Wyoming Thunder Rumbles Into Lander [GALLERY]
For the last 22 years , the Vietnam Vets Motorcycle Club and the Legacy Vets Motorcycle Club have made a Run To The Wall to honor their fellow servicemen and to underline their commitment to bringing home the over 1300 POW/MIA's that remain on the official lists. "We ride for those that died" is the driving force of the weekend.
After 21 years of rumbling into Cody, Wy, the decision was made to change the location to Lander for this years run.
On a sunny Saturday morning, riders from across the state started gathering at the VFW Post 10969 for coffee, donuts and a quick prayer to carry them down the road. Over 70 bikes left Casper at 9AM with the Vietnam Vets leading the pack. After years of these rides traditional stops have been left on their schedule including a stop just 54 miles down the road in Hiland, Wy for a cool drink and an opportunity to stretch your legs.A stop at the VFW in Shoshoni gave another 30 riders the opportunity to join the group for the ride into Riverton.
Stopping at the east end of Riverton allowed more riders to join in and the Riverton PD sent officers to escort the gathering through town.The Wind River Casino in Riverton heard that the group was coming thru and invited the riders to stop for lunch, a cool drink and an opportunity to try their luck at the gaming tables and machines. Adding another number of riders there, the group numbered over 130 for the final 23 miles into Lander, Wy.
Lander welcomed the group with open arms, lining the city streets with American flags and nearly every business sign with some mention of the gathering and the Vets. The group made a stop at the Lander VFW before dispersing to a number of hotels, motels and campgrounds. The Best Western was the headquarters for Saturdays festivities including drinks and dinner. Recognition was made of 2 people who have been there for every ride over the last 22 years and for those riders and Vets who traveled from all over Wyoming including Casper, Cheyenne, Gillette, Guernsey, Rawlins,Rock Springs and points in between,North and South Dakota,Montana,Colorado and even one rider from Seattle who has made 10 rides over the last 12 years. A street dance followed in downtown Lander, followed by a good nights sleep.
Sunday morning started bright and warm and a schedule that started with bikes gathering at the Pamida between 9:30 and 10:30. The parade of Vets and bikes started at 10:30Am and was lead by the Lander Police Department and followed by the Volunteer Fire Department. With a route winding through town every street corner and every piece of shade held a number of residents or visitors that stopped for a few minutes to honor the Vets and the riders as they made their way by. With hundreds lining the parade route, it was evident the effect on the Vets as many ended the ride with tears in their eyes and an emotional end of the parade at the Veterans Park. Here is a video of the bikes passing through downtown.
Sundays ceremony started at 11 AM with riders and locals gathered around the walls of names that honored those fallen in the wars over the years and under a statue honoring the service and life of Marine PFC Chance Phelps, a Fremont County resident and the subject of the film Taking Chance. The service started with a welcome by Gary "Bull" Vermeulen and a prayer by Brother Les. The Guest speaker was Brian Scott a radio announcer from Casper, and longtime friend of the motorcycle club, who talked about sharing the stories of war and welcoming home the Vietnam Vets. The local VFW supplied the Honor Guard, a 21 gun salute and a playing of Taps that brought tears to the eyes of many.
The ceremony was followed by stories, hugs , more than a few tears and a lot of good-byes and everyone went their separate ways after what many agreed was a great weekend.
Here is a look at some of the memories of the weekend.