At 1 pm the Des Moines Police Department alerted us that they were going to begin their escort of us down SE 14th Street. Engines roared to life. It sounded like Thunder in the mall parking lot. It's hard to tell how many motorcycles moved into formation, I would guess 350 or more. We were toward the back of the pack and it was an incredible sight seeing all of those bikes a few miles ahead. Going through all of the stop lights didn't have as much luster as it did on the toy run because my thoughts kept going to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. I kept thanking them in my head for what they do so that we could even be riding today. I thought of all the Vets from all the wars. I thought of all who have died, never to see their families and friends again. We were all letting them know in our own way that it was not in vain! Even with the way the world is changing there are still people out there, like me, that hold our Country, Our Military in the highest regard!
As soon as the ride began it ended. We pulled into a parking lot near the War Memorials by the Capital. There were more hugs and handshakes. And then we all headed into the Memorial site.
The haunting sounds of a Bagpiper played as we gathered at the Iowa Vietnam Memorial. We said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Star Spangled Banner. Two Vietnam Veterans...Rabbi and Moose spoke to the crowd about Honoring our Military and thanked everyone that does special things for the Veterans.
Moose read an Essay called 1/2 Man 1/2 Boy. It really touched me and I'm including it in my post.
The average age of the military man is 19 years. He is a short haired, tight-muscled kid who, under normal circumstances, is considered by society as half man, half boy. Not yet dry behind the ears, not old enough to buy a beer, but old enough to die for his country. He never really cared much for work and he would rather wax his own car than wash his father's, but he has never collected unemployment either.
He's a recent High School graduate; he was probably an average student, pursued some form of sport activities, drives a ten year old jalopy and has a steady girlfriend that either broke up with him when he left or swears to be waiting when he returns from half a world away He listens to rock and roll or hip-hop or rap or jazz or swing and a 155mm howitzer.
He is 10 to 15 pounds lighter now than when he was at home because he is working or fighting from before dawn to well after dusk. He has trouble spelling; thus letter writing is a pain for him. He can field strip a rifle in 30 seconds and re-assemble it in less time in the dark. He can recite to you the nomenclature of a machine gun or grenade launcher and use either one effectively if he must.
He digs foxholes and latrines and can apply first aid like a professional.
He can march until he is told to stop or stop until he is told to march.
He obeys orders instantly and without hesitation, but he is not without spirit or individual dignity. He is self-sufficient.
He has two sets of fatigues; he washes one and wears the other. He keeps his canteens full and his feet dry.
He sometimes forgets to brush his teeth but never to clean his rifle. He can cook his own meals, mend his own clothes and fix his own hurts.
If you're thirsty, he'll share his water with you; if you are hungry, his food. He'll even split his ammunition with you in the midst of battle when you run low.
He has learned to use his hands like weapons and weapons like they were his hands.
He can save your life - or take it, because that is his job.
He will often do twice the work of a civilian, draw half the pay and still find ironic humor in it all.
He has seen more suffering and death than he should have in his short lifetime.
He has wept in public and in private, for friends who have fallen in combat and is unashamed.
He feels every note of the National Anthem vibrate through his body while at rigid attention, while tempering the burning desire to 'square-away ' those around him who haven't bothered to stand, remove their hat or even stop talking.
In an odd twist, day in and day out, far from home, he defends their right to be disrespectful.
Just as did his Father, Grandfather, and Great-grandfather, he is paying the price for our freedom. Beardless or not, he is not a boy. He is the American Fighting Man that has kept this country free for over 200 years.
He has asked nothing in return except our friendship and understanding.
Remember him always, for he has earned our respect and admiration with his blood.
And now we even have women over there in danger, doing their part in this tradition of going to war when our nation calls us to do so.
As you go to bed tonight, remember this shot. . .
A short lull, a little shade and a picture of loved ones in their helmets.
Rabbi sang a song called "The Wall", which he wrote. I couldn't find his song but found the one below on myspace and thought if you were interested you could listen to it. It was written by a Vet named Danny Barnes. "That Black Wall"
As we stood and listened to Rabbi sing his song it began to rain. I thought to myself once, this is going to be a cold trip home but then I thought...you know...A Soldier fighting for our country has gone through far worse then riding home in the rain. The conclusion of the Thunder Run was the Bagpiper playing Amazing Grace. Yes, it brought tears to my eyes. It does everytime. I'm so glad that we attended this Tribute to our Troops. I really learned a lot today from Rabbi and Moose. We need to continue helping our Soldiers and Vets on an ongoing basis. We can never forget what they sacificed for us. Thank you to each and every one of them from the bottom of my heart!
Please keep our Men and Women serving all over the world in your thoughts and prayers. If you meet a Soldier or a Vet make sure you thank them! And never forget "Freedom is Not Free". God Bless America!
Check out the Iowa Thunder site http://home.att.net/~iowathunder/ . Next years ride is on May 23rd.