On Sunday, November 14, riders from two Kansas City H.O.G. chapters united to observe Veterans Day by riding to Lexington, Missouri, to view The Moving Wall™ Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Members of the Central Midwest Harley Owners Group departed from Central Harley Davidson in Shawnee, Kansas, and after a breakfast stop, joined the group from the Greater Kansas City H.O.G. Chapter at Blue Springs Harley Davidson in Blue Springs, Missouri. A total of 85 bikes, many with two aboard, traveled the remaining 40 miles or so. With temperatures in the 40s, everyone was well bundled up. Upon arrival at the Wentworth Military Academy where the wall was on display, the bikers were greeted by Capt. Mark Mullenouix.
The Moving Wall is a half-size replica of the memorial in Washington, D.C. Two structures of the wall travel throughout the United States from April through November. A display of photos and other memorabilia from Vietnam accompanies the wall. Information is available to assist visitors in locating particular names. More than 10,000 visitors viewed the wall during its four-day stay in Lexington. Over 150 volunteers assisted.
The preamble of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial reads as follows: 'IN HONOR OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE ARMED FORCES OF THE UNITED STATES WHO SERVED IN THE VIETNAM WAR. THE NAMES OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES AND OF THOSE WHO REMAIN MISSING ARE INSCRIBED IN THE ORDER THEY WERE TAKEN FROM US.'
Many of our group did tracings or took photographs of special names. Others walked by in reflective silence. Some prayed, some, including this reporter, wept, and all were filled with emotion.
As we viewed the memorial, I had the opportunity to visit with a vet named Michael Meier who brought a very special token on the ride. It was an ID bracelet bearing the name of Spec. 5 Francis Graziosi and the date January 10, 1970. Michael, on the verge of breaking down, told me the story of the bracelet through tears.
CC: Please tell us about your bracelet.
Michael: My foster daughter wore this bracelet for a long time. The soldier whose name is engraved on it is listed as killed in action, although his body was never found after his helicopter crashed. I’ve carried the bracelet for over 25 years, and I refuse to believe that he’s gone. He rode with us today—I brought him along. This is my first time to see the wall, and I’ve not been able to see the one in Washington yet.
CC: Where did your foster daughter get the bracelet?
Michael: I don’t know where she got it, but when she brought it home it really threw me for a loop. She wore it for a long time and when she left our home and moved on, she left it with me. I’ve carried it ever since. I look forward to the day I see him. I want to tell him how much he was missed. Even though I never knew this man, to me he represents many I knew who never returned from Vietnam.
CC: Thanks for sharing this story. I know it was very difficult for you.
Another veteran took a moment to show me a photograph of his father, Darrell Knight who served in the U.S. Army from 1941 through 1945. A combat veteran of the Pacific Theatre, Darrell had passed away the previous Friday. It was important to his son to bring him along on this ride.
I circulated a sheet to record the names of veterans and active duty military personnel who participated in the ride so that Cycle Connections could have the honor of listing them in this publication. Some noted their branch of the military, their dates of service, or other information. To all of you, thanks for the sacrifices you made in the protection of this nation and the preservation of our freedom!
Gary Folk (Army), Michael G. Meier (Navy), Roger D. Sims (Navy), Jim Fariss (Army-Viet Nam 68-70), Randy Storr (Viet Nam 69-70), Larry Bolander (1970-1973), Robert E. Chadwick (Army), Dennis Walden (Navy 69-73), Richard Loveall (Army), Frederick Noble (Army), Marla James (Army), Bob Thompson (Navy), Larry Worley (Army-Viet Nam 1972-1973), Sgt Oren Hook (Air Force 1968-1972), Jimmy D. James (Army), Jason Kimball (Navy), Don Plowman (Navy), Al Martinez (Army 95-97), Leon Rook (Navy), Ken Breedlove (Army), André Waldor (Army 66-67), Gary F. Mowrey (Army 61-63), Sgt. First Class John D. Snyder, John A. Witt (Army 84-present), Mitchell Fowler (Army 65-67), David Taylor (Air Force 63-67), Kevin Overstreet (Air Force 82-86), Larry Hoffner (Marine Corps 69), Marshall Anderson (Army 53-61), Stephen Knight (Navy 67-69, Army 81-97), and Les Frizzell (Marine Corps 68-69).
Riding with us in spirit: Spec 5 Francis Graziosi, Darrell Night (Army 41-45), and many others.
After viewing the wall, the H.O.G. riders attended the closing ceremony in the gymnasium. Following speeches by several dignitaries, those who attended had the privilege of watching the cadets on parade. Their discipline and the precision of their drill were impressive. The hospitality extended to the bikers by the Wentworth staff and the cadets was very much appreciated.
As I reflect on the observance of Veterans Day, I realize that there is no way to adequately express the appreciation I feel for those who have risked everything in defense of this great country. Freedom truly isn’t free--the cost is great, and too often it is taken for granted. I can only offer a simple, sincere, “THANK YOU.”
Story and photos by Stripe