Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial in Perryville is no strange to hosting hordes of motorcyclists.
In fact, before the memorial, which features a full-sized exact replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., even began construction in earnest, it played host to thousands from across the country who escorted an American flag and a POW/MIA flag that had flown over the original monument to the memorial site in Perryville.
On Saturday, Sept. 21, the staff at the newly completed memorial will get another chance to hear the thunder as they receive hundreds of riders taking part in the first Missouri Vietnam Wall Run.
The ride, hosted by the Veterans in Defense of Liberty and Liberty Riders of America is intended to honor servicemen that are still unaccounted for and to honor Vietnam veterans.
According to event organizer Terry Willey, it’s a way to recognize National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which actually falls on Friday, Sept. 20.
“This run is going to be an every year event,” Willey said. “It’ll be on the same day every year , the third Saturday of September which is the following day after the official POW/MIA remembrance day.”
Willey said that, even in its first year, the ride is expected to draw motorcyclists and veterans from all across the state and even farther away to honor and pay tribute to those servicemen and women that paid the ultimate sacrifice, as well as those that are still unaccounted for.
“We’ve got groups coming from Kansas City, Troy, I’ve got people riding down from Michigan — we’ve even got people that are riding from Las Vegas,” said Willey, who lives in Springfield. “They’re coming from all over creation. It’s amazing. We’ve got a lot of people coming from far away places. We’ve got almost every veteran service organization involved in this run. We’ve got a large volume of veterans that are coming to that town to pay their respects at that wall.”
The event will kick off early Saturday morning, with two departure points, one in St. Louis and one in Springfield, and the two groups will converge in Fredericktown before heading south to Patton and traveling east on Hwy. 51 through Perryville, where plans are underway to welcome the riders with an avenue of flags, to the memorial’s location on Route AC.
Riders re expected to arrive in Perryville between 2-2:30 p.m., with a POW-MIA ceremony at the memorial scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. Guest speakers will include Missouri Gov. Mike Parson; Medal of Honor recipient Maj. Gen. James Livingston, USMC (ret.); former POW Charles Crandell, a Navy veteran who served aboard the USS Pueblo in 1968; Vietnam veteran and MNVM founding member Jim Eddleman of Perryville; and NFL Hall of Famer and former St. Louis Cardinals tight end Jackie Smith, who will sing the National Anthem and other songs.
U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt and Congressman Jason Smith are also expected to attend.
“We’ve got a really big lineup,” Willey said.
Willey expects the ride to be quite the sight.
“It’s going to be a big procession,” Willey said. “It’s going to be very, very cool. We also have a charter bus that we’re bringing to Perryville with us with about 56 Vietnam veterans and their families.”
In addition to honoring veterans, Willey admits he has another reason he’s looking forward to the Wall Ride. He’s a fan of Perryville and its people.
“I mean, I’ve been up there like five or six times in the past eight months,” Willey said, “but it’s like I just can’t get enough of the place. It’s really cool and very patriotic. I think having that wall there is outstanding. I can’t think of a better place to put it.”
For more information about the Missouri Vietnam Wall Run or to find out how to participate, visit www.missourivietnamwallrun.org or call 417-230-7831.