COLUMBIA – The 32nd annual Run for the Wall made its way through mid- Missouri on Monday.
Hundreds of motorcycle riders, ambassadors, road crews and chaplains on the Central Route across Interstate 70 are on their sixth day of their journey to Washington D.C. The group stopped at Harley Davidson in Columbia around 3 p.m.
The run is dedicated to all prisoners of war and those missing in action. The event honors the memory of those who have been killed in action and supports military personnel around the world.
The run began in Ontario, California for thousands of riders who are now making their way to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. A large number of people who ride are veterans, but there are multiple people who ride in support.
The captain for the Columbia area Patriot Guard Riders, William E. Stucker, said there is nothing like the run for the wall.
“It’s always fulfilling to see people that are willing to extend themselves a little bit, make an extra effort to show their patriotism,” Stucker said. “And that’s really what this is about, to go out there and honor the fallen soldiers and missing in action.”
Raymond Griffin, a rider from Albuquerque, New Mexico, said he rides for a fallen soldier.
“I’m riding, basically, because I had a buddy of mine that was killed in Afghanistan,” Griffin said. “And I escorted him, and he was a motorcycle rider, and he can’t ride. So I’m riding for him.”
Griffin said the days spent riding are very long, but worth it.
“We wake up at 4:30. And we have to be in position by 6 o’clock and then we’re on like this morning, we’re on the road at 7:30,” Griffin said.
He said they ride about 300 to 350 miles per day with about five breaks for gas, food and water.
Another rider, Lauren Storla, said he carries those who can’t ride with him.
“I thought, you know, I want to be a part of that, because I’m a vet,” Storla said. “And I’m very proud of that. And you know, my dad and my uncle, as a matter of fact, I carry pictures of them. All my family that have been vets, that aren’t with us right now. I carry them with me.”
He said focus and coordination are key.
“You’re constantly focused, folks, did they preach it every day, focus, focus, focus. And what’s unique about this group is being 3 miles back and seeing the snake ahead of you,” Storla said.
The leader of the third Platoon Don “SixPack” Freitag said the way the run is now is not how it used to be.
“As the years progressed, they developed a platoon system to kind of keep the bikers in group,” Freitag said. “If we have traffic along the way, they have a means to penetrate a switch in without disrupting the border and safely.”
The event now includes three routes, which all start from Ontario, California on the same day at the same time. The central route, which riders took through mid-Missouri Monday, was the original route. The second route goes through the southern states on Interstate 10 and Interstate 20.
Freitag said 5 years ago, they decided to add a third route, the Midway route, because the other two were getting so large. It travels on Interstate 40.
The first vice commander of Columbia’s American Legion Post 202, Paul Hobbs, said the experience was life changing. He has done the ride three times.
“It was a life-changing experience,” said. “And we’re out in the middle of flyover America, goes through an underpass or big crowds and crowds of people waving flags, fire engines with great big flags flying. We’ve seen some where horses had been lined up on the overpasses, and the greetings that we got going through various towns was mind boggling.”
The riders said the 11-day journey is a “great example that patriotism is still alive in America.”