Indiana Veterans Home – West Lafayette, Indiana

Wednesday May 25th, Michigan City, IN (Day Nine) Displays in Right Frame

Michigan City is a family affair on arrival, with a family affair on departure; there are hugs and smiles at both ends, and we are well fed. A big cheer of appreciation to the St. Joseph Club for hosting dinner, and the DAV for breakfast.

As I mentioned previously, this year’s NVAR is dedicated to Patrick “Trick” Gordon, our deceased Brother. It’s been two years, and will always be deeply missed. Trick’s wife, Angie, has joined the ride to Washington D.C. From Michigan City, The Wall Gang dedicates the ride to a fallen veteran, and this year that veterans is Spec. 4 Allan Moore, who was killed in action in Vietnam on Aug. 8, 1970. His mother and sister were present to accept posters for the dedication. His mother’s sorrow is no less today. Allan is not forgotten.

Certificates of appreciation were handed out to leaders of our great support that we couldn’t do without; the police department, Karla “Clutch” Lloyd, the DAV, the cooks and helpers, and our leader Steve “Headdog” Moore.

Dan “Lugnut” Kuepker, the Indiana State Coordinator, gave us a rundown on his realm of arrangements. Then Tony “Squirt” Cunningham and Dave “Double-D” Clemmons, Ohio State Coordinators, gave us a brief on tomorrows itinerary.

Today’s tribute went to two soldiers sho lost their lives on August 21, 2019, while on a raid alongside Afghan special forces. This was the deadliest year for U.S. forces. Those heroes were;

Master Sgt. Jose J. Gonzalez, 35 of La Puente CA. He spent 17 years in the military. He is survived by is wife and two children.

Master Sgt. Luis F DeLeon-Figueroa, 31, of Chicopee Massachusetts, served more than 13 years in the Army, and deployed six times. He left behind his fiancee and three daughters.

They are not forgotten.

Wayne shared a story about God, the motorcycle, the road, and a point known to anyone who has rode a motorcycle. You haven’t really rode a motorcycle until you’ve rode in the cold, rode in the rain, rode in the cold and the rain, rode in the snow, sleet, and gale force winds, and rode with the sun on your horizon, into a magnificent sunset, beside some of the most beautiful scenery God’s creation has to offer, and rode with the best of friends. To appreciate the good you have to know and experience the not so good, the difficult and challenging times and conditions. It’s all part of the adventure.

Riders suited up for the forecast of rain. Final farewells were shared and our police escort led about 35 riders south on highway 421. (Tony “Token Squid”, Executive Director of the Gold Star Ride Foundation in from Mpls MN, has become a regular on the ride.) The rain was more of a nuisance than a real rain, although, cells of heavy stuff did swirl around, and there were a few hard core patriots along our route to cheer us on. 

We arrived at West Central School the day after their last day! A few teachers and parents were around to visit and attend our flag raising with a new POW/MIA flag. After it was raised to full height with the recognition of a salute, it was lowered to half mast, with another salute in memoriam of the 19 children and two adults killed in a shooting in Texas school shooting. This is beyond tragic; and I leave this to you, with your own thoughts and prayers.

The rain cells passed and we rolled between rows of flags into the Indiana Veterans Home in West Lafayette. We circled through the main entry with revved engines and horns blaring, then received good news: we would share lunch with the residents—face to face, with facemarks, of course, and could shake their hands. Finally a bit of normalcy! Riders bumped into each other to claim dibs on residents to give them a ride pin, a card from a kid, and a star; but we did so, politely!

At the round table, a group broke into song, “How much is that doggie in the window,,,,,,,ARF, ARF,,,,,,WOOF,,,WOOF,,,,” That got a lot of laughs. Douglas, a WWII veteran, revealed the lines on his hand that showed he would have a long life. He will turn 99 years old in October. He is the last of his siblings, but holds the pride and honor of being a great grandpa.

Francis, a Korean War Veteran, from Puerto Rico, showed us wounds in both knees, but would have had to drop his trousers to show us another would, which we took his word for. Next time, I want to remember to ask him how a dude from Puerto Rico ended up in Indiana.

Wayne told us he was building a steam locomotive in the basement! That was something to wonder about. He led Headdog, Val, and me to the arts and crafts room where we gazed in surprise at the marvel he was assembling. As you see in the photo, his skeletal three driver locomotive was a work of art, and patience. Toothpicks hold the pieces together. It’s a work in progress, but a twisted rubber band will turn the drivers. Wayne is a crafty guy, and we’ll look forward to seeing it run next year. 

We bid them farewell and after our gas stop, we laid tracks through Indianapolis without an escort. We didn’t get hurt, and didn’t hurt anybody, but we do miss those motor cops clearing all traffic from the freeways. Once through the city, we stopped for more gas, and ice cream. It was hot, and our destination, Brookville OH was only 85 miles away; a deceiving distance with a false sense of security!

Two miles down the highway, and to the south, a big black storm crept to the north to rain on our parade. The frontal blast was torrential. (I had to wonder, “This is a strange coincidence with Wayne’s story: God, the motorcycle, and the road!) Of course, we left in the sunshine and heat, so most of us were instantly soaked on the right side, but as soon as it came on, we rode out if it, into rays of hot sunshine, then back into a bigger cell. Oh what fun we were having. The good part about it, besides appreciating a hot, sunny, dry day when we get one, was that at least it didn’t rain while we sat at a standstill in traffic!

It was important to ride when at all possible, as motor cops waited for us at the Ohio border, and perhaps the rest of the police force waited in Brookville. They have allotted times to assist and support us and it was necessary to be on schedule.

The residents of Brookville line streets and wave flags. As our escort leads us on the scenic route through town, residents wait in their yards and driveways to wave and cheer us on. At the Am Vets  Post, the fire department showed up with their tankers and a gigantic flag waved from an extended ladder.

Like in Michigan City, it’s another family welcome with many, many supporters in the area. We no sooner got off the bikes, and all had to dash into the club while another storm cell passed, but we were soon back outside for certificates of appreciation to “the usual suspects”. The VFW was present with a squad for a 21 gun salute. Then came dinner and social time. 

Thank You & Never Forget – Mike (Track) Rinowski

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