The NFR 2014 is over, in the books, finished, etc – but I have to say, it’s added a lot to a very large list of memories that are fond and sad, and will always be with me.
The ride was far more than I expected. You actually have to break it down into more than one ride.
You have the ride itself – it’s no secret that I love to ride. It pretty much doesn’t matter what the weather conditions are like and I rarely get tired, and never bored. When you ride it reminds you of our freedoms in many ways. When you’re on your bike, you’re not enclosed and separated from the environment – you’re part of it. Although I do have the GPS talking to me and I do have the XM radio playing in the background, you can still feel the road. And this country is beautiful.
Long time long distance riders get pretty good at “guessing” the weather. You watch ALL weather as you learn how quickly and how frequently the weather can change! Heading down the road towards dark clouds can mean nothing – roads curve, and winds blow – in different directions at different altitudes. There were many times when the road I was on went BETWEEN the dark clouds. There was a couple of times when there was only a few clouds that were barely grey – but I was riding in rain. Wind can come out of nowhere, and it does, sometimes catching you by surprise. Flying a 3’ x 5’ flag on a 5 foot pole mounted on your back end, can hammer stability. Best case, it just causes a lot of leaning and changing lanes. But it will always fly – for my brothers and sisters who are “on patrol”, and for all my active and veteran brothers and sisters. Roads that have “lane shifts”, lips between lanes, lanes that have been narrowed way down due to construction, mutli-lane roads closed down to a single lane, than add a lane shift and then a lip. Rain can be a complicated issue. A light rain early in the season can make slippery roads. The white stripes, arrows, etc, are a smooth material (latex?) and when wet can cause the tires to slip. Stopping at lites/intersections and putting your foot down on a stripe can also lead to a slip. On the road, you also have “snakes” – that’s the black strips, straight and/or wiggly – that are tar and again, get slippery. Heavier rains can be better as they help to wash off some of the “slip and slide oils” on the roads. HEAVY rain can obscure the road and stuff on the road, as well as make it difficult to see. Remember also, that when it’s difficult to see, it also difficult to be seen.
The planning for the NFR was pretty specific allowing for very little flexibility – surface streets, far more enjoyable than most new highways or freeways – can mean more time to cover shorter distances. My bike attracts a lot of attention. Besides the tribute paint job (on the VTX), the 3’ x 5’ USA flag makes it extremely visible. I had many people waving and offering signs of encouragement. The important thing for all my brothers and sisters to realize, is that the attention the bike and the flag received was a recognition of what you all are serving for. And a recognition of those that have gone before us.
The ride sometimes was relatively slow but not because I backed off the throttle – it was just what I felt like doing at that moment. Memories always dictate my plans. Sometimes when I’m remembering a specific person, I change speed – faster or slower – I think more because of the individual memory. Put me on my bike and play Willy Nelson’s “On the road again” and odds are I’ll speed up – fast. Put on “the Reverend Mr Black”, and my speed sort of mellows but is constant. And so on. Have a memory of a guy we called “Raider” (not the guy from the TV series – this was before then I think) and my speed gets mellow – Raider stepped on a command detonated mine 2 weeks before he was supposed to rotate back to the states. One of the few patrols he actually went on. This unit armorer asked to go out as he wanted to spend one last patrol with his brothers before he rotated. He’ll be on patrol forever. Remembering “Sam” (no last names) speeds me up a little – he’s somewhere stateside now but back then he was well know for cussing out god when we were under firer. Either bravado or trying to convince the rest of us that there was no god. I don’t have a clue because when he would sound off, a lot of us, including me, would look for a new place to hunker down – didn’t want to find out that pissing off god was a bad thing. Hitting the back roads where there were lots of turns and “zig zags” reminded me of patrols in general – watch where you step, don’t move in a straight line, stay clear of bunched up vehicles (one accident can take you all down). Have “God Bless America” come on and you’d sit up straighter, twist the wick a little, and cruise with pride. But put on “We gotta get out of this place” and the tears would flow making me slow down as I could not see. Sometimes the music playing changed the view – play “America the beautiful”, or “God Bless America” while cruising thru the Blue Ridge Mountains, or the deserts of the mid west, or along the coasts, and you see why so many have made the sacrifice – one hell of a beautiful country. Put on the music from High School and you wonder what happened to the guys and girls you went to school with.
As I have said in some of my blogs from the NFR as well as the RFTW, there are times when you hear the voices of long gone friends and of friends we lost contact with when they came back to the states. The conversations we had in the tents in the “rear” or the conversations from the bunkers or foxholes. The voices we’d hear on our radio’s (communications) asking for arty or air support, looking for supplies – ammo and food – and worst case, asking for medevacs. Remembering my fellow warriors talking about the people back home – girlfriends, wives, Dad, brothers and sisters – but mostly, Mom. We all had our memories from back in “the world”. Every memory brings a different response and on a bike, you can think clearly and you can think a lot. Along the side of the road you see your brothers – still on patrol, waving or nodding, recognizing you, saying hello, or in some cases, goodbye. Sometimes it makes you remember that you didn’t get a chance to say “so long”. Many times the memories are of the good times. Ann Margaret coming to Danang in ’65 – damn she was (and is) not only HOT, but a classy lady. She was the presiding “sex kitten” – and I don’t think anyone could replace her in that title.
On the road I was able to cruise fairly easily almost on a cloud of memories. Speed was never an issue – or I should say, the speed I drove at was never an issue. I didn’t watch the speedometer – I watched the countryside and I watched the lives around me. Along the various roads I “saw” the people that have fought for our freedoms. They are still out there and always will be. In the Navy they call is still “on station” (I believe) and in the Corps, we call it still “on patrol”. I don’t know what the other services call it (my apologies) but what I do know is that they’re all still standing watch. I ride with a spirit on the back seat. He is always there and is always a reminder to me of what we are all fighting for, or what we have fought for – the freedoms. No matter how fast or slow I’m driving, they are always with me.
