Standing along Green Mount Road on the O’Fallon I-64 overpass, many military veterans and civilians hold American flags awaiting in anticipation for the Run For the Wall (RFTW) riders, comprised of hundreds of motorcyclists traveling from Ontario, Calif., to Washington D.C., to honor United States veterans for the national holiday Memorial Day.
“It’s quite a sight,” Senior Ride Captain of Illinois Patriot Guard Region 5 chapter Terry Spurgeon said. “We want to show our support for not only our veterans, but also those who are riding across the country for our veterans.”
Alton resident and Korean War veteran Frederic Smith, Illinois Patriot Guard ride captain, stood on the bridge holding his American flag pole proudly waving at passing traffic with an ear-to-ear smile across his face.
“This is important,” Smith said. “And we want people going about their day to know it. So, we hope people will remember we wouldn’t have the freedoms we do if it weren’t for our (past and present) veterans.”
Although not a veteran, Wayne Schmidt, a fellow patriot rider, echoes the mission of the club as trucks and cars below honk in support of the group’s obvious act of patriotism.
“I’m not a veteran, but like our riders say, ‘we stand for those who stood for us,’” Schmidt said.
Smith said he’s been a patriot rider since 2006 and said he would encourage those unfamiliar with the organization to check it out.
“We try to do as much as we can (to support veterans), when we can,” Smith said.
O’Fallon Police had community service officers and patrol vehicles in front of and behind the approximately 20-30 people standing along the railing of the bridge to ensure the safety of the patriots.
The RFTW congregate at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. Both the Central and Southern RFTW groups will rendevouz with the Rolling Thunder event which starts on May 22, where hundreds of thousands of bikes will participate in ‘Rolling Thunder,’ according to Steve Duff, of Swansea.
Rolling Thunder First Amendment Demonstration Run is in it’s 28th year—one year older than RFTW, but both have similar missions. The Rolling Thunder Run mission is to educate, facilitate, and never forget by means of a demonstration for service members that were abandoned after the Vietnam War, according to the Rolling Thunder website.
“It is very important to make people aware of this event. I wish more would get out and physically witness it. Seeing so many motorcycles sends chills down my back and I ride one. It is something to see,” Duff said in a recent email.