In honor of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, the St. Helens Kiwanis DayBreakers hosted speakers Doug Walker and Shirley Walker, Chase Team 4 members of Run For the Wall, at their Tuesday September 10 meeting. They presented on their experience with this year’s Run for the Wall, a nonprofit organization which honors veterans, Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA), as well as those Killed in Action (KIA).
A Vietnam War Veteran, Doug Walker led the presentation, sharing photos of this year’s Run for the Wall which took place earlier this year.
The Run for the Wall, which celebrated its 31st annual run this year, is a month-long event that takes place in May, ending the Friday before Memorial Day. Participants travel by motorcycle from Ontario, California to Washington, D.C., stopping in cities throughout the journey and participating in different activities to honor veterans and POW/MIAs.
This year, approximately 1,680 people participated, over half of whom were veterans, according to Walker. The group traveled 8,011 miles and to 14 different states. They also raised approximately $30,000 throughout the trip, which was donated to organizations or handed back to the group’s Charitable Fund.
Walker said the typical day consisted of rising at around 7 a.m., traveling approximately 100 miles between fuel stops, having lunch and then participating in some form of ceremony that honored veterans.
Those ceremonies sometimes included parades.
“The cities we visited would often move their Memorial Day ceremonies to coincide with Run for the Wall,” Walker said.
Other efforts the group would participate in to honor veterans included going to Veterans Memorials. At the Veterans Memorial in Missouri, some participants met a 92-year-old veteran and a 100-year-old veteran who had both served in World War II. Participants also sometimes visited Gold Star families, which are families who have lost a family member in a war.
“We let them know their sacrifices are not forgotten,” Walker said.
Because the participants travel by motorcycle, they also created the Missing Man Formation, which involves motorcycles leaving a space for the “missing man,” a service member who has been killed in a war.
“For every leg there’s a different missing man,” Walker said.
The group participates in charitable giving, too. Throughout the trip they run raffles, the proceeds of which are donated to the group’s Charitable Fund. This year, they were able to present Rainelle Elementary School in Rainelle, West Virginia with a $20,000 check, which will help fund a new school. According to both Walkers, over the years, the group has been able to donate funds to the school multiple times.
In 2020, the group plans to expand its Run with another leg, which will run for two days to the “Sandbox” or the “Wall to Wall” leg, which will take place in Marseilles, Illinois. This leg will travel to the Middle East Conflicts Wall.