Much of the ride was cruising along freeways, old and new. The newer freeways have smoother riding – the surface is unbroken and they are great for getting from point to point. But the ride was rarely about that. I wasn’t trying to cover miles or just get some place. I was visiting my brothers.
Many times I was honored by brothers and sisters putting me up in their homes or getting me a motel room, feeding me and getting me fuel, or just visiting at the Memorials. But just being with these brothers and sisters was fantastic. Getting to see the riders from RFTW or from some of the clubs, the VFW, AL (&ALR), Marine Corps League – all showing what a tight “family” we have. In Chicago I spent a couple of hours with “Ike” – a brother I served with in ‘65/’66. First time we saw each other in all these years. Memories. In New York, the Aussie that came to meet me with the Brit Marine – we had been together in ‘Nam for less than a month (in late ’65) and yet when they heard about the ride, they came. A band of brothers. You can not have a better family.
A couple of times, I had brothers join me for short distances, cruising together like we’ve ridden forever. And we will ride together again.
Then you have the Memorials – I wrote a lot about them but there is far more, especially when you tie them all together. If you could line the Memorials up you would have miles and miles of names as well as miles and miles of tributes to these Fallen Heroes. You also have to remember – some Memorials are also for those still living AND those that will serve. NEVER FORGET!
From the “simple” Memorials of few words to the Memorials with a history – to the Memorials with pictures of our Fallen, with names, with the battles, with the ages of the Fallen, with the letters home, with the letters from the families to their Fallen, letters from the children to the parent they never knew, with items left at every Memorial…… I can not “pick” one Memorial that stands above the others. They all have their individual messages, and I would bet that every vet would have their own “best” Memorial. The “Warriors Remembered” (Vietnam Memorials) gives the back ground and the planning behind every Memorial in the book. What “you” need to do – go visit the Memorials in your state.
During my NEVER FORGET Ride, I never forgot that there are warriors going in harm’s way, some children of my still deployed Vietnam brothers, and some parents of our future warriors. I could do this ride because of them, and I did it for them
50 years ago tonight, Oct 31st, at midnight, I “mounted out” for my first tour in Vietnam. The Memories started then and haven’t stopped.
At the beginning of this epilogue I said – “The NFR 2014 is over, in the books, finished, etc – but I have to say, it’s added a lot to a very large list of memories that are fond and sad, and will always be with me.”
NEVER FORGET Ride - 2019
PHOTO UPDATE 09/30/14
I'm working on my final blog and also my photo's journey. Thru a mixup between me and my webmaster, we limited the photo's to the web site. Right now ALL photo's from the NFR as well as all other photo's for Eagles Up, can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/eaglesup/ . I am trying to figure out how, in "Flickr", I can first put all the NFR photo's in one group or set or whatever, and then second, edit the photo's to insure no duplicates or just plain no good. Please bear with me on this.
If any of you know how flickr works (with sets, etc) please contact me. For now I'm doing a "trial and error" attempt - not much sucess and I'm not good at this.
Memorial - Phoenix 09/23/14
Today I was escorted (again) down to the Wesley Bolin Memorial Park in Phoenix for the first of 2 events. At the park they've added one of the "big guns" from the USS Missouri, and one from the USS Arizona. They have a LEO Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, 9/11 Memorial (that will knock your socks off) . Part of the Memorial is the warrior helping warriors and someone let a note written to someone in the same situation - in real life. An almost overwhelming memorial - one thing after another. And the overall Memorials are still a work in progress.
The second part of the day was visiting with Sheriff Joe at his new office building. The Sheriff took time to praise the veterans, to pose for pictures and to sign autographs. In front of the building is a statue of the a police horse with a list of the names of the fallen from the Sheriff's Department. They need more Memorials like this to remind everyone of the sacrifices of our warriors here at home. We seem to forget about our PD & FD until the day they die - this is wrong. As I strive to get everyone to remember our (military) warriors it also becomes obvious we need to remember our non military warriors also. As our warriors go in harms way daily, so do our PD?D and EMT's. So again ---
3 Memorials - Prescott, Az 09/22/14
3 Memorials in one day. One Memorial in the downtown area is of a soldier trying to hold up a second while trying to wave in a medevac - these two were actual soldiers and the statue was made while they were serving in 'Nam. It looks like the wounded warrior is just barely hanging on and you can see the urgency in the other soldiers actions. The accuracy s fantastic - right uniform and right equipment.
One Memorial is adjacent to the Police Headquarters and is devoted to the services and also to 9/11. On the week of 9/11, in the field next to the memorial they put up 3000 flags representing those killed on that date - and each flag as the name and bio of the person it represents.
One Memorial is at the VA Hospital - the buildings are period buildings and surround the area where the Memorial is and includes a Soldiers Cross, slightly slanted and instead of boots at the base, its a helmet with spent shells around it. The impression I get, is it seems like the soldier that fell was immediately memorialized by his fellow warriors.
Seeing the 3 in one day made them even more important. The similarities are there, of course, but each one has a different focus- but brings the war into a much more clearly defined issue. The central importance, our warriors, is made very obvious. The bulk of the Memorials center on one warrior helping another. The Vietnam vets learned from the very beginning that, for the most part, there "support" was their fellow warrior. Because of that many Vietnam Vets have shut out the rest of the world. They all need to come out and talk about their experiences. If you are a Vietnam Vet (reading this), or if you know a Vietnam Vet, ask them to come out and right a little about their experiences.