HARTFORD—Thundering their way across the country toward their next stop in Asheville, N.C. on Tuesday afternoon was a group of nearly 400 bikers taking part in the Run for the Wall.
For the past six years they have made a pit stop at the Downtown Hartford Citgo, allowing them to refuel and recharge before heading back out on the road, on their journey from California to the nation’s capitol to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Memorial Day.
The owner of the establishment, Harold Cates, not only allows them to refuel at his store, which does a good bit of business on a normal day off of Interstate 40’s Exit 447, but does not require them to pay for the gas.
“I felt honored just talking to them,” Cates said, in reference to performing the service for the bikers and veterans. The former Cocke County Executive, who has hosted the pitstop at his store for several years, said he hopes to continue this service in the future.
The president of the Run for the Wall organization, Les Williams, is openly grateful for such a service, and cites that many other stations, such as Cates’ across the country offer the group the same kinds of services.
Run for the Wall gives Vietnam veterans a chance to visit the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., but there is also more to the ride.
The run begins in Ontario, California, and attracts around 1,600 participants to ride across the country in order to reach the Wall by Memorial Day.
The organization wants to focus on helping veterans across the country.
“It’s not a vacation, it’s a mission,” said Carol Baxter, the Assistant Coordinator for Run for the Wall in Tennessee.
Those on the run often stop at memorials they come across, and raise awareness of the soldiers that never made it home from Vietnam.
According to Williams the group is also in the process of setting up the infrastructure for a second run named the Sandbox Run, and this route will be heading to the Middle East Conflicts Wall in Marseilles, Illinois.
Williams is hopeful that establishing this route will not only attract new veterans to the cause, but also be able to provide aid to these new veterans as well.
No one that organizes or helps with the run is paid for their work, and the only fee to participate in the cross-country run is thirty dollars. The reason that they strive to keep prices low, and do everything on volunteer power is simple, and best put by Williams.
“Everyone is here for the same reason: To take care of our veterans,” she said.