Child sits upon his father’s shoulders, waving and welcoming Run For the Wall riders to Cookeville as they travel cross-country in honor of MIAs, POWs, and KIAs.
By Molly Brown
Veterans’ Motorcycle Event Routes Through Tennessee for the Sixth Year
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – The hub city of the Upper Cumberland region, Cookeville will soon celebrate six years of serving as Tennessee’s only overnight host for Run For the Wall’s Midway Route. Escorted by the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, and the Cookeville Police Department, the group of nearly 400 riders will arrive to Cookeville, Monday, May 20 at approximately 4:30 p.m. CT, parading down Jefferson Avenue, welcomed by waving American Flags and the smiling faces of locals.
With a tagline of “Riding For Those Who Can’t,” the cross-country event has a mission to call attention to prisoners-of-war and those missing-in-action, to honor those killed-in-action from all wars; and to support all United States military personnel around the globe.
The 10-day journey beginning in Los Angeles, California and ending on Memorial Day in Washington, DC at the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall and Arlington National Cemetery is both emotionally and physically demanding.
In addition to drawing awareness for POWs, MIAs, and KIAs, RFTW seeks opportunities along the route to educate future generations and serves as emotional healing for veterans riding the route and those encountered along the way suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, especially those from the Vietnam era.
The Cookeville-Putnam County Visitors’ Bureau, city and county officials, local veterans’ service organizations, and Boswell’s Country Roads Harley-Davidson join area residents and businesses to provide a “Welcome” that many of the riders never received when returning home from war.
“Each year, we could not be prouder to play a role in their mission, as our community wholeheartedly embraces this group and have since we first hosted Run for the Wall six years ago,” said Zach Ledbetter, vice president of visitor development. “Run for the Wall and its riders are as special to us as we are to them.”
“Many of them didn’t receive the welcome home they deserved, so we want to ensure they always have an excellent welcome to Putnam County,” added Ledbetter.
“There is always one city that stands out,” said James “Gunny” Gregory, RFTW founder. “Cookeville is obviously that city for the Midway Route. This community’s hospitality is one I know remains in each of our hearts throughout the year, and only grows with each year we return.”
After a private dinner and meeting at the Leslie Town Centre, riders will rest at area hotels. On Tuesday morning, riders will stage at 7:30 a.m. CT in the Sam’s Club parking lot to continue their 10-day journey. Locals are encouraged to join riders that morning as they stage, so they may formally see them off as they embark on the next phase of their mission. A meet-and-greet with children from Parkview Elementary is also scheduled as part of their send-off.
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Above: Run For the Wall riders to arrive in Cookeville, Tennessee on Monday, May 20, during a 10-day, cross-country mission to Arlington National Cemetery and Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial Wall in honor of MIAs, POWs, and KIAs.