Not a ride - a mission: 'Run for the Wall' stops in Concordia
Three routes of bikers - central, midway and southern - started riding from Los Angeles Wednesday, May 14, and are headed for Washington, D.C. and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial as part of Run for the Wall (RFTW). Riders from the central route stopped in Concordia Monday, May 19, for lunch and to share stories of experience with youth and community members. Many will tell you they're not just riding ― they're on a mission.
Advance riders with an ambassador's group stopped at the schools in Concordia to share stories about their war experience, information about past wars and teach students about RFTW. Roger Hegeman, along with Dave Palmer, Glenn and Cathy Buckhholz and Sonia and Eric Ammann were part of the advance ambassadors who went to Concordia R-2 Elementary School.
"We wanted to talk to you today a little bit (about Run for the Wall)," said Palmer, who is from Fort Collins, Colo.
The mission conducted by riders goes from Los Angeles to D.C. to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, along with Arlington National Cemetery and other war memorials. Palmer said they ride for the men and women who were killed in the Vietnam War and those either missing in action (MIA) or prisoners of war (POW).
"There's a lot of sad things that took place in people's lives, and this run that we're on is a run that promotes healing for us," said Palmer.
Mrs. Ammann and Mrs. Buckhholz then demonstrated to students how many served in the various wars. They did this by having a small number of students stand while the others remained seated. Ammann also talked to students about the number of Missouri residents who were killed in the wars, including one from Concordia who served in Vietnam.
"Stanley Wayne Martens, who was born in 1948, here in Concordia Mo., and served in the U.S. Army," said Ammann. "He was located in ... South Vietnam and in 1968 he lost his life. So somebody from your town here paid the ultimate price, and we don't ever want to forget."
Mr. Buckhholz also shared stories of his life and war experience.
"I went into the service when I was 17 years old," he said. "I was on a floating service station ― that's how they kept those engines burning that oil."
Buckhholz said it was a great experience for him.
"I went over as a snot-nosed kid and came back a man," he said. "I didn't have to fight, but I saw it going on. It was a rude awakening to young man."
He shared about a magical experience with the students. The propellers ― or screws ― of the ships would disturb the water and phosphorescent plankton or other creatures would come to light at night. His main purpose was to encourage students to keep up their studies.
"You kids have got all kind of potential," explained Buckhholz. "I didn't graduate from high school. I did get my (GED diploma) through the service. ... You can get a great education. It's out there for you, but you have to work for it."
The main group of riders arrived in Concordia around 11:30 a.m. Some started the run at its starting point, while others will officially join the run in Wentzville. Jim Bertsch, of Blue Springs, is one such rider. He said he served for 29 years in the army and served during the Vietnam era. For Bertsch, it is a way to honor those who have served or currently serving.
"It's a privilege to do it," he said. "The run is also a healing mechanism for not only Vietnam vets but all veterans. A lot will tell you they've finally come home."
Riders don't just come from California, they come from all over, including Kansas, Arizona, Hawaii or even D.C.
Kim "Stormwatch" Greeley and her husband Nick "Rich Boy" Hentges started the journey in California, by way of Hawaii, and have participated for six years.
"We first heard about the run from a friend, who had ridden for 15 years and is a Vietnam veteran," said Greeley.
For others, the ride has an unfathomable quality.
"I don't quite know how to put it into words, said Ken "Cheetos" Newfeld. "It's about the POW/MIA. Veterans have gone through many hardships, and it's nice to see so much support and thanks now. It wasn't always there."
Newfeld has ridden in RFTW for 10 years and lives in Arizona, but he also started the mission in California.
However, there are also first-time riders. Kathryn "Literal E" Ewing, of Washington, D.C., and sister to Greeley, said she has seen how much good there is in RFTW.
"It's about family and friendships. Everyone here are great friends, and they all have become family," she said. "It's amazing how humbling it is."
RFTW Concordia stop Coordinator Lorie Wilson said the event was spectacular and thanked Jackson County Sheriffs, police officers, Missouri State Highway Patrol troopers and other area sheriffs' departments for the full police escort across the state for the riders. She also thanked all of the volunteers who helped, which included the Christian Motorcycle Association, American Legion Lohman-Meyer Post 258 and VFW Post 5649-Concordia Memorial Post.
Photo gallery: http://www.theconcordianonline.com/gallery/rftw2014/