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Bikers roll through West Virginia on way to D.C. in “Run for the Wall”

NITRO, W.Va. — The thousands of bikers who run for the wall in Washington D.C. every year say they ride for those who can’t.

Around 325 of them rolled through the City of Nitro Wednesday afternoon for a ceremony at the Living Memorial Park. That morning, they were in Corydon, Indiana. On Monday, Memorial Day, riders will be in Washington D.C. at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall.

Three of the four total routes run by bikers start in Ontario, California. The fourth “sandbox” route leaves D.C. and heads to Marseilles, Ilinois on the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend. All other routes, the central route, the midway route and the southern route, start in California and end up at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C.

Day eight of their 10 day mission brought them through West Virginia. On Thursday, riders part of the central route will be at the Veterans Memorial on the Capitol Grounds in Charleston before traveling to Rainelle in Greenbrier County and then spending Thursday night in Lewisburg.

Not all riders are veterans but that doesn’t matter to the rest of the crew. Todd Taylor, West Virginia Coordinator of Run for the Wall, says he’d describe the rest of the riders as patriots.

“We’re honoring our military and fallen soldiers,” he said. “Some of us are veterans and some of us are patriots.”

Taylor said the support and American spirit they’ve seen from folks in all the different towns and cities along the way has truly been unforgettable.

“It’s almost like a tunnel of flags at almost every evening stop we go to,” he said. “The whole community comes out to support us and cheer us on.”

Almost every overpass that the riders go through has people packed above with their American flags and firetrucks standing by.

Rider Suzan Streed hails from Loveland, Colorado. It’s her first year taking part in the Run for the Wall. A rich history of veterans in her family were enough of a reason for her to make the cross-country trip.

“It’s a journey and an awesome ride,” she said.

Streed said she’s excited to get to D.C. but the past few days have been a remarkable experience for her. She’s made plenty of friends along the way, both who are also riders and people who stop in town to see them come through.

“It’s heartwarming,” said Streed. “There’s a lot of friends and then you make more friends.”

Robert Thornton is a veteran himself. After 10 years of riding across the country in the Run for the Wall, the 76-year-old said time is catching up to him and this year will be his last.

Thornton has battled many demons. He said he has severe combat-related PTSD, but he called the ride with over 300 of his fellow bikers “a lifesaver.”

“Coming to the wall every year for the last 10 years has really cleansed my soul,” he said. “I’m clean and sober almost two years now. God has blessed me.”

It’s an emotional 10 days in May for so many bikers across the country, Thornton included. He said every year he goes to see two very special people at the wall.

“It can’t be explained how you feel inside but when I get to the wall, it’s a real psalm feeling,” said Thornton.

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