It is Sunday, May 30, 2010, the last day I will be at the Rally to Ridgecrest, even though it continues overnight and into Memorial Day itself. I need to get home to my bride, as she has been without me all weekend.
We have done lots of neat things here so far, but today has some special activities in store. Let me tell you about them.
I begin the day with a hearty breakfast, then prepare for the memorial ride to the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery over in Black Mountain.
There is to be a police escort along the route, and almost everyone who has ridden in to the rally appears to be assembling for this trip. I have not seen a count of the attendees, but there are hundreds of bikes preparing for the ride this morning.
Each of us is given an Old Glory to take with us and leave at the cemetery. Veterans go first, then everyone else.
The rumble of exhausts is loud, and reverberates off the nearby buildings.
The first of the group starts, but it is several minutes before there is enough clear space in front of me to start out. We motor slowly along. People have come out to wave their support to us in our mission to honor the vets.
After a few miles, we turn into the cemetery. The bikes wind around the graveyard roads and begin to park. Once everyone has stopped, there are bikes lined up along every road -- hundreds of them, once rumbling, now silent in respect for the dead.
The sound of a lone bagpiper is heard.
We walk quietly up a hill toward the building where some have already assembled. There is a hush kept by all.
The bagpiper ends his playing, and we are quiet. A song is begun, and everyone joins in.
The first speaker is Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North. Colonel North speaks of the dedication of those lying in graves nearby, some having given the ultimate sacrifice in their service.
He does not mince words. He says it plainly. These brave soldiers, cold in the ground, fought enemies in places far away. He speaks now of the threat we face as a nation, particularly from Islamic terrorists both afar, and in our midst on our own soil.
He speaks of the crying need for resolve and the strong, fearless leadership we must now have to fight this threat...
...and I lament silently that I do not see that leadership and resolve in our Commander in Chief.
Colonel North concludes and welcomes Lieutenant General William R. "Jerry" Boykin, who continues with a tribute to these resting soldiers, and with the parallel thought to Colonel North's; the need for a strong defense.
The assembled crowd periodically voices its agreement on the vital need for the United States to have a will of steel in resisting our very real foe.
Once the speakers have finished, we quietly make our way amongst the gravestones, picking places to leave our flags.
Then we pray individually, as we feel led, over the graves.
I linger over a section of low stones, straightening some flags that have been become bent over in the wind. I find that I have tears in my eyes, thinking of the sacrifice these soldiers made for their beloved country -- and for my freedom.
After a little while, I seek out my bike, and walk slowly to it. I contemplate these soldiers' service, and experience a pang of guilt that I have not so served. I saddle up and fall in line with the others on the way back to Ridgecrest.
We ride slowly, as though in further humble respect for the soldiers we are leaving behind.
Once there at Ridgecrest, we have just a short time until morning worship begins. Again Colonel North and General Boykin speak. Both cite time after time that they asked God for help, and that their prayers were answered, sometimes in seemingly impossible situations. They speak, too, of times when they had lost their faith, then later returned to it, it being stronger and deeper.
They emphasize that God, indeed, loves the warrior.
I am inspired, and moved by these Christian military men. We need many more like them in top positions. We would all be safer and better off.
The worship concludes and we file out of the auditorium to pack our things onto our bikes again. I find that my bags seem to have shrunk some since I rode in on Friday. Part of the reason is that I have not repacked as efficiently, and the other part is that I have accumulated some new stuff -- a couple of books from the bookstore, and lots of literature related to the rally.
There are two more guys who elect to ride the same way I have planned. We depart for a nearby southern barbecue restaurant, have lunch with some others who were at the rally, then head south.
We go down NC-9, a twisty road that starts out at Black Mountain and is fairly busy for the first few miles. We hit NC-64, and follow it to US-25. This road is mostly four lane, divided, and the miles go quickly by. When we reach SC-11, the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, rain starts to fall, so we stop at the underpass there and put on our rainsuits. We continue on our way, each of us breaking off as we come nearer our homes.
The rain stops after about twenty miles, and the last ten nicely promote drying out again.
I reach home about 4:30, peel off my gear and hang it up, then put away some of the stuff I had packed. I shower and have a light supper with my wife.
Here is my route for the day.
View Larger Map
It has been an enjoyable, and inspiring long Memorial Day weekend.
I hope you enjoyed coming along on your computer.
Oh, and the next time you meet a vet, let him know that you appreciate his putting himself in harm's way for you and me.
Links to related postings:
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 1
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part I
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Day 2
Rally to Ridgecrest, 2013 -- Days 3 and 4
Freedom is Never Free! -- Rally to Ridgecrest, 2011, Part II
Rally to Ridgecrest Facebook Page
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part II, The Ride Up
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part III, Saturday
Memorial Day 2010 Weekend Rally, Part IV, Sunday and the Ride Home.
Oliver L. North is a combat decorated marine, a #1 best-selling author, the founder of a small business, an inventor with three U.S. patents, a syndicated columnist, and the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel. Yet, he claims his most important accomplishment is to be "the husband of one, the father of four and the grandfather of eleven."
North was born in San Antonio, Texas, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and served 22 years as a U.S. Marine. His awards for service in combat include the Silver Star, the bronze star for valor and two purple hearts for wounds in combat.
Assigned to the National Security Council Staff in the Reagan administration, Lieutenant Colonel North was the United States government's counter-terrorism coordinator from 1983-1986. He was involved in planning the rescue of 804 medical students on the Island of Grenada and played a major role in the daring capture of the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro.
After helping plan the U.S. raid on Muammar Qaddafi's terrorist bases in Libya, North was targeted for assassination by Abu Nidal, the infamous terrorist found dead in Baghdad in August 2002.
President Ronald Reagan described him as "an American hero."
Since 2001, North has been the host of War Stories— the award-winning military documentary series on Fox News Channel. He has also authored eleven books — all of them New York Times bestsellers. His latest book, American Heroes, based on his extensive coverage of U.S. military units engaged in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Philippines was released in May 2008 and is yet another New York Times Best-Selling Book.
North is a life member of the National Rifle Association and a member of the NRA board of directors. He is also the founder of Freedom Alliance, a foundation that provides college scholarships for the sons and daughters of service members killed in action.
Jerry Boykin joined what would become the world's premier Special Operations unit—Delta Force—in 1978. The only promise: "a medal and a body bag." What followed was a .50 caliber round in the chest and a life spent with America's elite forces bringing down warlords and war criminals, despots and dictators.
In Colombia, his task force hunted the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar. In Panama, he helped capture the brutal dictator Manuel Noriega, liberating a nation. From Vietnam to Iran to Mogadishu, Lt. General Jerry Boykin's life reads like an action-adventure movie.
Today he is an ordained minister with a passion for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and encouraging Christians to become warriors for God's Kingdom.