Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 14, 2013

Support sought for annual Run for Wall

Pilgrimage to D.C. will pass through area next week

Kenneth Hart
The Independent

RUSSELL — Some local motorcyclists are hoping riders and nonriders will turn out next week to show support for a group of bikers riding cross country to the nation’s capital in support of military veterans.

The 25th annual Run for the Wall will depart today from Ontario, Calif., for the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C. The mission of the ride is to promote healing among veterans and their families and friends; to call for a full accounting of prisoners of war and those missing in action; to honor the memories of those who lost their lives in all of the nation’s wars; and to support military personnel throughout the world. The annual event draws hundreds of thousands of riders to the capital.

The caravan will depart Mount Sterling on May 22 and pass through Rowan, Carter and Boyd counties on Interstate 64 en route to its next overnight stop in Hurricane, said Jim Stevenson of Russell, president of Star Touring 256, a local ride club, and member of the Patriot Guard Riders, a group that provides motorcycle escorts for military funerals.

Stevenson said he is encouraging his fellow motorcyclists — and nonriders as well — to gather en masse to show support for the Run for the Wall as it makes its way through the region.

Anyone wishing to be a part of the effort, he said, should meet at the Northeastern Kentucky Industrial Parkway I-64 overpass about 4 p.m. May 22. People are encouraged to bring American flags to wave at the riders as they pass below them, he said.

The group is expected to pass by about 4:30 p.m., Stevenson said.

Stevenson has made the trip to Washington several times, and he said it’s quite common for large numbers to turn out in communities along the route to cheer on the riders, a large percentage of whom are veterans.

On one trip, though, he said he recalled riding through Boyd County and seeing only one person standing on an overpass waving.

Fred Reynolds, a Vietnam veteran and another Star Touring 256 member and PG rider, said he had made the Memorial Day D.C. pilgrimage for five of the 25 years it’s been in existence. He said it’s always a moving experience, particularly the stops at veterans hospitals along the way.

“There were a lot of places in those where I just couldn’t force myself to go,” he said.

After departing Hurricane on May 23, the RFTW’s next stop will be in Rainelle, W.Va., and Rainelle Elementary, which was “adopted” by the group in the early years of the run and has been a regular stop for the past 23 years. The school and the town in Greenbrier County host a huge reception for the riders.

“As soon as they leave California, they start raising money for the school,” Stevenson said, noting that last year, the group donated more than $25,000 to Rainelle Elementary.

A group from Star Touring will ride to Rainelle on the morning of May 23 to be part of the festivities there.

KENNETH HART can be reached at khart@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2654.