Businesses encouraged to display American flags, add welcome messages to marquees for Monday event
COOKEVILLE – The 26th annual Run For the Wall (RFTW) motorcycle ride will be cruising through Cookeville this month. After a preliminary run through the route last year, Cookeville was selected to be a major stop along the inaugural Midway route, newest of three cross-country routes.
For the past 26 years, a group of veterans on motorcycles along with support staff leave the Los Angeles area and embark on the 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 of the Vietnam era; calling attention to prisoners of war and missing in action (POW/MIA); honoring those killed in action (KIA); 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.
Route coordinators paid a visit to Cookeville last spring, contemplating a third route to accommodate the growth RFTW had seen. Blown away by the reception they received, Cookeville was selected as a major stop for the ride.
An estimated 450 riders are expected to enter town at approximately 4:40 p.m., Monday, May 19, to police escort down Jefferson Avenue. Dinner will be provided along with a welcome ceremony at the Leslie Town Centre.
The Cookeville-Putnam County Convention & Visitors Bureau is working with city of Cookeville, the Cookeville Police Department, local Veterans Service organizations, and RFTW leadership to coordinate the stop in Cookeville.
“We are honored to be a part of such an impactful event,” Convention & Visitors Bureau Director Molly Brown said. “We hope the entire community can help us to provide the welcome that these riders truly deserve. Many of those taking part in this event never received an official ‘welcome home.’ For so many, this event fills that void and assists with the healing.
“We are excited to show RFTW the hospitality we are so well known for and encourage all businesses and locals residents to join us in making Cookeville a memorable part of this national route,” Brown added.
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 Park View Elementary third grade students. 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/.