A White Sands Missile Range employee decided to celebrate his 2016 Memorial Day right by participating in the annual ‘Run for the Wall’ motorcycle ride where he traveled through eight different states before arriving in Washington D.C. to honor the military lives lost. WSMR Security Training Instructor Tim Brown participated in the ride that began for him May 19 and ended May 30, Memorial Day. Brown, who retired from the Air Force, is also a member of the American Legion Post 10 from Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“It’s a great honor and privilege to be able to do this,” Brown said. “It’s not a joy ride, it’s very moving. It’s wonderful to be a part of this great group.”
A motor group left May 18 from Ontario, California, to meet up with hundreds of riders like Brown along their ride to D.C. Harlan Olson, an Army veteran, and his wife, Janelle, have participated in the ride for the past 10 years. The ride started 28 years ago with 150 riders completing the ride to D.C. In 2016, Olson said they left California with just over 1,000 riders. The ride has become so large that three different routes were implemented, a central route, a midway route and southern route. Throughout their 10-day ride, the riders visit military monuments, memorials and cemeteries; visit several elementary schools they raise funds for and are also greeted by several patriotic spectators along the route.
“They learn that vets are pretty nice guys and become very aware of the military community,” Janelle said of the students in the schools they visit.
When the group arrives in D.C. they participate in a ceremony called “Rolling Thunder,” a motorcycle ride that begins on Constitution Avenue. Riders from around the world come together to participate in the ride. The purpose of the ride is to shed light on the 78,000 military members that are still considered prisoners of war or missing in action since World War II.
Brown met up with the southern-route group, two days into their ride, when they passed through Las Cruces.
The group visited the Veteran’s Ware Memorial Monument at Veteran’s Memorial Park during their stop.
“The reason I decided to do this is because it is important that we remember all of our service members,” Brown said. “We need to recognize all of our military members and make sure all of our POWs, MIAs and killed in action are never forgotten. We still have POWs, we still have MIAs and unfortunately we still have KIA.”
The group of riders also wanted to convey a second message to their captive audience this year. They wanted to bring awareness to the statistic of 22 veterans who commit suicide on a daily basis. In a blog that is maintained by the group, 220 deaths were documented during the time it took to complete their ride.
Brown, who served in the Air Force from Dec. 18, 1947, to July of 1995, said the ride was like nothing he had ever experienced before. The amount of support he experienced from onlookers was enlightening. Brown said the group received warm welcomes at every stop they made; and at one point they received a 21-gun salute on the highway. Brown said a highlight of the trip for him was being able to meet the last Navajo Code Talker and being able to ride alongside Gulf War POW Joseph Hudson, from Alamogordo, New Mexico.
“It really is a healing ride for the veterans,” Janelle said. “We don’t just have Vietnam veterans, we also have active duty and veterans from the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. These men and women just want to ensure that young military men and women are welcomed home and get the help they need.”
For more information on Run for the Wall, visit www.rftw.org.