Special thanks to Deanna McLaughlin for putting her experience into words, not to mention the hard work she does organizing the escort every year. -Frances
When I was approached to organize and lead the escort of the Traveling Vietnam Wall for the 2017 Welcome Home Veterans Celebration, I didn’t give it a second thought, my automatic response was Yes. I approached the planning of the escort like I did for every escort/mission that I had been responsible for up to that point. I spread the word to the various military and veterans motorcycle organizations and associations to invite them to join us, confirmed our travel route, staging location, and participation from local law enforcement.
In the few days leading up to the escort I grew concerned that the forecast weather was going to keep people from attending and was hopeful that a hand full of riders would show up for the escort. I arrived early at Appleton’s Harley Davidson and touched base with the staff on the logistics of lining up the Traveling Vietnam Wall and escort vehicles. It was already raining at this point and I was concerned that I would be escorting solo.
The Traveling Vietnam Wall arrived, I stood outside in the rain looking at the trailer that contained “the Wall.” Stories of how my Dad and several of my veteran friends were treated upon their return from Vietnam flooded my mind. I closely examined the back door of the trailer, “Vietnam War 1955-1975. Served = 3,100,000 MIA = 1,802, Wounded = 153,303, Died 58,253.” My emotions began to take over as I processed what I was reading. As the rain increased and the skies darkened, I began to hear the familiar sound of motorcycle engines. Riders wearing everything from active duty Army uniforms to full rain gear began to line up in front of “the Wall.” I approached each rider and thanked them for braving the weather to be with us that day. The common response was “It’s my honor Ma’am.”
Following the route and safety brief we began to make our way from Appleton’s Harley Davidson to Beachaven Winery where “the Wall” would be on display for the Welcome Home Veterans Celebration. I was directly in front of “the Wall.” Upon checking my mirrors to make sure that “the Wall” was closely behind me I couldn’t help but tear up. Floods of emotions hit me all at once. For 20 years brave men and women who were called to serve, did so in a war that caused their own country men and women to hate them for doing their jobs. The presence of “the Wall” in our community is a reminder to some and hopefully an education to others that the men and women who serve in our armed forces do so out of love and duty for their country. “The Wall” should serve as a reminder of how members of our armed forces SHOULD NOT be treated.
Regardless of the weather we ended up with about 35 motorcycle riders for the 2017 escort. In 2018 we couldn’t have asked for better weather that brought our more than 80 motorcycle rider and 15 red, white, and blue corvettes.
If you would like to join the motorcycle escort for 2019, please arrive at Appleton’s Harley Davidson (2501 US 41 Alt Bypass) between 1:45 PM and 2:40 PM on Wednesday, September 18, 2019. If you want to ride in the escort with a group, please meet up with your group in advance and ride to Appleton’s together. The escort is limited to motorcycles, trikes, sling shots, and members of the Corvettes of Clarksville only.
If you don’t ride a motorcycle, please watch the escort as it leaves Appleton’s Harley Davidson at 3:00 PM and heads down Madison Street to Richview Road to Ted Crozier Sr Blvd, to Dunlop Lane to International Blvd and into Beachaven.
Deanna M. McLaughlin
Patriot Guard Riders, Ride Captain, Clarksville, Tennessee