By TODD GLASSCOCK
Lone Star News Group
PARKER COUNTY – They get their motors running. They head out on the highway, but the motorcycle riders caravaning from California to Washington, D.C., this week aren’t out for a joyride.
The Southern Route riders who saddle-up with the Run for the Wall are on a mission to generate public awareness of the “importance of accountability in wartime actions, emphasizing that no one should be left behind,” the group’s website says.
One way the national veterans organization serves its mission is to lay wreaths at memorials such as the replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall at the National Vietnam War Museum in Mineral Wells, said Jim Messinger, museum treasurer.
A platoon of the riders plan to arrive at the museum between 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. this Saturday, he said.
“They’ll be coming in from Abilene,” he said, and “about 20 of the motorcyclists will split off the main group to visit.”
He said the wreaths are meant to memorialize those killed in action, missing in action or taken prisoner of war and to show support to all military personnel.
Anyone may come out Saturday to welcome the riders, he said.
Run for the Wall takes place annually, the ride beginning 10 days before Memorial Day weekend, the group’s site says. Southern Route riders start from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and travel through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, and then pass through Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, before turning up through Tennessee and Virginia and making their final stop Memorial Day weekend at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.
When the more than 350,000 motorcycles reach D.C., the group forms up for the Rolling Thunder parade from the Pentagon to the memorial the Sunday before Memorial Day, the site says.
Besides raising public awareness of POW/MIA issues, and about those killed in action in all of America’s wars, the group hopes to provide a time of healing and reflection to Vietnam-era veterans, as well as veterans and family and friends of veterans from every war, including recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the site says.
They don’t make speeches or hold demonstrations to raise awareness, they just ride, the site says.
The group is open to veterans of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other recent conflicts, and friends and family of the veterans, the site says.
Run for the Wall began in 1989 when Vietnam veterans James Gregory and Bill Evans traveled on motorcycles across the U.S., according to the site, and talked to radio and TV stations and newspapers about the thousands of men and women still listed as missing in action or as prisoners of war.
More information is available at www.rftw.org.