The man who started the Run for the Wall in 1989 was on hand Wednesday when hundreds of motorcycles and riders made their annual pilgrimage to the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D. C.
James Gregory started Run for the Wall in 1989 with some other vets.
“We started this because we live in San Diego and we wanted to go to the Wall in Washington, D.C. When we went, we thought that would be it and then the war started in Iraq and American prisoners of war were captured by the Iraqis and now 29 years later, we still continue,” Gregory said.
He said the Lake Havasu area stop wouldn’t be what it is today without the help of Judy Lacey. Lacey, a Havasu resident who recently passed away, worked to make the Run for the Wall stop at the Interstate 40 overpass a big deal.
“She and hundreds, maybe thousands of volunteers made it what it is today. I love her and I’m gonna’ miss her. I wish I could see her and give my big old hug,” Gregory said.
“She’s a huge part of this stop and we love you guys and appreciate the help,” he said.
Dirt, a 12-year veteran of the event, has been an ambassador for the Run for the last four years. Run ambassadors ride ahead and explain to folks along the route what the Run for the Wall is all about.
“We also do schools. We give speeches in schools and talk about the Run. What the Wall is. Everybody should know what it is. It’s the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It’s not a war memorial,” Dirt said.
Dirt explained the logistics of coordinating such a huge cross-country event.
He said after all these years, the Run itself is a very well-oiled operation and has many different facets.
There are route coordinators all across the country, a fuel crew, a staging crew, road guards that control the pack as it moves across the country, a chaplain corps and chase trucks.
“As we travel the 2,600 miles from Ontario (California) to Washington, D.C., it takes 10 days. There are three routes – a southern route, a mid route and this one is the central route,” he said.
“It’s not an easy deal. We ride parade style all the way across the country. We have a couple of days in Ontario organizing and getting everything ready to go. We get to D.C. and Saturday and Sunday we have many things we do,” Dirt said.
Saturday, he said, the Fine New Guys (FNGs) join the whole group and ride their motorcycles into Arlington National Cemetery and join the honor guard to present a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Dirt said they are the only group allowed to ride motorcycles into the cemetery.
“On Sunday, we join Rolling Thunder which is why we go there for the POWs and MIAs. We ride for those who can’t. That’s our motto,” Dirt said.
The group then joins in the parade through Washington, D.C., along with approximately 150,000 motorcycles.
Modern technology guides the group through the country with GPS equipment and not so modern CBs (Citizen Band Radios). All this allows all the players to communicate and coordinate along the cross-country ride.
The group consists of 11 platoons with a platoon leader, an assistant platoon leader and two tail gunners.
“One tail gunner stays with the platoon the whole time and if there’s an issue like a breakdown, an accident or anything, the other tail gunner leaves and stays with the problem,” Dirt said.