Wednesday, May 23, 2012

2012 Run For The Wall: Concordia, Missouri Pit-Stop

This year is the 37th anniversary of the fall of Saigon. There are 1,720 soldiers still accounted for in Southeast Asia. 137 MIA from the Cold War, 7,221 missing from Korea and another 74,213 still unaccounted for from WWII. Many more remain missing from the Desert Storm Conflict.

In 1986, Carl Rice, a veteran Vietnam Fire Team Leader, walked the interstate highways from Los Angeles, California to Port Angeles, Washington (his home) carrying the POW/MIA flag to show support of the missing soldiers. Over Memorial weekend in 1988, two biker Vietnam veterans, Artie Muller and Ray Manzo, gathered a group of bikers to form a rally they called Rolling Thunder as a voice to the government for the POW/MIA and KIA of the war. They came together with James Gregory to plan the first motorcycle ride to Washington DC. They called this ride the Run For The Wall. In May, 1989, the first RFTW left San Diego with local police and 115 bikers. Most turned back, but 15 went all the way. The mission was complete May 26, 1989, arriving in Washington, DC at The Wall. The next day they placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and that Sunday, they lead Rolling Thunder. This year, they will make 39 fuel stops in 11 States in the Central Route.

The Run For The Wall is an organization of bikers who are either veterans of foreign wars or are family members riding for their KIA or POW soldiers. The reason they ride is to promote healing among all veterans and their family and friends, to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War, those Missing in Action (POW/MIA) and to honor the memory of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and to support the military personnel all over the world.

It all started around 10 o’clock on a bright Monday morning. A group of veteran bikers from Kansas City, Missouri arrived at Conoco gas station in Concordia. They were just the first of many groups to show their patriotism that day.  I was driving through town when I saw the group of bikes sitting in the parking lot and knew how the rest of my day would go. I ran home and grabbed my camera to capture the loyalty and spirit of these riders.

Some rode for their sons and daughters, some for their brothers and sisters, and others for their friends. The majority rode for themselves with their wife in the back seat for support.

For each stop they make along their journey, they have a different pin they attack to their jacket. For each trip they make over the years, they have a new patch. This year is the 24th ride across America. 

One group of riders call themselves the Flag Support Unit. I had the privilege of talking with one rider about her experience. This was her first year stopping in Concordia. She and her husband made the patches in their sewing shop they own in Pittsburg, Kansas. They got their name from all the funerals they would ride to. Her husband and she would ride to different towns, averaging 7 funerals a week, with the flag of each town they were visiting on the back of their truck or motorcycle. This was before each town came up with their own flag guild, making it unnecessary for them to do this. They keep the patches as a sort of memory for all the trips they have made over the years.

Over 400 bikers stopped in Concordia to fuel and eat lunch. As the platoons rolled in, thousands of dollars of gasoline were pumped at all three downtown fueling stations. The amount of support the businesses and townsfolk showed this group was amazing. The love was palpable.

For more on the history of the Run For The Wall, visit the RFTW website. They have a complete story of the makings of RFTW as well as stories from new and seasoned riders. If you or someone you know would want to join, you can register there.

For more images, please visit the HNF Photography fan page. For images to print, please contact me at and I’ll send you the full size image and print release for printing at your choice of locations.

Thank you for taking your time to read about the Run For The Wall and the amazing cause they ride for. 



"Paladin" said...

Heather, your photos of RFTW are simply outstanding as is your commentary! Thank you very much for publishing them.