A Run for the Wall
Vietnam Vet Rides for POWs but Not for Bush
By Gordon Duff
For years, one of my friends, a former USMC drill instructor, and retired Army Chief Warrant Officer participated in the Run for the Wall. It was always something he looked forward to every year combining fellowship with a patriotic cause. I hadn’t been on a motorcycle since the Yamaha xs650 I bought with my GI Bill money in the winter of 1970. After years of not riding, not doing the Run, I was talked into the Rolling Thunder/Run for the Wall a couple of years ago.
One of my buddies, a former Army medic (with alot more combat awards than me………………) trailered his bike up to Toledo and we left together to meet up with a group in Chillocothe, Ohio. We had friends to stay with in Chillocothe but met up with a large group of vets at one of the service organizations in town. Food and drinks were “on the house” and the welcome mat was really out for us.
Henry and I parked out rice burners out front with the load of dress Harleys and stepped inside. I am always looking for Marine Vietnam vets as we generally served in the same areas and always have things to talk about. As Henry and I started to “work the room”, looking for buddies from Vietnam or people we had something in common with, we began to note that there were very very few Vietnam vets in this very large group of Vietnam vets.
We had friends of vets, Vietnam era vets, cops, girlfiends of people who like vets, vet supporters but only 2 Vietnam vets out of around 90 “Vietnam vets” riding to the wall. These were good folks, mind you but also a big big surprise for Henry and I. Henry and I are both 100% disabled vets and Henry is a former VA employee. We met online years ago on a vet site and have been friends for years since, along with about a half dozen others. We have even had a few vacations together. When I got married (won’t say which time) in Vegas a few years ago, these were the people that came to the wedding.
I suspect I may have a prejudice. At one time, it was this need to find only grunts, combat vets, and draw a big line between those and the guys who served behind the lines. As the years have gone by, I have learned to appreciate the sacrifice of that other group also and that, maybe, the “interservice rivalries” are generally pretty stupid things. Navy Corpsmen kept us alive and it was the Air Force that kept us out of trouble, though sometimes I think, perhaps not enough. If we had been smarter and actually learned how to use the radios we carried around, it might have been different. Marines are not famous for intelligence. but that’s another story.
Henry and I joined the group and headed across the Ohio River into West Virginia in the rain. As we got into a twisy part of the road, another bike ran into Henry and drove him into a guard rail, breaking several bones and putting his bike out of action. Everyone in the group said Henry ran off the road and tried to blame him for “incompetence” but we were riding with some great bikers and a few weekend “Harley owners” who spent more time polishing than riding. This was the case here.
We got Henry into a hosptial in West Virginia in the same town the entire group was bedding down in. I was in the hotel with most of the group we rode with. Some of the group were from a Gay biker outfit from around Gary, Indiana and they put on quite a show at the hotel. Fat middle aged guys in jockey underwear is not the show I would have chosen but, who am I to talk?
I stayed on with Henry, trying to get him out of the hosptial before he fell in love with the pain killers and got his bike into repair. The doctors said they were going to keep him for a couple of days and Henry told me to finish the run and pick him up. I rented a truck, threw my bike in the back and drove up to the Marine base at Quantico and ran into DC from there.
When I got into the hotel, as I had written in another story, I met a group of WW2 Marine Raiders. One of their wives asked me if I was with the group that was supporting Bush. I said, NO, of course not. I am here to support our POWs and the WW2 vets, not for that spoiled “frat boys”. She told me that a group from Rolling Thunder had decided to dedicate everyones ride to the Bush campaign and was meeting with Bush at the Whitehouse. I was stunned.
I find that I am not riding with Vietnam vets at all but a group of gay “vet supporters” and “era” vets and then I learn that we are riding to support Bush. Based on what we all know very well, the chances of any gay vet supporter of supporting Bush are not real good. Some vets do support Bush, certainly at least 40%, much more than the average, but absolutely NO mention whatsoever was made that this was going to be a yellow bellied political sell out by glory hunting “glad handers” willing to accept recognition from Satan himself, if it would get into the news papers.
I still enjoyed the opening of the WW2 memorial. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, being around real heros. There were only a couple Vietnam vets (or pretend vets or whatever) at the memorial opening with the hundreds of thousands in attendance. We did see motorcycle groups gunning their engines up and down the streets but they were too busy to honor the WW2 vets. If only I was kidding or exaggerating for humor’s sake. I am not.
I got back to Quantico and loaded my bike into the rented f150 Offroad from Enterprise. I loved the truck and want one someday. When I got back into West Virginia, I got Henry’s bike loaded into the back and went to the hospital. He had many broken ribs so I carefully loaded him into the back of the cab (crew cab…cool) put blankets around him and headed back to Louisville to drop him off then deadend the rental in Toledo.
Henry is done with motocycling, having given his bike to another vet. This was the last Run for the Wall for either of us. I would ride to hell for POW’s but not for Bush. Even if some groups were not vets, I am certain that many were all vets. This was not the point. Anyone out to “do good” is answering a need. People who sucker others into their private agenda so they can meet with the “Chimp” need a kick in the pants.