COOKEVILLE – The 27th annual Run For the Wall (RFTW) motorcycle ride will be cruising through Cookeville next week. After the inaugural Midway route was established last year, the reception in Cookeville prompted a return trip as riders were greeted with a memory that was unforgettable.
For the past 27 years, a group of veterans on motorcycles along with support staff leave the Los Angeles, Calif., area and embark on a 10-day journey, an event that is both physically and emotionally demanding, leading to an arrival in Washington, D.C., to the Vietnam Memorial Wall and Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day weekend. The ride is the only motorcycle event allowed to enter Arlington.
The ride has multiple goals – serving as emotional healing for veterans riding the route and those encountered along the way, especially those from the Vietnam era; calling attention to prisoners of war and missing in action (POW/MIA); honoring those killed in action (KIA) from all wars; and supporting our military personnel all over the world. The RFTW philosophy is to strive to maintain a safe, supportive and private atmosphere in which all participants can reflect and heal on their journey to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., in the hope that they can return home to a new beginning.
An estimated 350 riders are expected to enter town at approximately 4:30 p.m. Monday, May 18, with police escort down Jefferson Avenue. Dinner will be provided for them, along with a welcome ceremony, at the Leslie Town Centre. The Cookeville-Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau is working with the city of Cookeville, the Cookeville Police Department, Cookeville Fire Department, Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, Tennessee Highway Patrol, local Veterans Service Organizations, and RFTW leadership to coordinate the stop in Cookeville.
“We’re honored to welcome this group of veterans back to Cookeville-Putnam County as they make their cross-country journey to Arlington National Cemetery,” Convention & Visitors Bureau Manager Zach Ledbetter said. “It’s always important to show gratitude to the men and women who have fought for our country, and this is one way for our community to be able to do just that for veterans from all across the nation.
“Our local residents and businesses added so much to the atmosphere for this group as they made their way down Jefferson Avenue,” Ledbetter added. “It truly was a beautiful sight as our community welcomed this group by waving American flags and simply lining Jefferson Avenue. We are hoping for an even better turnout this year.”
Local residents are encouraged to line the streets to provide a proper welcome as the parade of bikes make their way down Jefferson Avenue. Businesses along the parade route are encouraged to show their support by placing American flags in front of their businesses, adding welcome messages to marquees, etc.
After their stay Monday night, riders will stage for their departure in the Sam’s Club parking lot. During their staging time, riders will enjoy a meet and greet with third grade students from Park View Elementary. Following their time with students, riders will depart at 9 a.m. to continue their 10-day journey.
Throughout the route, RFTW riders stop at numerous veterans’ hospitals and memorials generating inspirational stories of patriotic outreach and progress. Stopping along the route to present at schools is also a staple item in their itinerary. It is an additional goal of the group to educate future generations as to the importance of accountability in wartime actions emphasizing that no one should be left behind. These stops and interactions are often therapeutic for those participating in the ride as many are coping with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
For more information about Run For the Wall, go to http://www.rftw.org/. For more information about the Cookeville-Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau, call (931) 526-2211 or visit www.mustseecookeville.com.