“For the Fallen” Escort
By Jerry Nichols
Back in April, suffering from run withdrawals due to multiple cancellations, I’m sure you all are feeling my pain as well. I was contacted by my friend US Army Veteran Bernadette “Flat-Tire” Staples from my Run For The Wall family. She invited me to join this Flags of Honor Ride and had me contact US Air Force Veteran David “Stupid” McElroy who added me to the list of riders to depart California to escort three flags to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., and then to the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial in Marseilles, IL. David said that when Run for the Wall and Trail of Honor Rides made decisions to cancel their 2020 events, he felt something had to be done; after numerous conversations, a plan was put into place.
Flags of Honor Mission
Statement by David McElroy:
“Flags of Honor was not born or created, the principle for this mission lives in each person that raised their hand and took an oath to defend the United States of America, mounts up to ride, stands on the shoulder of the road saluting, stands on an overpass waving a flag, rushes to the aid of a Brother or Sister in need, saluted a flag-draped casket, or received a folded flag.”
David was given three American flags by Lt. Governor Delbert Hosemann. The flags had been flown above the Capitol Dome of the Great State of Mississippi. The flags were folded and loaded for travel from sea to shining sea. These flags travelled to Murrieta, CA on May 13, 2020 where For the Fallen Escort launched en route to Odessa, TX where they joined Remembrance Escort to Arlington, VA. These flags participated in numerous ceremonies on the way to Washington D.C. One flag was presented at the Vietnam Memorial Wall at 0548 hrs, sunrise on Memorial Day, 25 May 2020. The second flag was escorted to Marseilles, IL’s Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial, and presented at 2017 hrs on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. The third flag in this Trinity was returned to Mississippi where it will be vital in telling the story of 2020 and those who answered the call.
David McElroy then embarked on Never Forget Escort where he returned to Melbourne, FL and picked up three additional flags that flew over the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall at every location for the entire year in 2019; these flags will be presented to a Veteran, spouse or family member or Trail of Honor volunteer in 2021.
David McElroy wanted us to tell the story so we will Never Forget.
My small portion of this eventful honor started in Barstow, CA, where I met up with For the Fallen Escort. Joining me was my friend and lady rider Jennifer Conway, not a Veteran herself, yet a patriot to heart as am I.
We embarked for just one leg of the journey to land in Williams, AZ, but when you ride with this kind of honor on your shoulders you are compelled to continue. We made some adjustments and decided to continue on for two more days to Eagles Nest, NM, the least we could do.
Every rider has a different story and the feeling of honor to our lost and suffering soldiers from this great nation is mutual to all involved; for some it was our unofficial Run for the Wall. There are always great stories to tell, like when Bernadette “Flat-Tire” Staples forgot to secure her saddle bag lid and rode 137 miles with her leg hiked back on top of the bag to keep the contents from blowing out. And wouldn’t you know it, I heard today as I am writing this article, she had a flat tire in Oklahoma returning home. She put the word out and was picked up by a fellow rider; this is how biker families are. I am sure she will be back on the trail shortly.
We arrived at Needles, CA for our fuel stop to find that the restrooms were closed. These were a staple during this ride as the country was mostly still shut down.
We had the honor of a police escort into Winslow, AZ where we were paraded through that patriotic town on Route 66, and we all rolled right into the center of town to that famous corner where the Eagles band put them on the map with the song “Take it Easy.” I think it’s my favorite corner in America, where they pipe in Eagles music all day long. Our law enforcement escort rider showed his support by giving me an awesome Combat Coin from their department, yet another memento of my patriotic journeys.
We as a group were blessed by a Navajo tribal member who had recently had a stroke but still walked all the way down to the Colorado River basin to gather rocks, and he also blessed us all individually with Colorado River rock and water, and every bike. I felt even more safe when we left Gallup, NM especially knowing the history of this town devastated by the pandemic affecting our country. And Betty and I would be riding Missing Man Formation with the flag in her saddle bag. There is no better honor I can think of as a rider to have this opportunity; I will Never Forget.
Riding up in the mountains, after a thirty minute road construction wait on hot bikes, was welcomed as the air was very cool, what a relief. We arrived at a Vietnam Memorial that had been shut down by the state. I won’t say the state or what town as they may or may not have allowed us onto their property to reflect and honor the Fallen; helmets off to you my friends, you know who you are.
That evening Jennifer Conway and I said goodbye and gave our well wishes to our For The Fallen escort family, and made our way to Red River, NM where we were two of four people who stayed at their lodge. It was so quiet in that town. Our cabin key was sitting there clipped to the wall for our convenience; now that’s service. Time to celebrate our portion of the mission as we ran across the Red River Brewing Company which just so happened to have a special on growlers of beer, a two-for-one discount; a couple of beers can’t hurt. And very tasty beer it was.
Destination for the next day was Page, AZ where we rode through some of the most beautiful mountains on Hwy 64. There was still snow so it was still flannel weather, glad I brought my Dixxon “Regulator” Flannel. There were elk and bighorn sheep; we ran across a state vehicle trying to recover the remains of a fallen elk that had been hit. This animal must have been close to 1,000 pounds; I know the average is 600 pounds, but this poor animal was dwarfing the big 4X4 Dodge long bed truck, equipped with a small crane for obvious reasons.
Upon our ascent we fueled up and had lunch, hydrated and jumped back on the road attempting to reach Page, AZ before dark, on our 500 mile leg. Hwy 98 was amazingly desolate, only two bikes on an open road. We ran across an Indian Reservation and some beautiful rock formations, one is named Sleeping Indian; very photogenic vistas looking north to Lake Powell. We arrived late at a packed town of Page, AZ; it was a Sunday and commerce was rolling. They must be rebounding well, however Denny’s was closed early and the rest of the town was ready to close by 11 pm. Burger King was a welcome sight, after a quick drive-through we had dinner and turned in.
On the way home we were in for a challenge: 40 mph winds ahead and 102 degree weather. We made sure to hydrate at every fuel stop and it paid off. At Colorado City, UT there was a beautiful red rock mountain on the north end of town, just had to stop for a photo. Just up the road a bit was Kanab, UT. Looking at this place you would think the war on Covid-19 was over; businesses were bustling.
A quick lunch and fuel stop in St. George and we were on our way down the 15. I really like the mountains coming out of there. Wind was starting to pick up big time. Mesquite, UT brought the heat and wind. Thinking of my Wing Girl Jennifer Conway as I looked back, she was right in trail in my mirror but she was leaning into the wind big time, what a trooper. We made it through Las Vegas in no time. So strange but I wasn’t complaining, I noticed something new there of interest, there is a lane for motorcycles and first responders! I was trying to read the info on the signs but at 80 mph it was challenging; that was our average speed home, don’t tell. After passing by the brain scanning solar farm at the state line, something was up with Betty, it was ice cream. She wanted ice cream, so naturally a DQ stop at Baker was in the cards along with one more tank of fuel. Over eleven dollars to fill up! Wow we are back in California all right. We arrived in Helendale for sunset, that’s where I call home. Thanks for joining my Flags of Honor For the Fallen Escort journey. Never Forget.