I was fortunate to be able to attend part of the Run for the Wall (prior to Memorial Day). My sister-in-law and I went two years ago to support her son, my nephew Bobby, who had been in the military and was riding to D.C. with them. We enjoyed it so much, we wanted to go again.

This year, my sister-in-law (who is married to my brother who was in the Vietnam and the Korean Wars), and one of my sisters and I went again. My nephew Bobby was riding again. No offense, Bobby, I love you, but we would have gone even if you weren’t participating.

The stop in Rainelle was amazing. The Rainelle newspaper said there were more than 500 motorcycles that rode into town Thursday afternoon. There was food for them at the grade school, and the kids all got to talk with them. From there, we went to Lewisburg, which was going to be their final overnight stay and last place for any more groups to join up with them before they completed their trip to D.C. To be honest, I was more than a little disappointed and ashamed, because there were so few there to welcome these war veterans as they passed through. I considered it a privilege to be able to shake their hands and say “thank you,” to stand there with my flag waving in the air. Just the rumble of all those motorcycles together is an experience in itself. They call it Rolling Thunder, and that’s exactly what it sounds like.

There are thousands of motorcycles by the time they all meet up in D.C. I’ve heard it’s hard to find a place to park a motorcycle. Hard to imagine.

I digress. They have a strict schedule they stick to, and their plan was to leave at 8:30 Friday morning, so I was there around 7:30 of course, not wanting to miss anything. Getting up early is worth it. They break off into their individual groups for last-minute details, announcements are made, dead silence when a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance are said. To see an ocean of veterans all in one area, bound by a bond that many of us will never know, is more moving than you could ever imagine.

If you have never had the opportunity to experience this, you are really missing out. This was my second time, and I plan to go again next year. The sense of pride you feel and the level of gratitude to these men and women really goes through the ceiling. It’s hard to hold back the tears as they ride by, knowing that they have put their lives on the line to protect me, my family, my friends, my country.

So ... when you are thinking of family and friends who have passed away, please whisper a “thank you” to all those who have given their lives to protect ours.

Rebecca Whitlock

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