A group of about 40 people gathered at the Veteran’s Memorial in Warrenton to cheer on the motorcyclists driving cross country to the Vietnam Memorial wall.
On a hot Monday afternoon in Warrenton, a group of about 40 people – including veterans, fire department and police officers, and patriotic civilians – gathered at the Veteran’s Memorial.
Most of them were waving the star-spangled banner at the top of the hill.
The hillside facing both Interstate 70 – the Purple Heart Trail – and Veteran’s Memorial Parkway was lined with the red, white and blue of the American flag.
And the Warrenton fire department brought out the ladder truck, allowing a gigantic Old Glory to fly majestically in the breeze that also whipped the flags of each branch of the U.S. military surrounding the memorial.
Small cars and large trucks heading both east and west on I-70 honked in support.
“Every time someone honks, there’s some feeling there,” Rick Mantione said.
Mantione serves on the board of trustees with the Tribute To Veterans Memorial group responsible for building and maintaining the memorial designed to honor those from Warren County that made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
“It’s a place for people to show their patriotism and their love of country,” Mantione said. But on this particular day, May 22, the memorial itself served as a backdrop to the main event.
Several motorcycle riders with Run for the Wall were traveling east on I-70 as they made their way from Ontario, Calif., to the Vietnam Memorial wall in Washington, D.C.
A group of supporters has gathered at the memorial every year since it opened in 2018 to support the riders.
“We’ve invited the public up here and we’ve had a pretty nice crowd up here and we cheer them on,” Mantione said. “Of course we’re right on the purple heart highway so we can look right down on them as they go by and it’s really a good thing to see this kind of patriotism for these people to ride all the way across the country on motorcycles to honor veterans and especially those who have passed.”
Excitement built on the hillside as it got closer to the time for the hundreds of riders to drive by. Eventually, the flashing red and blue lights of the group’s police escort could be seen on the horizon.
“Here they come!” several people on the hillside excitedly said.
Soon, hundreds of motorcycles were riding down the highway, with honks and waves acknowledging the Warrenton supporters, the group waving their flags – and their hands – back as the riders passed by.
“It’s a spectacular display with motorcycles that come all the way from California,” Tom Carter, president of the Tribute To Veterans Memorial group said. “We try to honor them as they go by each year.”
The ride began May 17 with riders taking one of three routes. On Monday, the riders taking the central route started in Junction City, Kansas and traveled more than 330 miles east on I-70 to Wentzville, where they stopped at the VFW for the night. When their journey began Tuesday morning, they were still five days away from reaching the nation’s capital and the end of their cross-country journey, which is scheduled to end May 27.
According to the Run for the Wall website, 462 riders are on the central route and almost 1,200 riders have participated in total. The Midway route begins in Ontario, Calif., and travels a more southerly route through Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina before turning northward and heading to Washington, D.C. The Southern route travels through central Texas, Louisiana and Alabamba before angling north to the capital. An additional route takes riders from Washington, D.C., to Marseilles, Ill., and the Middle East Conflicts Wall Memorial.
The 2023 run is the group’s 33rd ride and is designed to promote healing among all veterans and their families and friends, an accounting of all prisoners of war and missing in action, to honor the memory of those killed in action in all wars, and to support U.S. military personnel all over the world.
For the Warrenton group, the ride was just the first major event at the memorial site this month. At 10:30 a.m. on Memorial Day, the memorial itself will play host to the start of the solemn ceremonies designed to honor those veterans who lost their lives while defending the country. At 11 a.m.,the event moves a few blocks down Veterans Memorial Parkway to the Elks Club.
About the author: Jason Koch is the editor of The Warren County Record, and covers local news and government for the newspaper. He has won multiple awards from both the Indiana and Illinois APME and from the Illinois Press Association. He can be reached at 636-456-6397 or at firstname.lastname@example.org