Hundreds of people lined Highway Z Monday afternoon welcoming approximately 550 motorcyclists to on the central route’s sixth leg of the Run For The Wall journey to Washington, DC.
and O’Fallon fire departments hoisted the American Flag on ladder trucks across the highway, creating a gateway to the event. Cyclists arrived by police escort. A brief ceremony took place at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial at the . Speakers included , , VFW state commander and others.
Run For The Wall was conceived in 1989 by two Vietnam Vets, “Gunny” Gregory and Bill Evans, who traveled the United States raising awareness for the unaccounted veteran, whether they be missing in action or a prisoner of war.
“At inception, there were about 20 people involved with Run For The Wall” said Chuck “Shadow” Gyurek, of Craigsville, OH. “Wentzville was one of the original stops along the journey to Washington, DC.”
The trip, starting in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, takes ten days to complete.
Along the route, riders make stops to veteran’s hospitals, schools and memorials.
“A stop at Jefferson Barracks on May 22 was scheduled to visit patients,” said Nancy Cowan, VFW Post Commander.
For the last 14 years, Gyurek has attended The Run for the Wall.
“I do this for my brothers and sisters—waiting for them to come home,” Gyurek said.
Holding the American and POW flags, Gyurek proudly welcomed riders to the VFW post. His leather vest, adorned with many pins, symbolized memories of the events.
“The run will culiminate Friday night in D.C.,” Gyurek says. “That’s where Rolling Thunder picks up—a demo ride through D.C., which takes over four hours to complete on a route from the Pentagon parking lot to the Vietnam Veterans Wall.”
Grinning ear-to-ear, Ruby Karolczak, of St. Peters, said she didn’t miss a beat waving at countless veterans and their families driving by on their motorcycles. Ruby and her husband are members of VVA (Vietnam Vets of America), VFW, and AVFW (Auxiliary Veterans of Foreign Wars.)
Bob Croft, a Vietnam Vet that served in 1971-72, made the trek from Marysville, OH, and attended festivities at the VFW post. Croft said he plans to attend the 25th anniversary of the event, slated for next year.
“It’s a healing process for me," he said. "I feel more fortunate than some of my former vets.”
The motorcyclists congregated Tuesday morning for a service held near the VFW post at a local church. Following the service, they headed into town and gathered at the site of the first Vietnam Memorial erected in the United States, adjacent to the Wentzville Fire Department.
The images of memorials, flag-waving and hundreds of motorcycles were touching, but perhaps the most poignant reason people from everywhere united was to recognize the sobering purpose of their ride.
The mission statement of the Run For The Wall is to promote healing among all veterans, families and friends, to account for POW’s and MIA’s, and to honor the memory of those killed in action and support military personal all over the world.
For those participating, it’s not just a ride. It’s a mission.