This week, Scout will be providing GPS tracking for the 30th annual “Run For The Wall,” an event where hundreds of bikers travel 2,600 miles across the country to meet at the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. The event honors the memory and sacrifice of those Killed in Action (KIA) from all wars, and is held to support the personnel and families of the U.S. military all over the world, as well as to call for an accounting of all Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action (POW/MIA).
The bikers left early yesterday morning from Ontario, California, and are currently entering New Mexico as you can see in the screenshot below. They plan to reach the Wall by Friday, May 25.
The groups are traveling on three different routes, which you can see are clearly marked as blue, orange and green. You can track all of their exact locations here on the FindMyScout desktop application. The lead bikes are Central Route 1 (CR1), Midway Route 1 (MR1), and Southern Route 1 (SR1), and the rear bikes of each pack are CR2, MR2, and SR2. This is the first year that supporters will be able to follow along from home and watch the bikers moving in real time online.
Pace Bonner, a regular Road Guard for Run For The Wall, said that he heard about the annual event from his friend that he met while escorting military funerals with the Patriot Guard Riders. His friend, Juan “FILO” Gonzales, was a Vietnam Vet and invited him to go with him in 2007. Bonner has been participating ever since.
For his first few RFTWs, he rode with the Southern route as a Road Guard. His duty was to get all of the bikers on his route from point A to point B with the least amount of disruption to the public. He now rides the Midway route as a Road Guard.
“It can get real challenging when we are over 10 miles long,” he said.
According to Bonner, life on the road for Run For The Wall is not always sunshine and rainbows. It can be stressful and sometimes dangerous for the riders. In his experience riding with this group, he’s been through hail storms, monsoons, sleet, snow, dust storms, and even chased by tornados; when you have over 600 motorcycles on the road, “you don’t stop for weather.” Even stopping to get gas, which sounds like a casual task, is a battle. Around 400 bikes get fueled in 20 minutes, and it takes many volunteers to make that magic happen.
The people in the communities along the routes work all year long raising money to feed the riders and buy them gas, Bonner said. The locals wait for the bikers to arrive, and even stand out on the side of the road or on an overpass with signs that say sweet messages like “welcome home.”
As a Road Guard, it’s Bonner’s job to get up earlier and go to bed later than most of the pack. It’s his duty to protect the group, even if that means putting himself in between traffic and everyone else.
“It’s not an easy job, but it’s a job I love.”
So if Run For The Wall is so dangerous and taxing, why does he do it? Why does anyone do it?
Bonner expressed that once you ride in a Run For The Wall, you are automatically a part of a huge family and will make lifelong friends who all have the same goal in mind – to ride for those who can’t.
“That first year changed my life. I came back from that trip and told my wife I was going to do the RFTW as long as I was able. This is the way I serve…. taking care of my riders and getting them to the Wall. It’s a mission,” he said. “I have seen 40 years of anger and resentments stripped off of vets day by day. I know for a fact the Run has saved lives; we ride for those who can’t. The ones who never came home. The families who still don’t know. I have close friends who are still waiting to find out what happened to their dad, brother, son, husband. They deserve to know. We will continue to ride every year until they are all brought home.”
Unfortunately, this year he won’t be able to participate due to health issues.
“I could not put myself or the pack in danger due to me not being 100%. God willing and the creek don’t rise, I’ll be back next year and every year I am able.”
However, he’s elated that he can still be a part of it by following along online thanks to Scout GPS, he said.
“Being able to watch the routes as they progress is like being there,” Pace said. “Sitting at home, I can now track all three routes and follow along with each of their stops. It makes not being there harder and easier.”