Blythe residents lined Hobsonway on May 15 to welcome the return of the “Run for the Wall” veterans’ motorcycle ride as a prelude tradition to this year’s upcoming Memorial Day.
The commemorative ride, made up of hundreds of veterans of the U.S. armed forces, were again welcomed by the community as they made their way down, off of the I-10 highway, from west to east Hobsonway toward a special lunch stopover and ceremony at the Colorado River Fairgrounds — where they were proudly greeted by Blythe’s own U.S. Army Korean War veteran and Purple Heart recipient Ray Moraga.
The morning’s prayer was provided by local Dr. George Thomas, with a resounding National Anthem sung by Roberto Figueroa and the colors provided by the Palo Verde High School (PVHS) Yellow Jacket JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer’s Corps) cadets.
As introduced by Blythe Mayor Dale Reynolds, the morning’s visiting officials included Interim City Manager Mallory Crecelius; California 36th District Congress representative Dr. Raul Ruiz’s office field representative Peter Carlstrom; California 56th District Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia’s office field representative Ruben Perez; Riverside County 4th District Supervisor V. Manuel Perez’s office field representative Esmerelda Perez; and PVHS JROTC’s Instructor MSgt. Melvin Walker.
Debbie Lindquist and Kaylynn Morin, of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Post 2987 Auxiliary, presented Run for the Wall organizer Shirley “Top Sarge” Scott with a check of monetary donations from supporters around the community.
“Blythe’s always shown us hospitality,” noted Scott. “We’ve been coming here 12 years — enjoying the wonderful food, an excellent presentation and it’s always a generous donation that comes from the heart. So on behalf of all the riders, we thank you all. Thank you.”
A special announcement was also made in reference to the May 14 passage of the Blue Water Navy (Vietnam Veterans Act 2019).
“I’ve been asked by organizers to share something historic that passed the House of Representatives yesterday,” said Carlstrom. “What that means is that, for those veterans who were on ships and exposed to Agent Orange — (those veterans) will now be eligible for the same benefits that soldiers who were serving on the mainland (receive).”
The Blue Water Navy disability benefits bill’s passage was met with a round of applause from those in attendance, many Vietnam Veterans themselves.
Reynolds followed by reading the names of donors for this year’s local donation, including: the VFW Post 2987; the VFW Post 2987 Auxiliary; the local Larry Green Chevrolet dealership; Chuckawalla Valley State Prison (CVPS) Employees Association; the CVSP and Ironwood State Prison’s (ISP) CCWA (Chicano Correctional Workers Association); Halby’s; Steve’s Smoke Shop; River Breeze’s Nicole Auger, and tenants.
A special thank you was also provided to local patron organizations and businesses who supported this year’s event, including: the Blythe Girl Scouts Troop 23, who donated cookies; Sizzler, who donated side dishes; Subway, who donated cookies and sandwiches; Holsom Breads, who donated the rolls; Coca Cola, who donated drinks; ACE Hardware/Inland Builders Supply, who donated tubs; and Halby’s, who also donated the ceremony’s plaques.
“We’d also like to thank MSgt. Walker and the JROTC for being here today and honoring our veterans,” noted Reynolds. “Your escorts through town — we want to thank the Blythe Police Department (BPD); California Highway Patrol (CHP); Riverside County Sheriff’s Department; and our chef’s from the Blythe Elks Lodge (No.) 1799.”
This year, recognitions included a presentation to family members of Barbara Martin-Nadeau, a late long-time Blythe community patron and supporter of the Run for the Wall event who passed away in July of 2018.
“This was one of Barbara’s events that she loved. She did this for many years. Her most favorite thing was to donate her time and give (to) everybody — she was a great person. We were here last year,” said her husband, Mark Martin-Nadeau. “Barbara was right over here serving, (and) I sang the National Anthem. And she passed away in July, pretty quick. But she loved you guys — this was her favorite thing to do.”
Friend and former Blythe Mayor Kenny Kalian would note to the crowd that Nadeau’s favorite colors were red, white and blue.
Volunteer Diane McDougal was also recognized by Reynolds and Scott, and presented with Certificates of Recognition from the offices of Perez, Ruiz, and Garcia.
“(McDougal) is another person who’s dedicated many years to volunteering to this community. I’ve worked with Diane for many years, on the old ribbon committee working side by side here representing the community — and making sure everyone here was honored and fed,” noted Reynolds. “‘In appreciation for 12 years of dedicated service to the Run for the Wall, 2007-2018.’”
The event concluded with the traditional “Missing Man” ceremony, which pays homage to those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in defense of their nation by providing a reserved table for six — representing the U.S. Armed Forces’ five military branches and civilians.
“The (table) is reserved to honor our missing loved ones, and comrades,” said JROTC cadet Major M. Knutson, who conducted this year’s “Missing Man” ceremony. “This remembrance ceremony honors all of them and symbolizes that they are here with us today in spirit. Without question, all Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answer our nation’s call to serve freedom.”
(Editor’s Note: Reminder — This Memorial Day, May 27, at 10 a.m., the Palo Verde Cemetery [10700 10th Ave.) will be the location for a special ceremony honoring the fallen U.S. service men and women in the nation’s history. For any inquiries, questions, or more information, please call the hosting VFW Post 2987 at  922-6830.)