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Run for the Wall

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Annual ride makes stop in Bedford

By John Barnhart

    A group of more than 400 motorcyclists, riding 375 bikes, stopped by the National D-Day Memorial, Friday.

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    The group always makes that stop as part of the annual Run for the Wall. The Wall is the Vietnam Memorial in Washington and it started out in the ‘80s as a tribute by Vietnam veterans to those who didn’t make it home. Since then, it has expanded.
    Adam McElroy is a police officer in San Diego, serving in the vice unit, and an Army veteran serving in the 82nd Airborne from 1992 to 1996. The Vietnam veterans are getting old — they are all over 60 now and the ride seeks to remember all who served. He said they are reaching out to Iraqi Freedom and veterans of the fighting in Afghanistan. They also have people who are currently on active duty.
    This was McElroy’s second ride all the way, coast to coast. He said the round trip is a three week ride and he plans to do it again next year.
    “I grew up around motorcycles,” he said. His father, also a policeman, was a motorcycle cop.
    The weather didn’t exactly cooperate with this year’s ride.
    “We’ve been the last four days in the rain,” he said.
    Still, they were better off than the bikers in the 2008 run. Members of that group encountered hail while riding through Texas that dropped hailstones big enough to put dents in their motorcycles.
    Why do these folks do it?
    “We ride for the ones who can’t,” said Tim Scott, a Navy vet who is on his first run.
    For some, the ride was intensely personal.
    Joel Sims is a veteran of Iraqi Freedom and Afghanistan. This was his first run and he took a minute to compose himself before he explained why he was on the run.
    “When I was in Afghanistan, I had a friend killed,” Sims said. “He’s buried in Arlington.”
    Not all bikers were veterans. John Gipson was riding because he was grateful for an opportunity to support veterans.
    “We are supporting our veterans, letting them know how much we appreciate their sacrifice for the freedom we have in this country,” he said.
    Ray Wyatt, alias Ghost Rider, headed up the group that rolled into Bedford. This year marked his 11th ride. He’s an Army vet.
    “I do it because I’ve developed friendships with people who have a loved one still missing,” he said.
    Wyatt said there are still 1,611 missing from the Vietnam War. He said 20 percent of those who were missing when he first started riding have been found. There are also a lot still missing from World War II and Korea, although a number have been identified in recent years. There are still 80,000 missing from World War II and 7,500 missing from the Korean War.
    Wyatt said there were members of the families of people who are missing in action on the ride.