshold in the weather world into something that held a sense of short sleeves and suntan lotion. Not yet, but there was a promise in the air!

With that, we rode straight to the American Legion Post 300 in Doniphan for dinner, actually, a feast that rivals only with turkey and Christmas dinners. They do this every year. Did I mention the desert bar?

Bill and his support from the legion, the Purple Fish, his association with the police and sheriff’s departments, his wife, Nancy, facility directors across the state, and more, all make Nebraska another great place to visit.

And with all that said, we’ll get our rest for more of our mission tomorrow.

Thank You & Never Forget – Mike (Track) Rinowski

1 thought on “Day 5 SitRep – May 21st – Cheyenne, WY”

  1. So glad you were able to make the ride this year, and to drive through the Central Nebraska Veterans’ Home, and see our new Memorial! I know the Members at the Veterans’ Home appreciated seeing you carrying on with your mission, even if it was through the glass windows of Freedom Hall! After dedicating 40 years serving as the Activity Manager at the Vets Home (retired 3 weeks ago!), I can assure you that it makes such a positive difference in their lives to have you remember them each year! Thanks for all you do, and safe journey ahead!

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